All locked out and nowhere to go

I don’t lock myself out of my apartment often, but when I do, I almost always have a bag of perishable groceries with me.

It used to be part of my routine: I would go to work, literally run the 4 miles home, and stop at the grocery store around the block from my apartment. Then, and only then, would I realize that I left my keys in a desk drawer in Midtown.

That happened enough times to force myself to start running with a keyring in my hand. It worked for a while – until the night that I accidentally went home holding my boyfriend’s spare set instead of my own.

When I showed up at his apartment to get my extra keys, he took the grocery bags from my hands and said, “Oh thanks. What did you bring?”

“It’s not for you!” I yelled, as I stalked into his bedroom. “I’m taking those back home with me.”

But it was no use. By the time I got out of his bathroom, he was already eating a cup of yogurt with granola.

“Unbelievable!” I yelled, throwing my hands in the air.

“Don’t be so mad,” he laughed. “Sit down. Have a yogurt. And put all your keys on one ring already.”

Not bad advice.


Since then, my lock-out streak has been pretty good. Near spotless, in fact, aside from one little hiccup this past summer when I nearly made it out my front door holding a can opener that I absent-mindedly picked up off my kitchen counter instead of my keys. A can opener.

But all good things must end – and that they did this past Thursday when I returned home from Whole Foods and found my doorknob spinning like a top on its spindle. The lock itself was working properly, but the knob just wouldn’t catch. I was locked out – and for once, it wasn’t even my fault

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, let me save you a lot of time and aggravation and tell you what works:


I mean, feel free to try to muscle your way in. Or perhaps lock and unlock the deadbolt a dozen times until you no longer remember which way is which. If you get really frustrated, then by all means, walk to the end of the hallway, take a running start and fling yourself at the door.

lock out1But none of that is going to help, so don’t even bother.

“Maybe you should go on the roof,” one friend suggested.

Definitely don’t listen to her. Unless you want to get stuck on a roof – which I had the good sense not to do.

Instead, I suggest leaving your landlord a voicemail and then going to your neighborhood bar while you put off calling a locksmith for an hour.

Don’t be mad! Sit down. Have a drink.

That’s my advice.


Now would be a good a time as any to admit that my original plans for Thursday night did not involve grocery shopping at all – but rather, a second date with a guy I met at a holiday party back in December. A date I thought about canceling when he changed the time of our meeting because he “had another thing he needed to do first”… and actually canceled when that thing ended up “having food,” which prompted him to downgrade our date from dinner to drinks. Like I don’t need to eat!

“Screw this guy,” I thought to myself. “I’d rather have a quiet night in. I’ll get my own food.”

Hence the trip to Whole Foods. And when that didn’t work out as planned, hence the trip around the corner for a friend chicken sandwich.


If you read my earlier entry about Making a Home in Harlem, then you likely know how this story ends. My landlord returned home halfway through my sandwich and saved the day with a standard screwdriver. Just for fun, he brought his dog too.

He’s the best.

lock out 2“Thank you so much,” I said. “I guess I had to give you one last job before I left.”

He shook his head and waved his screwdriver as he walked back into the hallway.

“We are sad to see you go. If you come back to New York, you can have the apartment again,” he said in his halting English. “But I know you. You won’t be back.”

“You think?” I asked.

“You are like me,” he said. “Like me in Israel before I left. I know. I see myself. My young self.”

I consider that pretty high praise – praise that I don’t even deserve since his young self probably wouldn’t have considered trying to lubricate a door lock with a tube of Chapstick.

“We’ll see,” I said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“You won’t come back,” he said. “I can tell.”

I shrugged.

“If you come back,” he said. “You’ll come back with more. You’ll see.”

I hope that much is true. But if not, it wouldn’t be so bad to come back to the place with the broken doorknob and hope for a quiet night in.

It wouldn’t be so bad to come home.


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  1. I can definitely relate to the can opener incident. I have done that a few times, but it was with a set of measuring cups! Getting locked out is never a fun experience so I think having a locksmith on speed dial is always a good idea. That way, you know that you have a plan B in a stressful situation like that.

  2. Sometimes we lock ourselves out of the house or car. I think the important thing to remember is to not make the same mistake twice. I like that you mention putting the keys on the same ring. That would be really good advice because then you always have the keys with you.

  3. This is so funny! I drove a few miles to school one day in the winter. After I finished class it was late already and the sun had gone down. When I got to my car, I realized I locked my keys inside. I had to walk all the way back home, get the keys, then walk back. Let’s just say it was a long, cold night!

  4. If I was in your shoes I would probably have a locksmith on speed dial and we would be good friends. I have yet to be locked out of my own apartment but I’m knocking on wood just in case. Thanks for sharing your experience. It made me smile and remember that life happens but it’ll be ok. I just gotta remember to breathe.

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