COMMENTARY: For the second time in his life, columnist Steve King found himself locked out of his car due to frozen temperatures during a recent freezing rain storm.
As these things go, this one was a lock.
And, as it were, lock-solid.
I was locked out of my car.
But not because of anything I had accidentally done, like leaving my keys inside the car and then absent-mindedly locking the doors.
Rather, because of something that Mother Nature did on purpose, has done before on purpose and will continue to do on purpose whenever she doggone well feels like it, wherever she feels like it and however she feels like it.
And, unfortunately for me, this was one of those times.
In this particular case, she decided to do it with ice. But guys, don’t ever call any woman The Ice Queen, lest you be left out in the cold. I never opened my mouth in that regard, but I was still left out in the cold, literally and figuratively. For the second time in my life, the locks on my car were frozen, thanks to rain the day before that froze overnight as temperatures dropped.
Like it or not, those are the cold, hard facts, and, without question, I didn’t like it nor did I expect it, because the weather forecasters didn’t predict conditions favorable for this to happen. Never trust the weather forecasters, unless his name is Greensburg High School graduate Dick Goddard.
But it was too late to lay blame and worry about that, because I had a major problem on my hands, and on a day when I thought I was so far ahead of schedule that the schedule wasn’t even on my mind.
For no other reason than I was dressed and ready to go and there was not enough time to get started on any tasks around the house, I just decided to leave for work about 10 minutes early.
Fifty-five minutes later, and 15 minutes after my work day was scheduled to have begun, I not only had failed to arrive at work, but I also had failed to be able to simply get into my car to begin the easy five-minute drive to get there.
I tried the usual suspects to rectify the situation – such as turning the key in the lock as far as I possibly could without breaking it; filling a giant-sized soda cup from the convenience store two different times with scalding water and slowly pouring it into it into the lock, making for a large and incredibly slippery icy patch on the ground right beneath the door, thus creating yet another problem; lighting matches to heat up the key and lock, a move that was thwarted because the matches didn’t burn long enough before becoming precariously close to burning me; and using that neat little red straw (that they now conveniently connect to the nozzle instead of taping it to the side of the can like they back in the day) to spray enough WD-40 into the lock to lubricate every mechanism in the free world.
But nothing worked.
I had covered myself by calling my boss, who, while sitting in the warm confines of her office after arriving there in a car that was immune to the ice because it gets parked in a nice, dry garage every night, laughed out loud when she heard of my plight. Then, still giggling, she said, "Take all the time you need."
That’s all well and good, but how much time was going to be too much? I know I said you can’t trust weather forecasters, but since the temperature was well below freezing and hadn’t been above freezing for days, it was a pretty good bet that their prediction for flat-line temperatures for the day was accurate. As such, then, what was going to change? How was I going to thaw out that lock so I could get to work before it was time to go back home again?
I was about to find out.
You know that saying about the definition of insanity? But what else was I going to do? So I started to head back inside for more hot water, as if I hadn’t used enough of that, wasn’t in enough of that, already.
Other than my frantic attempts, the neighborhood was like your living room late on Christmas Eve in that nothing – and no one – else was stirring. As such, when I saw some movement, it – her – immediately caught my eye.
Her name is Kay. Everybody has a Kay in her neighborhood, someone who’s your idol because she is what you want to be when you get older. She is 93 and looks and acts like she’s 73. To put things into perspective, she’s got the World War II stamp on the license plate of her minivan because her husband, who died years ago, had fought in the war that Archie Bunker accurately referred to simply as "The Big One." I was born nine years after The Big One ended, and I’m considered a seasoned citizen.
She had pulled her car out of the garage, then went inside to get something and was getting back into her car when I called her name.
"I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a problem," I said.
She and I both knew that a long time ago, but Kay is sweet enough that she always cuts me some slack. I just needed to identify my most pressing problem.
"That’s OK. I’m just headed to Mass, and I’m early," she said.
"I thought I was early, too, but that’s another story for another time," I said. "The locks are frozen on my car, and I was wondering if you had a cigarette lighter that I could borrow?"
What a stupid thing to say. If Kay had a cigarette lighter, then that would mean that she smokes cigarettes. And she didn’t get to be 9.3 decades old by smoking cigarettes.
"No, I don’t have a cigarette lighter, but I sometimes have to help set up for Mass so I’ve got one of those candle lighters inside," she said. "Let me go get it for you."
"Thank God," I thought to myself before I realized that I had made "a funny."
The thing was a blowtorch, as I knew it would be, and before Kay could drive by me on her way go Mass, I had opened my door. Heck, I could have melted the ice off the top of my car with it.
Like I mentioned earlier, this – my car locks freezing – had happened once, and only once, before. Several years ago, I had gone to Mass and when I came back out to my car to drive to a spot along Interstate 77 to meet my good friend, Repository Browns beat writer Steve Doerschuk, to hitch a ride to Cleveland to cover a game, I found myself iced out. With little time to work with, I ran to the church rectory and, after explaining my problem, an usher grabbed a candle lighter, headed to my car and opened the lock with one quick pull of his index finger.
This is a free country, and you can think what you want to. It’s not my intention – or desire – to influence that at all.
But when I think about it, I smile.