Just because you MOSTLY only write about Christmas music doesn’t mean you are ONLY allowed to write about Christmas music. I was going to tweet this, but it’s a complex and many-layered story which won’t work in 140 character-bursts, so here we are.
It did start out on Twitter, though, when last night I tweeted this from a train that had just left Brighton:
I mean, everyone knows that tempting fate is a terrible idea, and tempting fate when you’re super-tired and relying on Southern Rail to get you home is an even worse idea. But here’s the thing: all my connections worked! I got to East Croydon in time for the 23.32 to London Bridge and I got to London Bridge in time for the 23.56 to Victoria via Crystal Palace, and I caught a bus from New Cross Gate and I was home not much after midnight. And as the lift stopped on my floor I thought, I am SO HAPPY that I’ll be in bed in five minutes, and then I fumbled my keys and dropped them down the lift shaft.
Have you ever done a proper, filmic gasp? I don’t think I had until that moment. There followed ten minutes of going up and down in the lift, trying to see whether the keys had got caught on something or were hiding on a ledge somewhere. No luck, so I went outside to the concierge and asked if he had a torch I could borrow to shine into the spaces and see whether I could spot them. He didn’t, but he pointed out that I probably had one on my phone. And he was right! I went back and had another look, and managed to see that the space underneath the lift is deeper than I expected, six feet or so, but there, just within the corner of my vision, I could see the glint of what could only be my keys.
So I went back to the concierge and asked whether he had some string and a magnet. Astonishingly he didn’t (you can’t get the staff) but he did have a long pole and some sellotape, so I fashioned a sort of makeshift fishing rod and went back to the lift (my block is across the courtyard from where the concierge lives, so all of this involved a certain amount of back-and-forth in the rain).
Shining my torch into the void whilst being careful not to send my phone the way of the keys, I slid my sticky-ended pole downwards towards the glinting object. The pole caught on something at the bottom – I couldn’t really see at this point – and I ever-so-gently lifted it out, only to discover that the a glittering treasure on the floor of the shaft was actually a piece of plastic wrapper.
I mean, what do you even do in a situation like this? Like, what do you even do? I shone the torch around a bit more but nothing was visible, so I slowly packed up my makeshift fishing rod and headed back out to the concierge, thinking that I’d have to check into the hotel opposite my block and try again in the morning, when I’d be able to retrieve my spare set of keys, which live too far away for a late-night raid and anyway, I didn’t want to call anyone up at that time of night. Fine. Except that I have deliveries coming today, and one of them has a starting window of 7am. Fine, I’ll leave a note asking them to call me when they get there and I can run down and let them i – no, hang on.
Just as I was on the point of giving up I remembered about emergency locksmiths. I Googled. The first result said “£59, we’ll be with you in twenty minutes”. That sounds OK, I thought. I mean, I don’t really have any spare cash this week but I can stick it on the credit card and it’s cheaper than the £89 it’ll cost to stay in the Premier Inn.
I called them up. “£59,” said the man. “He’ll be with you in half an hour.” I waited. After ten minutes I got a phonecall from a different man. “I’ll be with you in half an hour.” I waited a bit more. Eventually a very polite and smiley locksmith showed up, introduced himself and shook my hand. We went inside. “Ah, two locks,” he said. “You know it’s £69 for each one?”
I made a vague, tired attempt at arguing for the extra tenner (the per-lock price, while a nasty surprise, seemed fair enough) and we agreed to disagree for the time being. “I’ll have to drill,” he said. He drilled. It was LOUD. I think my neighbours were all out, because there’s no way the sound wouldn’t have woken them. Either that or they thought there was a monster outside and were wisely ignoring it.
I have no idea how long it all took; I wasn’t paying attention, which is why it came as even more of a surprise when he asked me whether I wanted the cheap lock or the expensive one.
“Ah, the price we quote is just for busting your lock open; if you want it replaced that’s more. Do you want it replaced?”
Now, my block is pretty safe, which is one of the reasons I live there. But even so I’m not keen to leave my front door open for anyone who takes the fancy to wander in and out while I’m sleeping. So YES PLEASE I’D LIKE IT REPLACED.
“OK, what kind of locks do you want?”
I don’t know! I’m not supposed to know about locks, you’re supposed to know about locks!
He tapped away into a calculator. “OK, total is £252.”
At this point I was resigned to spending more than I could afford just so I could go to bed, but even then this seemed a bit steep. I protested.
“£200 if you pay cash.”
“I don’t have £200 cash!”
“You can go to a cashpoint.”
No thank you, it’s 2am and raining. And I’m really tired, and as I continued to protest I realised he didn’t want to be here any more than I did, and he probably wouldn’t be seeing much of this money anyway, and I should probably stop being so graceless and just agree to pay. So I did, and we shook hands again, and he went home and I went to bed, and at 9am the next morning the daytime concierge called me and said “I’ve been down into the lift shaft and got your keys, do you want to come and get them?” and I couldn’t decide whether to be sad or glad, but on balance I think the night concierge is probably also not paid enough to be held responsible for solving my late-night problems, and after all I paid with the credit card so it’s not real money, and at least now I don’t have to ring the bank and ask for a replacement dongle-thingy, which was attached to the keys.
And what last night felt like an actually insurmountable problem (“what do you even do?”) went away with the application of (1) a small amount of clear thinking, (2) a credit card and (3) the passage of time, which I think is a lesson to remember, because although of course I am lucky to have had a credit card and been able to pay that much at short notice, it really wasn’t an insurmountable problem and now that it’s gone away my mood is lighter than it would have been if none of it had happened, because happiness is only ever relative.
That said, next time I think I’m an hour and three quarters from my bed I will remember the time I said that and turned out to be four hours and £252 from my bed, and I will keep my thoughts to myself.