22 January 2014

Vacation Stories: The Key in the Trunk

In 2003 Mom and I traveled to Alaska. It was wonderful trip. We flew to Anchorage and rented a car. We drove down to Seward and up to Denali National Park and on to Fairbanks. We took a day trip (by air) to Barrow, and we even visited North Pole.

This trip produced quite a few stories that have become family lore. Our favorite is about Mom locking the keys to the rental car in the trunk.

This wasn’t the first time Mom locked a set of keys in the car. She had done it years ago in Mississippi (the police opened the truck for her).

But this time was more unique than most.

We were on our way out of Anchorage to drive to Seward. I was driving, and the car needed gas. Stopping at a gas station in Girdwood, I pulled up to the pump and filled the tank. Mom needed to get something out of the trunk, and I thought nothing of watching her dig around for whatever she needed.

I went inside the store to pay, and when I came out, Mom was coming in to buy a drink. I asked for the keys so I could move the car.

This is where the trouble began.

“I don’t have the keys, you do,” she said.

“No, I don’t. You have them.”

“I don’t have them, Sara.”

“You do.”

She searched her pockets and came up empty. Realization hit her. “I bet I left them in the trunk.”

Eleven years ago there weren’t smart phones, and my cell phone did not work in Alaska. We both went into the store and told the cashier our dilemma.

What you need to know is that Girdwood is a small town -- only about 1500 people at the time. Odds were pretty good we were going to have to wait for someone to come out from Anchorage, about 45 minutes away.

The temperature was dropping, my coat was in the car, and we were blocking one of the gas station’s pumps.

But the cashier knew a guy in town who could do it. “Let me see if he’s home,” the cashier said, picking up the phone.

Fortunately, he was.

We waited outside for him to arrive. When he pulled up, we showed him to the car. The man, tall and skinny with black hair, carried a tool box with him. He set it down beside the driver’s door, opened it up and pulled out a small, thin book. “I’m still learning how to do this,” he said.

At this point, Mom and I gaped. There was a book about how to open car doors?!

I watched a logging truck pull into the parking lot of the gas station. A short blond man climbed out and walked toward the store. Noticing our lock-picker, the man asked if we needed any help. The lock-picker assured him that he was fine.

The lock-picker had a thin wire with a loop on the end worked through the top of the window. This would have been perfect if the locks weren’t molded plastic that contoured to the wall of the car door. But he was getting close. He could get that ring around the lock, but it would slip off. Over and over, he tried to hook that lock.

The blond came back outside. He again offered his services. “Are you sure you don’t need help? I used to do that for a living.”

I have no idea if he meant that in a legal or illegal way.

Our lock-picker decided to let the man try. He walked over, picked up a Slim Jim, jammed it down into the car door. Boom. Boom. Done.

I think our lock-picker would have had the door open in about five more minutes.

We thanked the blond profusely, and he climbed back in his logging truck and drove off. We paid the lock-picker, popped the trunk and got the keys out.

As we drove off, we both laughed at the whole situation. It was utterly ridiculous, and if it hadn’t happened to us, I would never believe another person telling me this story.

The lesson learned from this little experience? You can apparently buy a book to teach you how to open locked car doors.

And I keep the keys.

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