Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Case of the Lock That Refused to Open

"Come on....please!"  I pleaded.

I had exhausted all reasonable options already. I had calmly spun the dial back and forth in the appropriate fashion, just as I had almost every day for the last several months. When that didn't work, I gave the black knob a few extra twists and started again. Seeing that my efforts were to no avail, I resorted to begging, yes, begging, an inanimate object. I stared at my gym locker and the combination lock that seemed determined not to allow me to access my phone, my car keys, or any of my non-sweaty clothes.

"Three, seventeen, twenty-seven," I muttered under my breath. "I know that's right! Why won't you open?" I wondered aloud in frustration as I twisted right, twisted left, twisted right one more time, and then  yanked the silver gatekeeper with much more force than I knew was required. Nothing happened. I was quickly losing this battle to my combination lock. I had always trusted him to keep my belongings safe while I exercised in peace, but today my former friend was now my foe. And not just any foe at that, but one keeping me from everything I needed and from a doctor's appointment that started in less than an hour.

I could feel eyes on me and I wondered if curious onlookers thought I was trying to break into someone else's locker. I felt the need to defend myself, but resisted and instead tried to focus on how to solve the problem at hand.

Suddenly, an image of a poster I'd seen hung on the locker room walls flashed through my mind. For months, I had ignored its warnings, but today, I took comfort in its words: "Locks that are not removed by the end of the day may be cut off by Planet Fitness staff."

"That's it! I'll just go ask someone at the desk to cut my lock off," I thought to myself, relieved at discovering a potential, though not ideal, solution.

Deciding to give him one final chance before ending his life, I pleaded with my lock yet again. I spun to the right, stopping at three; I spun to the left, stopping at seventeen, and I spun to the right, stopping at twenty-seven. "Here goes nothing..."

Nothing was right. He didn't budge.

With no other option, I made the Walk of Shame to the front desk to explain my predicament, ensuring the associate that the locker was, in fact, mine, and that if they called my phone, they would hear it ring inside. The look of desperation on my face was enough to convince her, and she reached behind the desk to retrieve a massive tool that almost seemed like an unfair match for my poor little lock.

Together, we returned to the site of the battle. "This one right here?" she questioned, motioning toward locker 20.

"That's the one..." I replied, trying to hide my embarrassment and simultaneously wondering if I'd ever be able to show my face at this Planet Fitness branch again.

She opened the jaws of the giant lock-cutter and slowly put its mouth on the silver neck of my lock.

"Wait!" I cried, stopping her. I'm sure she already thought I was insane. She was definitely going to go home and tell all of her friends about me tonight. Maybe she'd tweet about it. I didn't care. "Will you just try it for me...just to be sure?" 

I recited the combination for her out loud, and watched her fingers twist the dial carefully--right, then left, then right again.

Once again, it refused to budge. Still not wanting to completely destroy my lock, I gave it another "last" feeble attempt. If it did actually open at this point, it would be downright humiliating, but I had to at least try. He was a committed little bugger, though, and so, as he refused to open, his life had come to an abrupt end.

I gave the associate a nod and she raised the Jaws of Death to his shiny silver neck. With one snip, the battle was over. The gatekeeper had been removed from his post, and I was free to access all of my belongings.

After thanking my rescuer, I immediately checked my phone, where I had stored the combination to my lock in case of a momentary brain lapse (don't ask why I locked the phone, which held this essential information, IN the locker...). "Did I just remember the combination incorrectly?" 

I peered down at the screen. "Three, seventeen, twenty-seven," I read. I had been right all along.

Shaking my head in confusion, I slung my backpack over my shoulders and walked out to my car, grateful to be holding the keys that had seemed so far away only moments before. It was, and would forever remain, The Case of the Lock That Refused to Open.

Ten minutes later, I found myself wandering through the aisles of Kroger, approaching yet another sales associate. "Excuse me, ma'am. Could you please tell me where I could find the combination locks?" 


  1. Just hysterical, Laura! "Begging an inanimate object", the "Walk of Shame", your desperation and panic... just hilarious! I was laughing the whole time. One time I was late to school because our apartment door suddenly WOULD NOT OPEN one morning... the lock was completely jammed. I had to wait for the maintenance guy to come rescue me! At least this was just a gym lock! :-)

  2. I just came back from PF! I use a lock with a key as I can never remember which way to turn the combinations lock and how many turns I need to make. I am useless even helping my students with their lockers. You made an ordinary object come alive! P.S. Thanks for inspiring my post today!

  3. Oh my, the jaws sound terrifying! I love how you describe this moment and the lock as an old friend turned foe. I hope you find a replacement and keep the combination close. Crazy that it was so stubborn. I guess it was ready to retire.

  4. Oh, what a story. I thought for a moment that maybe you were at the wrong locker! I've had those flashbacks and nightmares about the lock being a foe back in high school! How frustrating, but made for a great slice!