We go for a leisurely walk. We celebrate the gift of a breeze and a sunset after a day so hot that the neighborhood dogs can’t work up to snarling at me. The stroll ends with me jiggling a locked door to which I do not have the key. It’s not in my pocket, not in my car, it’s inside the house, which as I’ve mentioned, is locked.
I scale the fence, confirm that the back door is locked, then sit down with a six pack meant to be consumed in an air-conditioned house but will instead be drunk outside and slowly. The locksmith says it’ll be a 2 hour wait.
Between slugs of an increasingly less cold beer, I pick up limbs of the mutant cactus that haunts my backyard. I’ve been trying to get rid of the remains of it for weeks. After my fourth beer, the job is finally done. A small victory.
Victor Charlie shows up at 10 pm in a black low rider. He’s wearing a black t-shirt with the logo Frequent Rocker and sports a black pony tail that tickles his ass. He starts by trying to pick the lock. This means he pushes in a pin then grinds a tool in the keyhole. It’s like he’s playing a very short xylophone and the chorus is, “Dammit! Goddammit!”
After 10 minutes, he switches from picking to – I don’t know what to call it but he sticks in a random key then bangs it with the butt end of a screwdriver. This last for 45 minutes. I’m beginning to be concerned he might not be good at his job.
He switches to picking then back to pounding the shit out of the door handle. He smashes his finger with the screwdriver, “Fuck!” He sucks the blood from his pointer finger then keeps banging. Every five minutes he flings his ponytail back and whips me in the face with hair and sweat. I’m not standing behind him because I’m especially curious but rather because my iPhone is the sole source of light out here.
So here we are, like a prom photo, with my arm around his as he bangs and bangs and bangs at the lock. It’s loud work so I look around for concerned neighbors who might be alarmed by the sight and sounds of a break-in. I figure someone might even call the cops. I have no way to prove that I live there. They never come. The locksmith never asks me to prove that this isn’t an elaborate break-in.
Covered in sweat, Victor Charlie tells me it’s been one of those nights. I imagine that as a shitty locksmith he probably has a lot of nights like this. Finally, he gives up. He’s out of ideas. He can’t pick it. He can’t do the thing that he bloodied his finger doing. He only has one choice: rip off the fucking handle. His words.
And of course, sell me a new one for $100 plus re-keying fee. Naturally, the lock won’t be as good as the one he’s hellbent on destroying but it’s decent. And if he ever needs to crack it again, it’ll be much easier. This is supposed to be reassuring, but I assure you it’s not. Yet I agree. Let’s rip off the fucking lock and put on a shittier one.
It’s now midnight. In about two seconds he cracks off the lock. He pulls out the new, lesser knob and starts the re-keying process by immediately dropping the lock. This sends springs flying everywhere. Fuck, goddamnit, damnit, fuck! I put my iPhone down and invite Victor Charlie in to use the kitchen table and indoor light. I offer him a water, and because I’m sort of drunk, I almost offer him a beer. But because he’s already a horrendous locksmith and I can’t imagine he would be better with a buzz, I decide against it and drink the last beer myself.
He can’t do the job alone so he solicits my help. I hold the knob steady while he attempts to rebuild the lock. I’m also tasked with holding a flashlight because he keeps saying, “Well I can’t see a fucking thing!” Maybe it’s his eyes. Maybe it’s his lack of dexterity. But he is a truly awful locksmith.
Finally, he finishes assembling the lock, re-keys and installs it into the metal screen door. One of those nights, man.
He has me pay through Square. I’m surprised when it prompts me with the option to tip. How much to tip your locksmith is not something I’ve ever even thought to google. But I figure he’s not long for this trade so I tip him 20% and consider it a contribution to his future unemployment fund.
Before he goes, Victor Charlie asks if he can use the bathroom. I tell him that our main line is clogged, showers are backed up, toilets are brimming. I can see he’s hurt. The two of us have worked hand-in-hand destroying my front door and now I won’t even let him piss in my non-functioning toilet. He’s disgusted with me so he takes his 20% tip, urges me to write a positive Yelp review and then drives off looking for another door to decimate for a fee.
I crawl into bed and wonder how long I can get by showering at the gym. Probably pretty long.