Lock and Key Chronicles: The near-miss

I often eat lunch at a little taco stand called Taco del Mar. They have a “surfer” theme, being based around their beach-style food. They have a few local outlets, even though they started in the Seattle area, I think. I love their burritos and tacos. I’m a recent convert to their fish tacos; those are especially good.

For the month of July they’ve been having a promotion where they gave away a bunch of little surfboard keychains early on, and for the rest of the month if you show the keychain they give you a free upgrade from a small to a large drink. Saves a big $0.20, but what the hey, it didn’t cost me anything.

I went running at lunch time with a friend, who I shall refer to as “Jimbo”, and after we’d showered off we went to Taco del Mar for sustenance. It was “Taco Tuesday” — two tacos, rice, beans and a drink for $4.99. I have the keychain but my friend does not. So I showed the keychain to the Taco del Mar girl, she gave me the upgraded drink, then I slipped the keychain to my friend, behind the counter, so that he could get the discount, too. Worked like a champ. OK, I think we’re pretty much regular customers so they probably would have given us the discount, any way, but it was fun.

Cut to later this evening. After work I was helping another friend, Palsy, set up some art space. He wanted me to see if they could set up a free wireless InterWeb connection. I was doing a little site survey, with a directional antenna and a wireless-equipped laptop. It was fun, hanging out the windows in Old Town, watching the crack deals going down outside, while playing with some high-tech gear in this loft filled with crazy painters and musicians. I’m basically doing this for free, just for the opportunity to hang out with creative types and get invited to some crazy-ass parties. I can be the “computer guy” for musicians and poets. It’s a niche, it’s all good.

The laptop I was using was borrowed from Jimbo (my iBook doesn’t have an external antenna connection to attach a big directional antenna) and it was an old piece of shit. Small, but the slot where the wireless card went in had a loose connection and I had to hold it just so to get it to work right. Also, I discovered, even though I had left the damned thing on my desk all day, charging up the battery, for some reason it wouldn’t hold a charge. Trying to get it to stay on only produced frustration — a couple of quick warnings that the battery was low, then it would shut down. Argh. I had to go back to the office to get the power adapter.

When I got back to the office, I ran into Jimbo, the friend I had lunch with. Normally he has to go meet his wife to pick him up as soon as he gets off work (they car pool) but tonight for some reason he had an hour to kill. I invited him along to help me look for potential InterWeb.

The artist’s space was very cool, like a low-tech improv version of a T. G. I. Friday’s or something. You know the corporate look: carefully purchased and arranged random objects placed all over to create a “hip” atmosphere. Only in the case of the artist’s space, it was truly random and authentically chaotic (whatever that means). At one point, we weren’t getting a good signal from the 2nd floor and decided to try to get the laptop and antenna out on the roof. Since we were tethered to a power cable, we figured we had to get an extension cord (or three, connected together, to reach the distance) up on the roof. We had to trek up a rotting staircase to the 5th floor and then go out a window and on to the fire escape, then climb up a rickety old wrought-iron ladder to the roof, the plan being to drop the cord down the outside of the building to plug in on the 2nd floor.

First Palsy, the one for whom I was doing all this, went out there, on the fire escape. He quickly realized he didn’t want to die and was afraid of heights, and came back in. I said he was pretty brave for going out there, knowing he was afraid of heights.

Then I went out there; after all, I’ve jumped from airplanes, I’m not scared of heights. Um, turns out that jumping into the clear blue sky is a lot different from standing on a flimsy platform of rusty steel rods welded together and anchored via means unknown into the side of a brick building nearing condemnation. Yeah. I chickened out.

Finally Jimbo, waiting down on the 2nd floor, called me on my cell. “What they hell are you ladies doing?” I told him we were coming down. He berated us and insisted he’d up there. “How bad could it be?” he sneered. We went down and met him, led him back up to the 5th floor, and showed him the fire escape. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! No way IN HELL am I getting out there! I’ve got a wife and kids. I’d be shaking in my shoes.” He’d thought it was a simple staircase up, not a thin metal ladder that one had to climb up the outside of to get to the roof. So we determined that we would have a decent view of any possible wireless access points from the 5th floor windows, and dropped the extension cord from there, not the roof.

It was at this point, waiting with the laptop and directional antenna, that I realized I didn’t have my keys.

Oh, man. I just realized that you, the faithful reader, are in store to be disappointed. You read the title I gave this essay, you’ve been paying attention all along, and now you’ve probably got some great ideas how this story could continue. “I’ll bet the keys fell out of his pocket while he was on the roof!” you might be thinking. Sure, that would make a great story. If I were less truthful, I’d go ahead and write it that way, and when the real people whom I’m calling “Palsy” and “Jimbo” read this story, they’d complain that that’s not how it actually happened, but I’d claim poetic license and tell them this is so much better. They’d shrug, or bitch, or whatever, and I’d either be smug or mildly guilty, depending on how other people’s reaction to this went.

Or you might be thinking that the keys were lost somewhere else, maybe in what I described as chaos, the artist’s space on the 2nd floor. That would be good, too, and there’d be a long sequence of me and my friends searching through all the discarded paint tubes and cast-off art projects, and eventually either find the yellow surfboard keychain or not. Yeah, that would be good, too.

It’s especially ironic since I’ve been having a string of incidents involving locks and keys. I mean, that’s the whole reason I called this the “Lock and Key Chronicles”, right? Locking myself out of my house, out of a rental car, stuff like that. So I wouldn’t be telling this story if it didn’t involve me losing my keys, right? Right?

Well, sorry. Wrong. As soon as I mentioned that I didn’t have my keys, Jimbo went “Oh!” reached into his pocket, and pulled them out. He’d had them ever since lunch, when he’d gotten the free upgrade to a large drink. “Boy it’s a good thing you ran into me, isn’t it?” he asked. “You would have been stuck.”

Yeah. Good thing. But I still am worried about what the universe is trying to tell me about not being able to keep track of my keys.

just a few minutes after that, his wife called him and he had to leave.

My lesson has apparently not yet been learned. I’m mentally bracing myself for the next lesson. Argh.