Locked out in the cold
When my friend Michael was a deputy sheriff, he made a “car stop” one night. In such cases, the officer locks the running police car, and carries a second key in his or her gun belt.
Michael ended up having to handcuff the driver. Walking the person back to the patrol car, he suddenly remembered with a shock: This isn’t my car! His normal patrol car was in for repairs; he was driving a loaner.
“Luckily I had my search dog in the back seat,” he reports thankfully, “and had left the window cracked. I told the arrestee to turn and face the front of the car, quickly reached through the back window, and unlocked the doors.
“Only my dog and I knew how close that had come.”
It’s happened to all of us: locking ourselves out of a vehicle, for any reason. The first feeling is of disbelief. Denial. Chagrin. The event is so … so…. avoidable. Everything would be so much easier, so normal, if … if …
I’ve had my own cause to hear Michael’s and other stories lately. We recently bought a new (old) car and had key copies made. My teenage son, unused to the new car, immediately locked in all the keys, from originals to new copies, plus the Hide-a-Key box I had just bought him. At night. On a Sunday.
I called locksmith upon locksmith, up and down the valley, leaving messages. Then I suddenly remembered: You can reinstate a Triple A membership on the spot. I called, signed up, hung up, and boom — a tow truck driver called.
“My teenager just locked the keys in the car after having five copies made,” I said with vigor.
“Don’t tell them that, Mom,” the son protested plaintively.
“Plus,” I continued apace into the phone, “he locked his homework in there!”
At 10:30 p.m., the guy arrived and retrieved the keys. Issue finally over, we walked wearily back into the house.
My husband was away somewhere. “Dad doesn’t even know about this,” I marveled.
My son suggested swiftly, “Let’s keep it that way.”
Ah, but the dad has had his own problems. When our older son was 2, and the second one but a tadpole, my husband and I drove to Denver for amniocentesis, stopping in the high mountain town of Dillon for lunch. It was a bitter January day — so cold the pipes in the restaurant had frozen, and we couldn’t get glasses of water with our sandwiches. Back out we went, me wearing (to go to the city) a thin leather jacket. Mike turned on the truck, went around to the passenger side and put the 2-year-old in his car seat, and unthinkingly locked the door.
The more we entreated our toddler, from outside the window, the more he tried, crying, to reach the lock, but his seat held him fast. We had to call the police, hopping up and down in the cold for the half hour we waited.
Many a friend reports having locked a child in the car, and several have locked dogs in, twice because the dog stepped on a door lock. In one of those cases, Ammon arrived one cold evening in Joshua Tree, California, spotted an empty campsite, and jumped from the car to secure it.
“Triple A couldn’t get there until the next morning,” he told me, “so the vehicle ran all night with the dog in it.” He and his girlfriend had to beg a sleeping bag from strangers.
Rental cars are the worst, when those people don’t give you spare keys. My friend Jon locked himself out of a rental in Boston the day he had to fly out. A police officer strove to open the door, but finally said he’d have to break a window.
“Oh, then can I do it?” Jon said. “I’ve always wanted to break a window.”
He whacked a rock into the glass — and cut the crap out of his hand. He didn’t go to the airport; he went to the ER.
Lockouts happen to everyone, though for years I’ve prevented them with a handy Hide-a-Key. Of course, they can fall off, as had my spare that day in Dillon. Maybe I should get two, in case the cop I call is locked out.
“Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last week’s column was about Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., a respected gastroenterologist who wrote “Fiber Fueled,” which came out in 2020. Today’s column is the first in a series of columns based on this book.