Locked Out

As we walk to my new apartment Evelyn explains, “The building was built in 1968, but all of the units have been renovated within the last few months, so it’s like you’re the first one living here! Plus you’re the only person to move onto this floor so far, so it’ll be nice and quiet for a while.” Nice!, I think to myself.

These words keep playing in my head as I sit crouched against the wall outside my apartment wearing nothing more than sandals and underwear, waiting for the property manager to let me in. She was right though. In the two months I’ve lived here it has been quiet. I haven’t seen much of anyone in the entire building, let alone this floor. Maybe that’s why I assumed it’d be okay, just this once, to take the trash to the chute without having to get re-dressed right before bedtime. I thought to myself, It’s late. Already past 11. It’s only two doors away. Slip on your flip-flops. Keep the door cracked just enough so it doesn’t close and lock, quickly walk the trash to the chute, and hurry back. Bada bing, bada boom, trash is gone. Seemed pretty doable. That’s what I thought at least, until in my rush back from the trash chute I heard a click.

That’s not what you think it was, you’re fine. There is no way that was your door… I reach for the handle of the door to my apartment and push forward, but the door doesn’t move. Shit. I try again, nothing. A third time, again nothing. Shit. Shit. Shit!! What am I going to do?! In an effort to keep myself from panicking, I look around for anything I can use to maybe jimmy open the door. I don’t have my keys, my phone, or my wallet because I’m not wearing pants and my boxer briefs are absent any pockets. I see nothing. It’s becoming obvious that the only option I have is to find someone that I can ask for help. I am the only tenant on my floor, which means I’ll have to venture out to other areas of the building wearing practically nothing. I am literally living a high school nightmare. The panic starts to set in.

Maybe try the lobby?, thinking again to myself, No, I really don’t want to run around the lobby like a crazy person in his skivvies asking strangers to borrow a phone. I don’t want to be the guy knocking on every door until someone opens one either, but I remember someone lives in the unit above mine. I can hear them every morning walking back and forth while getting ready for work. It’s worth a shot. The elevator dings and as the doors open I hold my breath. I can feel my whole body clench, and I want to close my eyes. Luckily, the doors open to expose a fully empty interior. Thank, god! I hop onto the elevator and hit the button for the floor above me.

Not wanting to knock at all, but too afraid to risk not being heard, I rap on the door harder than I probably should. Inside I can hear those familiar foot steps making their way towards the door. I’m simultaneously relieved, and mortified. On one hand, they heard me knock, help is coming. On the other, I’m about to meet my neighbor for the time while also being basically naked, or at very least, naked adjacent. I can feel warmth gather in my face as I begin to blush. The door opens slightly, and a cloud of smoke makes its way through the crack. “Hello?”, comes the scruffy voice of a man I can hear, but cannot see. There are no lights on inside, and the door is open just enough to let out some smoke. The scent of which tells me its origin. Dude is clearly stoned. “Uh, hey. Sorry… Hi, I live in the unit below you, and I’ve managed to lock myself out of my apartment. Would it be possible to use your phone to call the property managers so they can let me in?” I ask stumbling over my words, clearly uncomfortable, but a little glad I can’t see his face. It feels a bit less awkward somehow. “You’re out of luck, bro. They close at 7. There wouldn’t be anyone to call. You have to go talk to the security guys. Their office is in the garage I think.”

“The garage? In the building across the street?” I ask, voice a little shaky.

“That’s the one.”

Shit. That means I’ll have to go outside… in my underwear. “Dang it. Okay, thanks for your help. Sorry to bother you.”

“Good luck, bro.” The door closes before I’ve even turned to head back for the elevator.

Before the doors fully open I can tell that I’m not so lucky this time. Of course there’s someone on it, I think to myself. Well, here goes… The situation is awkward enough already, so instead of waiting for the next one I take a deep breath and step in. The only sound for what feels like an eternity is the chime the elevator makes as each floor passes, and because I can’t handle the silence I turn and blurt out, “I locked myself out of my apartment.” “I figured about as much,” the guy says, who looks to be about my age. Neither of us bothers to introduce ourselves. We stop again on the next floor and a woman a few years older than us looks me up and down with a confused expression. “He locked himself out,” says my unnamed new friend, my face warms again and I look down at my feet. Before we reach the lobby the elevator stops a handful of times letting more and more people on. I can’t help but to laugh to myself a little. Two months. Two months I’ve lived here without sharing an elevator with a single person, and somehow tonight, of all nights, I’ve managed to run into what seems like every other person in the building.

It’s January, so it’s cold outside. I can tell it just rained as I run across the street making my way to the garage while also trying not to draw attention to myself. I’m freezing. At least it’s not still raining. I see a sign marked “Security” with an arrow pointing up a flight of stairs. Taking them two at I time I reach the top and see the security office opposite my location at the end of a row of parked cars. I can see though a small square window in the door that a light is on. Hopefully that means someone is in there. Still freezing I knock loudly against the door. Come on, come on, come on. Some of the rain still hangs in the air making it even colder. After about thirty seconds of shivering I knock again. Someone please open the door. When the door finally opens I audibly gasp, “Thank god!” and proceed to explain why I am standing in a parking garage in my underwear in the middle of the night. The guard takes my info, tells me “We don’t keep keys in this office, I’ll need to call someone for you. I’ll walk you across the street though so I can let you back into your building while you wait.”

Which is what I am doing. Sitting in the hallway, still waiting for the property manager to let me in. At least I’ll have a story to tell my coworkers tomorrow.

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