After a relatively long workday, I pulled into the parking lot of the Times-Tribune, ready to crank out a story about a meeting I covered.
I was tired and thirsty, and ready for a little air conditioning.
I gathered all my tools of the trade together, and fumbled around for the building keys.
They weren’t in their usual spot.
I searched around some more, using a flashlight to see where they fell.
No such luck.
While I had my cell phone, there was no one in the building to call to say, “Hey, let me in.”
I knew there was a co-worker heading in the office, so rather than start a big panic, I settled down in the car and began to wait.
I chuckled surprisingly when I thought of the first time I ever dealt with being “locked out” of anything.
I was about 12 or so, and my mother took my sisters and I to Abingdon, Va., which was about 20-25 minutes away from home.
I can’t remember why we were there, but I definitely remember what ended up being the plan for the day.
Mom got my 8-year-old sister and I out of the car, then got the stroller ready for my youngest sister.
While Mom was strapping her into the stroller, I locked the car doors and slammed it shut.
“It’s locked up now, Mom,” I said, proud that I had been able to help.
But the look on Mom’s face said I may have made an error.
And I had.
Because right there in the floorboard rested my mother’s white shoulder bag — with the car keys tucked safely inside a pocket.
She was annoyed, and led us to the Abingdon Public Library, where we were asked to stay while she got a hold of my father.
Keep in mind, this was prior to the cell phone.
Library employees attempted to help by providing the proverbial metal hanger, but it was no use.
My Dad had to rescue us by taking an hour out of his very busy workday to assist my Mom.
It’s a funny story — nearly 30 years later.
Of course, saying that was my first instance automatically brings the notion that I’ve since been locked out of something.
And I have.
I once was working at a weekly paper in eastern North Carolina about a decade or so ago.
We went to press Tuesday afternoons, so our deadline was Monday night.
I work better under pressure, and thusly I usually saved the bulk of my story writing for Monday night.
This one particular Monday, it was cold. It was the middle of December, and I had quite a few things cooking for that week’s edition.
I had been sitting for several hours, and needed to stretch my legs and get a blast of cold, fresh air.
I always parked behind the building on those nights, and that night was no exception. The key I had to get into the building went to the back door.
However, since my desk was closer to the front door, that’s where I decided to have my “wake-up” walk.
What I forgot was that door automatically locked behind you at night when you left.
So here I was, outside in 35-degree weather, locked out of my job.
Oh, yeah — and without a coat on.
Thankfully the Bingo parlor down the street was in full swing that night — they had a phone I could access without walking a couple miles to get to a pay phone, which I could not afford at that moment since I had three or four pennies in my pocket.
My boss was forced at 11 at night to drive the hour it took her to get to the office just to let me in.
Of course, I’ve done the locked out of the car thing too.
I’ve done that several times, the most recent time being in Barbourville.
But I guess the worst time I did that was when I was about 19 years old.
Before I continue with this story, I must preface it with this — just because I wasn’t caught doesn’t mean it wasn’t illegal. Do not follow my bad judgement decisions.
OK, I was 19 years old, and I had a “fake ID.”
I was still me according to the ID, but I was born in 1968, rather than 1972.
I had it for several months, and it worked quite well, especially in the dark.
I had gone out that night — again in the winter (how do I keep doing it THAT time of year?).
I was at a bar, and I was boozing it up.
It was after 1 a.m., and I was ready to split. I got out to the car and discovered the worst.
There were the keys, safe and sound, in the ignition.
And there on the passenger seat was my coat — I didn’t want to leave it inside the bar.
I tried all the doors. Nothing.
I finally found a hanger to try.
No such luck with that either.
“Just call the police department — they’ll get you out,” said one patron.
But I couldn’t — not without being arrested for several charges, including the fake ID, public intoxication and underage consumption.
I was not headed for jail on that stupidity.
So, freezing cold and desperate, I took a brick and lobbed it through the back window.
Unfortunately, and the worst part of it for me, was I told a whopper to my parents on how the window got smashed.
It didn’t include that I myself was smashed as well.
But being locked out isn’t always all bad. After all, I got a nice rest and a few moments to reminisce about torturing my family with my lock-out capabilities.
And I did eventually get back in the news office — chuckling at my predicability.
John Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org