The sun is doing its picturesque “Brooklyn during summer” thing and I’m outside having the world’s quietest stroke. My keys are locked in my apartment and someone is coming break into my house for me.
I swallowed an unexpected amount of pride in calling the locksmith. Doing so felt like a tacit admission of three embarrassing things at once: I don’t know my neighbors well enough to give them a spare key, I’m not smart enough to hide a copy of the key somewhere, and I lack that classical manly know-how of jimmying locks and smooching chicks. The MacGyver of complicated feelings instead of handy gadgets.
The phone rings twice.
“Locksmith,” answers a disinterested voice.
“Of course I’m locked out of my apartment,” I said.
“Of course you are.”
I fed him my address, told him that once inside I could show him mail and ID to prove it was my house. He quoted me $95 and got on his way.
My super doesn’t speak any English, but he’s finely attuned to understand what people mean. He communicates with everyone either in his native Russian or in the universal language of empathy. He recognized the resigned look in my eye before I could step outside to meet the locksmith.
“What seems to be the trouble?” he says with his eyes, nose, face at large, posture, everything. He says it without even speaking at all.
“I’m locked out.”
Eyes widen, mouth falls agape: “Good heavens! Surely you have a friend with a spare key?”
“Unfortunately not. Do you keep spare keys or something?”
Frowning: “No. As a 27-year old guy living alone, you should be responsible enough to have a backup plan in situations such as this. Make copies and give them to a neighbor, perhaps.”
“I know, I know.”
Frown becoming smile: “Have a little more faith in humanity. Take risks. Put yourself out there and meet the people you sleep eight feet away from every night, separated only by a foot or so of poorly-painted wall.”
“You know what they say – a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. So maybe you should start turning more strangers into friends. Then give those strangers the key to your house.”
“It doesn’t sound right when you put it that way.”
“Oh, I apologize for any misunderstanding. I don’t speak English.”
The locksmith savior arrives. He wasn’t wearing sunglasses, but if he had been, he would have tipped them down and delivered a catchphrase, something like “I’m so lethal they call me Locksmith and Wesson.” I decide to be Cool Fun Guy in an attempt to keep up.
“Locked myself out of my own house! Betcha never seen this before.”
I realized a moment too late this is a line he’s no doubt heard a hundred times before when a customer thinks he’s Cool Fun Guy. As the attempted joke leaves my lips, it falls to the ground and shatters. We both stare at it there for a beat before looking back up at each other.
“Actually that’s almost exclusively what I see.”
I decide to kill Cool Fun Guy.
The locksmith and I approach my apartment. The door, which had previously been mocking me, now quaked at the sight of this hero in a blue Dickies jumpsuit. His bucket of tools played Batman’s utility belt to my door’s Bane. Shuffling his hand through the lockpick gadgets, he withdrew his Excalibur – an object I can only describe as “a heavy-duty oversized business card.”
He jams this thing into the space between my door and door frame (“Die, foul beast!”). Wiggling it back and forth and wedging it deeper into that crevice, there’s an audible click as the most underwhelming safe in the world is cracked. From start to finish, he spent 19 seconds fiddling with the door, earning $95 (plus tax) in the process. I’ll consider it the idiot tax for locking myself out when going downstairs to do the laundry.
I made a comment about how he must get some interesting stories in this line of work. I was, of course, fishing for one such story. He obliged.
“There was this woman who ordered a pizza and managed to lock herself out on her front stoop when she went outside to meet the delivery guy. She called me and I kept telling her, ‘Lady, you better enjoy that pizza! After I get you back inside, it’ll be the most expensive pizza you ever had!”
A story he has no doubt told a hundred times before when a customer prompts him to come up with a swashbuckling tale of locksmithing adventure on the spot.
Inside, Jedi the cat meows to greet this most welcome intruder.
“No need to worry – he’s a pretty nice guy,” I tell the locksmith.
“So am I,” he replies, already stooping down to pet the cat. A line he has no doubt used a hundred times before when there’s any sort of animal liberated from behind a locked door.
Our business concluded, I say, “Thank you, and I hope I never see you again.”
A line he has no doubt heard a hundred times before when a customer thinks he’s being pretty clever.