Trains. Firemen. Locksmiths.

December 29th, 2009 by Melina

Oh yeah. And a freezing Mel.

(Note: Formatting is off. I know that. Working on it.)

Okay, fine. Yeah, I’ll admit it. I recently experienced an unfortunate incident wherein I required the assistance of a locksmith.


Oh stop. Don’t mock. I had my keys. Both times. Okay?

So here’s what happened:

As we all know, I am in no way “hip and up-and-coming.” We’ve established this, am I wrong? Combine that with being exhausted from NaNoWriMo, December weather, and the fact that the beginning of the month has involved a lot of travel, and it makes no sense that I feel the need to go out on this Saturday night. In fact, I’ve planned to spend the day home, doing nothing except for breathe and maybe blink a few times. I’ve even skipped Shabbat services, or, as I confess to my mother later that day, I’ve “cut shul.”

Point is I’m tired (more than I usually am), and it’s cold.

But it’s also the second night of Hanukkah, and I’m in a mood (more than I usually am). One can’t live a life of work and sleep, right? And it’s the first night of the Sephardic Music Festival, and Galeet Dardashti is playing, and she has a new album coming out, and it just seems wrong for me to be home during such an event.

Besides, it’s only three subway stops away. No big deal, right?


Fast forward to later that evening, when I’m lost and freezing on a dark, disgusting, deserted block of Chinatown and unable to find a cab. Fast forward to me sitting on a tall chair at the 92nd Street Y in TriBeCa, sipping a coke, and, despite the effort I’ve made to doll myself up, realizing that one Saturday night out on the town does not a hip and up-and-coming person make. Fast forward to me leaving before the third act, seeing as I have Creature to get home to and a bed that’s feeling neglected, and then to me dealing with the Little Engine That Couldn’t (technically known as the Q). And finally, you get to me standing at the bottom of my stoop, feeling relieved to be home.

It’s midnight, the hour at which the non hip among us should vanish into thin air and/or turn into pumpkins. I get to the front door of my building, and put the key in the lock. I turn the doorknob.

Nothing happens.

I try again.

Now, we all know that I don’t have the best track record with keys and locks, and we know about “Classic Melissa Stories.” So, it’s only natural that I jump to the conclusion that I am a klutz. All the Brownstones around here look the same. It’s dark. Maybe I’m at the wrong house. I refuse to believe that I am experiencing deja vu.

We also know that when all else fails, I call my mother.

I’m still blaming myself, and feeling pathetic. My mother reminds me that this same lock was broken the week I moved in, and that it was fixed, but not replaced. She also tells me to go over to a family friend’s house and sleep on her couch. I refuse, and start a pointless monologue about not having any contact lens solution with me. Besides, Creature is alone.

I try the key again, not wanting to call my landlord who lives on the first floor of the Brownstone because it’s after midnight and I know she has a serious flu. But there’s nothing else I can do, so I call. Her phone is off. I ring her bell. Her dogs bark, but she doesn’t answer. On top of everything else, I’m worried about her. I try buzzing a neighbor and prepare to apologize profusely, but the buzzer system doesn’t work. This is, after all, a New York City apartment building. Oh, and the light on the stoop isn’t working. My landlord is very much on top of things, but it is an old building.

Next, I call my super. No dice.

The streets are almost deserted, except for a few dog-walkers who are looking at me like I’m a criminal, a psycho, a drunk or all of the above. I’m tempted to flag one down and ask them to try my key and prove that I’m an idiotic klutz. But now that it’s getting later, and colder, there’s nobody around.

And that’s when I snap out of my denial and realize what’s happening. It’s the middle of the night, and I’m completely alone on a December night in New York City. My dog is upstairs. I know he’s safe, but I don’t like this one bit.

I should call a locksmith, I think. But I’ve been there and done that. It’s expensive, and they’ll probably show up, open my door as if nothing were wrong, and charge me over a $100.

fireThen I have an idea. I live less than a block away from a fire station. It’s not just any fire station. It was one of the first to show up at the World Trade Center on September 11th. Knowing this, I feel horrible for even thinking that I could go bother them with something so minor. Instead, I walk around aimlessly looking for a restaurant or store that’s still open. But I find nothing.

I make a list of all the reasons it’s okay to bother the firefighters:

1. I’m a woman alone wandering aimlessly in the middle of the night with no place to go, in New York City.

2. I’m freezing.

3. If I had a cat, and said cat was stuck in a tree, aren’t these the people I’d call?  (Are they? I don’t know.)

4. If I can’t get in because the lock is actually broken, the people inside may not be able to get out. I, unfortunately, know from being locked in. If there were a fire. . . I can’t bring myself to finish the thought.

It’s the fourth reason that seals the deal. I go to the fire station. It’s all closed up. I walk away, then walk back. I find a door, and a bell. I ring the bell. Nobody answers, I start running away in shame. Then somebody answers.

I go back. Two firefighters are standing in the doorway, in FDNY t-shirts and boxers. I feel like the protagonist in a Kristan Higgins novel. A million scenarios for my next novel spin around in my head.

I explain the problem, emphasizing the “my neighbors probably can’t get out.” They close the door, get dressed, and come meet me on the street. They follow me up the block, with axes over their shoulders. All my romance writer scenarios crash and burn as I realize the firemen are not happy about this midnight chore.

I give them my key, absolutely convinced that they’ll open the door on the first try, I’ll blush from embarrassment, and run upstairs to my dog. That’d be Classic Mel, right? Oh yeah, and I plan to leave them a bottle of wine the next day.


The door still doesn’t open. They go to my landlord’s apartment and lean on the bell. Again, the dogs bark but we don’t hear anybody get up. They offer to break the door down with their axes, but make it clear that these Brownstone doors are historic and my landlord most likely wouldn’t appreciate it.

They also make a comment about the lack of light and the broken buzzer system.

“It’s your choice,” they say.

I can’t let them do it. They leave me standing on the stoop.

I know these are important, busy firemen with better things to do. And dissing the FDNY seems sacrilegious. But they just leave me there, freezing on my stoop. They don’t even offer to help me call a locksmith or a police officer. I decide they’re so not getting wine.

Then, like a mirage, I see some hip and up-and-coming girls enter the garden apartment. I haven’t met them, so they don’t recognize me. I explain the problem and they say they can’t help. I understand that they don’t want to let me use their entrance, but I mentally make a list of other ways they could’ve helped.

Left with no other choice, I open the Google app on my phone and look for a local locksmith. I’m good at this, you may remember. After a few tries to places that are closed, I reach some guy named Roger, who seems annoyed with me and wants to know who’s going to pay. He says he’ll send a guy out in half an hour and that I have to go to an ATM and get $160 in cash.

Which is what I do. The fact that I’m all alone in an ATM vestibule after 1 a.m. with a light shining on me so the whole world can see that I’m withdrawing money is not lost on me. I go back to my stoop with a wallet full of cash, and wait. At least I know I’m not imagining this. I try my landlord and super again just in case I can prevent the locksmith from having to ruin the lock. The super finally calls back, and gives his blessing for the lock destruction.

My phone rings again. It’s my new friend and savior Roger. He informs me that Noah is on his way.

Noah? Huh. Possible “Nice Jewish Guy?” I wonder. You never know. I wait for Noah, plotting another novel wherein the hero is a locksmith and the heroine is. . . I don’t know. Freezing? Tired? Edgy?

Noah finally arrives. He’s a sweetheart with the sexiest Brooklyn accent ever, and my age, but unfortunately not my type. Although I do realize that with my luck, marrying a locksmith might not be such a bad idea. Apparently, he was sitting in front of the T.V. with a beer and about to go to bed when Roger informed him that there was a girl stranded on her stoop and he was afraid I’d freeze.

G-d bless Roger. And G-d bless Noah for not getting a D.U.I.

There’s no light, but he has a flashlight he can attach to his head. He tries to pick the lock, and he explains that this happens all the time. That doesn’t make me feel any better. Neither does his comment that this is the worst he’s seen, or his confirmation that the door can’t open from the other side. Then he needs to break out the drill.

Sorry neighbors, I think. Creature’s about to howl his brains out.

Then the door opens. Noah lets me through so I can run up the stairs and get the dog. I open the door to my apartment, thrilled and a bit surprised that it opens without incident, and get Creature.

Noah takes one look at the cocker spaniel in front of him and is clearly shocked that such a small, adorable thing could make such a racket. But the two men hit it off so well I’m tempted to send Creature home with him so they can drink beer and watch TV together.

A few minutes after that, I climb into bed. Not that I could fall asleep, but at least I’m warm.

The lessons from all this?

When in doubt, just call the locksmith. If they destroy the lock, who cares. If you’re living in an old New York building, the lock is probably a hundred years past its prime. Time to let it go.

More importantly — there’s something to be said for staying home. I still love Galeet Dardashti, but I love her most when I’m watching her on YouTube (thank you, from the comfort of my bedroom.


My first locksmith story was so much fun to write. It’s my favorite post to date. Even though I was trapped inside, it didn’t feel quite as dangerous. It was funny. I hope to tell the story at a Moth story slam someday. Based on that, I was looking forward to writing the sequel. The thing is, I’m having trouble finding the humor in this story. My mother was upset for days. Even though we love my landlord, and she fixes things right away, she wants me to own a place so I can have control over things like locks and lights. When I told this story to another teacher at work who has a daughter my age, she said that if it had been her daughter, she would have been beside herself.

There’s a new lock on the front door now, and the landlord has paid me back for the locksmith and promised to get an electrician to fix the lights. I’m grateful that I’m fine, and my neighbors are fine, and that it wasn’t snowing or even colder than it was.

Meanwhile, I’m off to JDate. It’s enough already. It’s time to start looking for an eligible Jewish locksmith.

Posted in Classic Mel, Mel the Brooklynite, Mel's Favorite Posts, New York Living, So NOT hip and up-and-coming. . ., The Lucky Mr. Mel

12 Responses

  1. Melissa Blue

    The story’s there and one day you’ll be able to laugh at how one thing can truly lead to another. Or you can call this “The Naked Fireman Story”. The Moth will have to let you on the stage.

  2. admin

    LOL! I wonder what the theme of the night would be. Hmm. Just to put it out there, do you have any idea how much wine it would take to get me onto a Moth stage?

  3. Cynthia

    See, if I’d rung the bell and firemen had answered in boxers my brain would have frozen . . . right then and there and all sorts of very inappropriate thoughts would have replaced my need for a locksmith and well, I probably wouldn’t be allowed to walk down the block ever again.

    I agree with MelB, some day you’ll laugh and use this in a story and you’ll have a whole crew to back you up when no one else believes this could really happen, twice.

  4. admin

    On second thought, maybe I should bring them wine. Wouldn’t hurt to have an excuse to take another look, right?

  5. _Mac_

    I see an urban fantasy. “Melina and the Hundred Year Lock”. Knowing your OK, can we look back on this incident NOW, rather than some day yet to come, and at least have a giggle? (hehe)Only you Meliina, only you. ;-)

  6. Pamela Cayne

    I not only adore this story as much as the original, I love the way you tell them. Melina, my friend, I cannot WAIT to hold your books in my hands so I can read delightful stories like this all the time.

    And yeah, this HAS to be in one of your books. I insist. :-)

  7. admin

    Laugh away Mac, laugh away! :-) I challenge you to write the urban fantasy next NaNoWriMo. And yeah, sadly, I’m often the target of “only you” comments. Which, incidentally, I always agree with.

    Pam, you’re too kind. . . :-) You know I’m waiting for your books too, right? Especially after that incredible cinematic debut!

    I love Wiffers! Thanks for stopping by, my wonderful friends.

  8. Karen

    I have to admit, I was getting a bit concerned for you as I read this.
    But since you’re okay, I do have to laugh.
    Perhaps you’d better train as a locksmith yourself. We’d do well to have one among us with such skills.
    I am so going to tell Kristan about this…

  9. kristan higgins

    Hey. You got to see FDNY in boxers. I’m not sure why that wasn’t enough. So you were left to freeze! A small price to pay! I was rooting for Noah to be The One; maybe the cute/meet will continue the next time you lock yourself out. I’m picturing pouring rain and a stove burner left on…

  10. admin

    Karen, Mac has informed me that there are lock picking videos on YouTube. Hmm. Yeah, glad you’re laughing! :-)

    Kristan! What an honor that you stopped by. Thanks for reading and for your wonderful and funny comment. I will definitely look into that burner thing. Oh, and I still have Noah’s number, so you never know!

  11. Melissa Blue

    Oh, maybe a boatload of wine, but I know and you know some of those stories on The Moth SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN ALLOWED.

    As for those lockpicking videos on Youtube. Well it’s not as easy as it looks. First you have to get past the fear someone will mistake you for a burglar.And then you need loads of practice. That’s not mentioning you’d have to walk around with those tools. See at that point my mind just starts running scenarios in which my purse falls on the floor and I have to explain why I have lock pick tools on hand. I know my luck. It’s uglier than if Bigfoot and Godzilla had a baby.

    So…yeah…You could totally go on The Moth. I think that was my point when I started.

  12. admin

    Melissa, you’re the best! Definitely see your point about carrying all that stuff around. . .

    As for The Moth. . . who knows. Maybe someday. ;-)

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