It was just your average Friday.
My alarm had gone off and I had snoozed it (twice) before getting up; the air conditioning had kicked on because it was already 85 degrees outside; my lunch box was packed, my hair was up, and I had a light jacket tucked in my purse because the office tends to get cold.
After work, I was volunteering with Food Forward, so I had a pile of things to carry. Among them was a tote bag packed with a change of clothes and shoes, my toolbox (armed with gloves, garden pruners, etc.), and a stack of cardboard boxes (to collect fruit).
I threw my purse over one shoulder, threw the tote bag over the other, and then set my toolbox on top of the flat stack of cardboard boxes and picked them up like I was presenting the toolbox on a serving tray, and I made my way out the door.
My sister and I live in a four-story building and the parking garage is on the ground floor, so when I boarded the elevator, I rested the boxes on the handrail that runs across the back wall, to give my hands a break, then I reached into my purse and grabbed my keys.
As the doors opened, I set my keys next to my toolbox, then placed my hands back under the cardboard boxes and turned around to exit. Somewhere in the shuffle, my keys began to slide, and I groaned, annoyed I might have to bend down and pick them up.
Don’t fall, I thought.
But they fell.
And when I heard them fall, they sounded…far away?
“No way,” I said out loud.
I turned around, sure it was just a strange echo, fully expecting to see my keys sitting on the elevator floor, or maybe on the tile of the small lobby room. But then, when I set my boxes down, got onto my knees and shone my flashlight down into the elevator shaft, there they were.
About four feet down.
I stood in the lobby, speechless, confused, waiting for my keys to somehow…come back.
CTRL + Z, I thought.
I picked up my boxes, reboarded the elevator, took it up to my floor, and walked back into our apartment. I sat at the kitchen table, took my breakfast bar out of my purse, and ate.
I then called my building manager, only to learn he wouldn’t be in the office for another hour.
So, I got back on the elevator, took it to the ground floor, and shone my flashlight down into the darkness again, curious if I was hallucinating, or if this was somehow all a dream. But no, there they were, real, and at the bottom of the elevator shaft. My entire key ring. Making it impossible for me to drive to work and/or leave the building altogether until my sister got home.
At 9:00 a.m. exactly, I called my building manager back. Lucky for me, he had about as much enthusiasm to help me as a cat would to cannonball into a bathtub, but he begrudgingly agreed to call the elevator company to “see if anyone could even do anything.”
Shout out to Bob for doing the absolute bare minimum.
For the next five hours, as the workday commenced, the neighbors went about their day, and the sun began to beat into our apartment, I sat on the couch, waiting for Bob to call.
About every hour, I would call to check in, seeing as Bob was treating the situation as if I was asking him to dig up the Titanic with a spoon rather than contact a technician on his payroll.
I thought very briefly about going on a solo rescue mission for my keys, but every strategy I imagined ended in me either losing a limb, breaking the elevator, dropping my phone/flashlight down next to my keys, or somehow setting off the fire alarm and meeting all of our new neighbors in the most embarrassing and dramatic fashion.
So, I stayed patient.
And I flipped Bob off in the safe confines of my empty house countless times.
Then, at around 12:00 p.m., Bob called with two options:
- The elevator company could come by *free of charge* next week to retrieve my keys.
- The elevator company could come by today for $400.
Bob also made sure to mention that he WOULD NOT be covering any of the cost.
So I could either go without all of my keys (car keys, house key, building key, mail key, etc.) for an entire week, or use money that I could spend on roundtrip flights to New York, to have a man stall the elevator, reach down with what I can only assume are fancy tongs to grab my keys, and then swipe my credit card.
Bob was unfazed with either option. And even when the gravity of the cost shook me up and I found myself on the verge of tears, Bob said, “yeah, rough,” and then assumedly started a new game of Solitaire on his computer.
In the end, I opted not pay the elevator company $400. I had one extra car key, and a burning desire to spite Bob, so I would make it work.
But then, at 4:30 p.m., as my best friend and I sat in Friday traffic on the 101, trying to make our way to our volunteer shift, I got a text from my sister. It was a picture of her boyfriend holding a fishing pole with my keys hooked on the end of the line.
And unto us a hero was born.
I called Bob Saturday morning, knowing his office was closed, and left a voicemail on his machine. It was polite and professional, but I like to think he could tell that the entire thing was laced in sarcasm and a deep seeded hope that he steps in a puddle in socks.
I also made a special trip to that weird, “car accessory” section of CVS and bought of one these.
Sometimes you learn lessons the hard way.