Thursday, September 22, 2005

Call a tow truck... I locked my keys in Starbucks...

The story does lose a little moxie when one gives the punchline away in the title. They got away with that trick in the movie The Aristocrats, but I'm no comic Hollywood genius. I know you've heard various incarnations of this story before, but bear with me, this version might be new.

We actually got out early yesterday. It was quiet as a mouse in the store all night long. Not even any good crazies to liven things up. When Brian the security guard dropped in to check on us before we closed, he asked how things had been. I had very little that was interesting or funny to impart, so I just shrugged. Oh. Well there was that one guy. The one that came in waving his arms and turning in circles while muttering silently to himself. He was dressed in a running suit (polyester of course), thick bleary glasses, and had a couple of furry adornments attached to his belt. They looked like giant lucky rabbits' feet--except about ten times the size. Fox tails maybe? Who knows. Maybe Jesus really was telling him to get coffee.

Without the normal hustle and bustle of madhouse customers demanding gooey extra-caramel concoctions until the wee hours of the morning, we were closed and shut in a mere 45 minutes. This is a far cry from the days when closing took an HOUR and 45 minutes, thankyouverymuch. Remarkable how a slight shift in the weather and starting up school again scours downtown of its evening strollers.

We bid one another goodbye in front of the store, and set off in our different directions. Jess rode her bike, Kraig hoofed it up Broadway, and I hobbled on my foot-and-a-half past Nordstroms up to the parking garage. I felt Smart. I'd parked in SmartPark. It was probably the last time for a few hours that I'd feel anything even resembling "smart." I'm still recovering, in fact.

I casually slide a hand around to the corner of my bag where I always deposit my car keys, preferring to have them in-hand before I venture into the garage. Not there.


I stop, lean on a newspaper box. Maybe they are in the bottom of my bag?

I root around.


I check the various other myriad pockets of my messenger bag--mind you, this is a very large satchel, stuffed with work clothes, newspapers, and other sundry items. After no luck, I'm incredulous. I've never misplaced my keys, and despite fears of such in the past, have never left them at work! I pull all the clothes out. Check the pockets of my pants, shake out my apron, etc. No luck.

Not even my cell phone turns up. Why? It's locked IN my car, three flights above me in an empty, echoey SmartPark.

With all my phone numbers safely stowed in it.

I could digress right now on how cellphones are a blessing and a curse, how now that I have a "contact list" I never bother to memorize any phone numbers any more, how tragic it would be if anything even happened to it and all my numbers were irreparably lost, but I know you've had those thoughts before yourself, so you'll know how it felt to stand outside on a city street corner at a loss for what to do next. Call the housemate? No... don't know her number. Call the supervisor from Starbucks and ask him to walk back and let me in? He, too, is safely stowed away in my phone.

The brain starts buzzing. Should I take the bus? That means waiting on the bus mall for 45 minutes with all the tweakers. No thanks. Should I walk home? That means hobbling up Broadway and Burnside--the two arterial streets in West Portland known for their "questionable" loiterers. As a woman, on her own, with a broken foot, I decide for the third option, I'll hail a cab!

I do so. The driver is an older gentleman, thick Eastern European accent who I chat with about the misfortune of my night. He rationalizes that it's a good thing I live relatively close, at least, so that the cab fare wouldn't be too expensive.

After being dropped off in front of my apartment I am relieved to find that the front door is open, and the boys in the first floor unit are still up smoking on the porch. Good news. One more key that I don't need to use tonight. Only one left to go which also turns out to be a non-issue, as one of the extra doors to our place has been left unlocked.

I leave an alarmist note for my housemate informing her of the situation, and begging her to wake me up at 5:30am when she goes to the gym with the hope that she'll drive me down to Starbucks. Bless her heart, she does.

The two of us try to have an intellectual conversation about a matter of some seriousness in the car on the way to the Square. It's pretty hopeless. I've had 4 1/2 hours of worried sleep, sure that all the windows have been broken out of my car and that my cell phone was stolen, or that my keys are somewhere else (not Starbucks) entirely, or that I'll be too groggy for my interview the next day after working off of so little rest.

We arrive. I run down to the basement, greet the opening crew (who are all rather appalled to see me, the "perma-closer" there so early on a weekday), and dash to the bathroom. My keys await, safely napping under a green apron on the floor by my locker.

All's well that ends well, Shakespeare says (with a tinge of irony, once you've read the play). But my night ended without any more drama. Devon drove me up to my car. It was intact. My phone was there too. And to top it all off, the SmartPark people weren't there yet to charge me for a whole night's parking. I paid my normal fees (evening maximum), drove home in the early twilight, and tucked myself back into bed for an extra hour or so of fitful sleep.

This morning, dressed to interview, and whiling away the morning at work, the whole thing seems like one of those awkward dreams imbued with a sense of drama and urgency that never exactly manifests. You're with friends at a meal, or in a car, or at home, and you know there is something bad that is about to happen, but you don't know WHAT it is. Your dream is hazed with the heat-shimmers of an impending something, but that something never is fully developed. Only the sense of it.

Which is often enough.

I checked my purse six times this morning before I left the house to ensure that my phone, keys, and wallet were all intact.

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