Saturday, December 25, 2010
All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Keys
Nobody told me there'd be days like these, especially the night before Christmas Eve. It's a tale of keys lost and found that Rube Goldberg could not have charted.
Parker Spitzer was airing a pre-taped greatest hits -- including the excellent stocking stuffer of Gene Simmons on his visit to the Anne Frank house -- so I had a rare day off. My girlfriend was in Colorado with her folks, my kids were out of town with their mom. So it was Errand Day.
I went to the hospital for blood work, bought a washer-dryer for the new apartment in Harlem we're moving to next week, bought a watchband for my Dad's watch. I brought some things to the new place and discovered the bed I'd ordered my daughter had arrived.
parents' house sold -- dealing with the 15 boxes (and two Advent stereo speakers) I hadn't wanted to throw out and didn't have room for in my old place, that a friend had lent me storage space for. Turns out, I won't have much more room in the new place, so it was time to be brutal.
I pulled a bunch of family photos out of the ugly and decrepit frames - that alone eliminated a box. I took three boxes of books I thought I would want to keep -- Modern Library, Complete Shakespeare, etc., and pledged to bring them to the Strand (right).
I looked at my father's old wooden Navy chest and realized that, while it was sentimentally significant, it's a pretty beat-up and eyseore piece of furniture -- and that most of the family files I'm saving inside it are things I don't want my kids to have to deal with some day. But I couldn't bring myself to take action yet.
I rolled down the metal door to the storage bin, locked the door and returned the key to the desk. They have no garbage at the facility -- they must have realized that otherwise everyone would just come out and eventually throw out everything in their lockers.
I took out my car key and drove back to my current apartment. I reached in my pocket for the keys, and I found my Harlem keys, but not my house keys. I was locked out. What the hell? Had I left them in Harlem? In Hastings (where the facility was now closed)?
Let me repeat, my girlfriend was in Colorado, my kids were out of town. I started picturing trying to climb up the fire escape. Or hiring a locksmith to break in the door, not what you want to do one week before moving.
Then I remembered: my neighbors have a set of our keys. I called them.
"Sorry, your girlfriend took them a few weeks ago when she couldn't find hers, and never gave them back." Oh.
Oh, crap. I had retrieved the mail, gotten distracted, and left the key hanging. What an idiot. But wait, Why hadn't you called me? "We weren't sure whose they were." OK.
They buzz me in the building. I knock on the guy-across-the-hall's door.
"Hey, you have my keys?"
"No, my mom's 83, she wasn't sure which mailbox she took them from, so she left them downstairs on the shelf by the mailboxes."
Too impatient to wait for the elevator, I run down the stairs. No keys. One last hope: that the Super, a surly and somewhat inconsistent gentleman, saw the keys and pocketed them instead of leaving them out for all to take.
I go down to the basement where the Super lives. One of his inebriated minions sits in the garbage room, sorting through the recycling (I think he takes the bottles in for deposit money). He tells me he hasn't seen the Super.
I take out my cell phone and call the Super. For the first time ever, he answers right away. I find out he's just on the other side of his door.
"Did you find my keys?"
"Jes, Mister David."
He comes out. He tells me, completely sincere, that he did me this big favor. He took my keys, went up to my apartment, unlocked the door, threw the keys inside, and pushed the button on the doorjamb to lock the knob. My keys, he proudly informs me, are safe inside my apartment. Locked in.
The human mind is a mysterious thing.
I am flabbergasted. As I start to sputter, he thinks I am angry that he has gone inside my apartment.
"Mister David, I trust you, you trust me, I no touch anything."
"No, no, no. I have no keys! I can't get inside! You knew I had no keys!" He looks confused. "Why didn't you call me?"
"I no have your number." (I have been living in this building for six and a half years. I tip him every Christmas and shmear him a $20 every time he so much as plumbs my bath drain.)
It's a Christmas miracle of idiocy. I remember, luckily, that my actor friend Mark, who lives two blocks away, is the reason my girlfriend never gave the keys back to the neighbors -- she gave them to him over Thanksgiving so he could feed the cat while we were away.
But it's December 23rd -- what are the chances he's home?
I call. He's home. He finds the keys. We meet. I get the keys. I unlock my apartment door, and there on the floor are my keys and mail. Genius.
The cat is happy too. He gets dinner.