Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pack your bags, Octopus!

Meet Octopus.

But don't get too friendly. He's just leaving.

I hired him to do a specific job for me. I paid a dollar for him at the Dollar 'n' Value at Mavis and Eglinton. And with another dollar I bought the pack of various-colored glittery shoelaces from which the orange one was taken and used to leash Octopus to my key ring.

His job was to always remind me not to leave my keys in the truck. He was surely a sound investment given that lock-out rescue service is sixty bucks on average (believe me, I know. I've done ample research).

Octopus was doing a very good job. For a while. Then the other night I stopped for gas at a remote Caledon independent service station.

I was distracted as I disembarked, routing through my book bag for the Gregory Benford novel I'd earlier scooped from the Orangeville Public Library's discard section in exchange for a handful of quarters. Never having read him previously I was keen to preview the first page to get a sense of his style.

(While the age-old rule stands; you can't judge a book by it's cover, I find you can judge quite a bit from page one because the multiple layers of marketing keyed to it guarantee that it's received the utmost the author's attention and focus.)

So I hop out, do a little pump-and-read and go inside to pay the piper. They don't have pay-n-pump at this ma-and-paw shop.

Returning, I pull at the door handle. You guessed it. Locked. I reach for the designated key pocket of my jacket. Empty. My head tips, nose to the window, the shadow of my head masking the reflection of the overhead lights, giving me view of the dark interior.

And there sat Octopus on the dashboard, staring back at me with wide woeful google-eyes.

"Octopus!" I cried. "Why?"

He just stared back at me forlornly, his glittery orange shoeleash trailing off toward the ignition.

"How could you let me down?"

Back I go, into the shop. Ma has a phone with which I may call a locksmith or tow guy but she has no ATM with which I would access the cash required for payment.

Those bastards don't accept plastic, you know.

Because they're bastards. I just want to be clear on that.

She does however, upon my pleading, go searching for a coat hanger and comes up with one. It's already been straightened but for a bend at the neck, surely designed for this very purpose.

I give it a further minor modification, pull an ice scraper from a cardboard box in the truck's bed and approach the driver's door but dubiously. My tools are sorry replicas of the ones I see the pros use with sad regularity.

I fiddle away, basically passing time. The task is hopeless.

A youth in muscle shirt, sans muscles but with an armband tattoo is watching me while fuelling an old beat-up mini-van at the next pump.

‘Mind your own business, punk.’

"Excuse me," he says. "Will I get to Erin if I continue down this road?" He nods toward Highway 10, southbound.

"No," I say. "That'll take you to Brampton. You need to go back to those lights there and make a left. That's 24. It'll take you straight into Erin."

"Great. Thanks."

"No problem." I go back to my inane fiddling while he hangs up his nozzle and goes inside.

He returns a moment later, saying, "Hey, you want some help there?"

"No. Thanks anyway. It's a hopeless cause."

He approaches anyway and eyes the ice scraper wedged behind the top of the door frame. "A door jam 'd work better," he states, "But she don't have one. I asked her. Are you trying to get at the handle or the lock button?"

"The handle. But it's no use. It's too far."

"You should try the lock. That'll be easier."

"I tried that. It won't work. The contour is too gentle. The hook just keeps sliding off."

"Oh. It's contoured."

"Yeah," I say, wondering if he even knows what that means.

"Let me have a try."

"That's okay. I don't want to waste your time. It's not gonna work."

"Yes it will," he says. "Come on, hand it over. I'm good at this."

I comply for lack of anything more useful to do. He pulls the coat hook free of the door and makes two modifications to it. I nod my head. The little ragamuffin has demonstrated a superior grasp of simple physics than I had. D'oh! Still it's a lost cause.

He fiddles a while.

"Listen dude," I say, "I really don't want to waste your time."

"I've done this many times," he says. "Never failed yet."

"Ah. Imagine my luck. Running into a professional car thief."

He chuckles. "No. I just have a habit of locking my keys in the car quite a lot."

A lot? I presume by that he means once a day since he doesn't look old enough to have been driving more than a week.

He fiddles some more. "Don't worry," he says. "I'll get it."

I understand where he's coming from. This is just his ego talking. Then he reaches for the door handle, pulls the door open and hands me the tools while my jaw just about hits the pavement.

"You're awesome!" I gasp.

He smiles, declines payment and leaves, turning his van around and heading for Erin. I return the coat hook and climb aboard.

"Who was that masked man?" says Octopus.

"Shut up Octopus. You're through here."

We're silent most of the ride home. I decide I must use a drill and put a hole through the inside face of the lock button, It'll give me something to hook the coat hook into next time. Yeah. That's the plan. Now I'll never need a locksmith again. Or a tow truck guy or an octopus or any other colourful plastic sea creature.

"Nice kid though," says Octopus finally.

"Well, I guess you can't judge a book by it's cover."

"Yeah, but do you still think we should do away with the traditional family unit and harvest children in underground facilities until they’re twenty-five?"

"Shut up, Octopus. Just shut up."



Babs Gladhand said...

I think Octopus is just adorable. I'm so sorry he failed you, though. I can only imagine the disappointment you felt.

I, through some miracle, have never locked my keys in the car. Probably because I'm a bit obsessive about it. In fact, I check my purse about 3 times before I lock my door. Even though I KNOW that I just put the keys in there, I have to check. And then check again. And, what the hell, I'll check one more time.

I should probably talk to my therapist about that, huh?

Dave said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again.
sheesh. some people's kids.
Or, failing that, get into the habit of never using the lock button EVER. Always lock the door with the key. No key, no lock, no problem.

Anonymous said...

OMG lol! You are one lucky dude to have run into that guy.

When jess and gayle were in preschool, the driver of the preschool van accidently left the keys in it. They all stood around scratching their heads, and stressing about the lack of money in the petty cash for a locksmith.

Along came my hubby, who demonstrated to me and our preschooler's teachers and administrators that he could break into cars with a coathanger.

Yes he saved the day (feildtrip) but we were a little stunned.

That octopuss really messed up LOL!

Kathleen said...

Days later I'm still trying to figure out why it's poor Octopus' fault that you're a knucklehead and lock your keys in the car. ;-P

Hmm, I could have sworn I responded to this already...weird.

I locked my keys in my car once, on purpose, in an attempt to warm the car up for my sister, but not get the car stolen. Stupid key fob doesn't work when the car is running, as I found out. Even the cop couldn't break into the car w/his fancy-ass tools. I ended up having to borrow Mom's car (thank God I was at Mom's, eh?), meet a friend more than halfway home and get my spare key. Car was really warmed up by the time we got into the damn thing. I think it had been running for close to two hours. I refuse to warm up cars after that.

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Babs, I think you and I are at opposite ends of the scale when it comes to key-awareness.

Dave, The stock reply, I remind you, is that spare keys for that truck are expensive and I just lose them. I shall have this printed on cards and hand you one each time you see fit to bellow 'spare key' at me. I've already solved the problem (see drill...) which is not only a null-cost solution but will also make things much easier for any car thieves that come along. I'm sure they'll be appreciative. But thanks anyway for coming out, biotch! LOL!

Supermom, Lucky indeed. Best thing is that he didn't just get the keys out and save me $60 but he taught me how to do it (teach a man to fish and you feed him for life...)

Kats, Our entire society is built on avoiding personal responsibility and blaming others for everything. Why shouldn't I participate now and then? Yikes. What a misadventure. Around here our cops would more likely hand you a ticket then try to help you break in to your car. Our entire police system here is built on avoiding having to do anything unless it has to do with glaze or sprinkles.

Okay, that was a bit harsh, but as one who has been victimized by minor crimes on many occasions and never received any service from the police service other than snide disinterest I can be expected to be bitter.

Kathleen said...

I thought Canada was a kinder, gentler country...oh wait, that was before Stephen Harper got control. My bad.

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

(hee hee hee)