I can’t say for sure what the quartet of people thought of me when they first stepped out of the club and into the Lewiston night.
There I was, on the dark side of the street, frantically using a long slab of metal in an attempt to jimmy open my truck door.
“This isn’t what it looks like,” I told them.
What it looked like, I imagine, was that I was some meth-crazed deviant, hell-bent on breaking into a beat-up Ford Ranger.
I hadn’t touched a speck of meth that night, but I was crazed, all right. Locking your keys in your truck will do that to you.
“Lock your keys in your car?” one of the foursome asked.
I grunted some sort of reply and jammed that useless hunk of metal deeper into the unseen guts of the truck door.
My ego was in tatters. Men don’t lock keys in cars, I thought. Men rescue wives who lock keys in cars.
The four from the club were starting to feel better, anyway. They had climbed safely into their own ride and they were starting to pull away. And good riddance to them, I figured. Shame doesn’t need an audience.
Before they drove off into the night, one of the passengers rolled down his window.
“We believe you,” the man said. “If you were a real thief, you’d already be driving away.”
We all got a good laugh over that. Haw, haw! Yessir, that is correct. A bona fide Lewiston crook wouldn’t be out here sweating and swearing all night — he’d pop that lock with a cool flick of the wrist.
I laughed with them, but it wasn’t easy. I was seething, bruh. I really, REALLY wanted to pop that lock open — to redeem myself as a man.
And also as a reporter. Because as it happened, roughly two seconds after I’d locked the hateful keys in the damnable truck, my phone rang.
NEWS EDITOR: “We’ve got a working fire in Auburn! Smoke from all floors! Photo is on the way!”
ME: “I can’t go. I’ve locked my keys in my car.”
NEWS EDITOR: “HA HA HA! LOSER!”
He didn’t really say that, but I’m pretty sure there was a titter and possibly a snort. And deservedly so.
Then he said a truly hurtful thing: “You know, you could call AAA.”
Bitterly, I jammed the slab of metal deeper into the door. It was a pica rule from the paper, by the way. It’s a long metal ruler which, in the olden days, was used to rule picas.
Or something. All I know is that the ruler has two hooks on one end; hooks that can be used to coax up the shaft or rod or whatever the hell it is that controls that locking mechanism deep inside a 2004 Ford Ranger.
That night on Oak Street, with a light drizzle falling upon my shamed head, those hooks kept grabbing on metal parts within the truck door only to feebly release them again while the damnable lock level remained in the down position.
Over and over this happened. Metal would grab metal, the lock knob would twitch and I’d have hope. Then it would skitter away again and behind the glass. I could hear my dangling keys squealing with laughter.
I called my wife and asked when she might be back in town with my spare key. Another snort. Another titter.
“You know,” she said. “You could call AAA.”
The divorce becomes final next month.
In the end, I did call AAA, though. To her credit, the dispatcher didn’t so much as snicker when I told her my problem. She just promised to send a guy with something more advanced than a pica ruler to open my truck for me. That will be 45 minutes, miss. Be sure to have identification ready.
Immediately after making that call, I made one last desperate bid to jimmy open the lock on my own. This time I pulled extra hard when metal hooked up with metal and I swore extra loud.
Yank, click, pop.
The lock jumped open with such stupid ease, I initially thought it was a shame-induced hallucination. But no, there was my truck door swinging open like the arm of a loving mother. The dome light glowed warmly to welcome me back.
Grimly, I drove toward the fire scene, beginning the difficult but not impossible task of convincing myself that this whole embarrassing night had never happened.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. He never leaves home without his pica ruler because you never know when you’ll have to rule a pica. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.