Always Bring Your Own Tools
by Sara Jane Pohlman
Nothing about this day had followed the timeline I had in mind. I was late getting to work. I missed lunch with my sister. And I didn’t send my final pages to the printer until nearly 7 p.m.
But whatever. It was done. I could finally go to the gym, put in my headphones, and ignore everyone while lifting heavy things and riding a bike for two stationary miles. Perfection.
In the locker room, I changed out of my work clothes and into stretchy pants and a blue racerback tank. I stowed my belongings in locker No. 5, and latched it up with a purple combination lock.
Out among the free weights and elliptical machines, 45 minutes passed in a sweaty blur. It was time to get my stuff and head home to a delightfully hot shower. Too bad that purple combination lock had other ideas.
I twisted the dial this way and that. Was it 20, 15, 35? Or maybe 30, 20 15? Embarrassment was setting in. Two other women were changing into street clothes. They politely ignored my grumbling at the lock, but I could feel their stares burning into me.
I tugged on the lock. Nothing. Shook the locker door. Nothing, and I pinched my fingers. I needed reinforcements.
I strode out to the gym’s front counter, trying to appear competent and confident in my gross post-workout state.
A petite woman with long brown hair was chatting with a short, barrel chested blond guy across the counter. They both turned to me with a questioning look.
“Hey, um. Do you guys have a bolt cutter? Cause I can’t remember my locker combination, and my keys are in there, and my phone and stuff,” I mumbled, confidence gone (or maybe it never arrived.)
The woman thought there might be a bolt cutter in the back room, but asked me if I could do it myself. Um, probably not? But I said yes, because she looked too small to even reach the top row of lockers.
“Well hey, I could do it!” said her burly blond friend. No, you can’t. One, because you’re also short. Two, it’s in the women’s locker room. Three, I don’t know you, and I hate asking strangers for help. But okay. Thanks for the offer.
I followed the front desk woman back to my locker. She handed me a long set of worn bolt cutters. The blade was dulled, and didn’t look like it would cut paper.
I set the blades on either side of the trouble making purple lock and pushed the handles closed. My post-workout arms were shaking. The blade clamped down and nothing happened. Just a few dents in the metal. I tried again, at a different angle. Nothing.
“Um, this isn’t working. Do you have another set of cutters?”
“Maybe in the back. But he wanted to try, so.”
We waited until the other women had left the locker room, and let burly blond in to have a try. I stood holding the door open to let any other women know there was a man in their locker room. I heard the woman rummaging in the storage room across the hall, and the man wrestling with the bolt cutters.
Then, a crunch. “I got it!” Wonderful. “ . . . Kind of.” What?
I let the door slam shut and ran to locker No. 5. It was open, sure, but the lock was still attached. Burly blond managed to tear the latch out of the wall. I gingerly pulled my bag out of the wreckage and checked inside. Yep. There’s my combination. Right in the front pocket. Great.
Sara Jane Pohlman is a lifestyle editor for the Lodi News-Sentinel in California. She spends her time locked in phone interviews, grumbling audibly while designing pages, and wishing she were home with her cat. This is her actual dream job.