Clearly, I have cursed myself.

I’ve cursed myself by writing this, for which some people have called me insane. I think I agree.

Not even a day passes from when I wrote my ode to commuting to work, and my to/from work experience sinks swamp-low.

First I sprayed myself in the face with a hose this morning. That has no relevance to the commute, but it kind of sets the mood. (It was an accident. I was watering the plants, and I dropped the hose. It sprayed me in the face. I had just dried my hair, and I had to go and re-dry it. And my shirt.)

Anyway, the commute: I had a morning train incident, in which I was forced to get off my train (the doors wouldn’t open, and it was pronounced disabled) and onto a more crowded one. On the packed train, I was squeezed in by a teenage boy who was freaking out, and then this drunk man who can barely stand up pushes in next to us, forcing me to edge closer to the poor teenage boy. No matter how loud my iPod volume was, the smell of alcohol did not go away. Because I was late, from the train, and I had an interview at 9am, I didn’t stop for coffee. So I was under-caffeinated for my interview.

And the interviewee blew me off.

The rest of the day, not so bad. Normal, in fact. Except for one very minor action on my part.

I head home at an early hour to let the dog out. I got a seat on the train. All was well. An older Chinese woman sat in front of me, with her lunch bag on her lap and her purse in her arm, and pulled out a Harlequin romance novel entitled “The Boss and His Secretary.” The cover showed a man in a suit, kissing a blonde in a suit. I noted
that the woman reading the book was not wearing a suit, but I suspected that she might be a secretary.

I strolled up the hill to my house, listening to music, warm in the sun, enjoying the scenery. At my house I got the mail, flipped through to see if I had gotten any responses to submissions (none) and started to walk up the stairs.

And then I remembered. At work, I had taken my keys out of my bag. And left them there. Why? Why did I do this, you ask. It’s an excellent question, seeing as I never take my keys out of my bag at work. Except today, for some reason at the end of the day, I wondered what I had stored on the memory stick I have attached to my keychain. I plugged it into my computers USB port. And then I left the office. My keys! Stuck in my computer.

At this point in the story, I’d like to point out that I carried a memory stick on my keychain in grad school because I was worried that I would leave my house and something catastrophic would happen, like a fire, or an earthquake, and my thesis would be lost forever. Ahem. I’d just like to point out that I made a provision for my thesis should
there be a massive fire destroying my home, or a once-a-century magnitude 8 earthquake sliding my house off its foundation and down the street. I did not, however, make any provisions for locking myself out of the house.


So, it’s 5:45. Billy, I know, is at the gym, and it might be another hour before he returns. If I go all the way to work and back again, he might even get home before me. So I sit down on the step and wait. My dog stares at me from the window. I try leaning all of my 110 pounds into the door. Really hard. Surprisingly, the door does not fly open due to my massive size and unparalleled strength. Um, duh, Elizabeth.

I survey my belongings. What do I have that could open the door? A book, a New Yorker, my iPod, my wallet, some sunglasses…some kimchee my co-worker made. I think, as I pull out the book and start to read, well, at least I won’t get scurvy.

I call Billy (voicemail) and note that my cell phone is almost out of batteries.

About three minutes later I realize that I have to pee.

I call Billy again (voicemail).

I decide to do something about my situation. I find a branch at the bottom of the steps, and I think that if I could just get the branch through the glass in the door, I could use it to turn the deadbolt latch. Our door has a stained glass window in it, and the window is broken. There’s packing tape holding the thing together, so I peel the tape back and insert the branch into the hole in the door. My dog is watching me from the other side. “Howie,” I say, “open the door.” He yawns.

I’m madly scraping the branch against the inside of the door, my arm getting scratched up from the broken glass in the door,  when it occurs to me that we don’t have a deadbolt. The only way to open our door from the inside is by turning the knob. I wish for an artificial hand on a stick. Obviously, this sort of thing was not laying around.

My neighbor pulls into his driveway, and I ask him if he happens to have a key to our place, from the old owners. He does not. But he invites me in to watch TV and use his bathroom. I say, “I’m sure Billy will be home in a minute, but thanks anyway,” and resume my perch on the steps. The sun is lower and it’s starting to get cold.

There’s a bay window in our living room that’s next to the stairs, so I lean over the railing and manage to open it. Howie comes over and wags his tail. I want to pull myself into the living room from the railing, but I make the mistake of looking down, and I see that if I fall, if I can’t pull myself into the window, I’d probably break something.  I tentatively put a foot on the railing, and decide that I’m not stupid enough to try to climb into the window from a wrought-iron railing in slippery-soled flats. Howie squeaks his ball at me.

I call Billy again, because my bladder is about to burst, and I’m hungry (though not hungry enough to start working on the kimchee) and I’m freezing. And minus the freezing part, the dog probably feels about the same. It’s almost 7.

Billy answers. “Where are you?” I say, and he says he’s walking up the hill. Oh, yay, finally.
“What’s up?” he says. Clearly, he has not heard my voicemails.
“I’m locked out,” I say.
“With the dog?”
“No, I mean, I never got in the house in the first place.”

It turns out that Billy would have been home an hour before, but he’s been stuck on a train in a tunnel. Clearly, this is due to my bad train karma. The Commute Curse!

He says, “I’ll be there in a minute.” We hang up.

He calls back. He says: “I have some bad news. I left my keys at work, too.”

In the end, Billy crawls through the open window 14 feet above the ground. Howie licks his face. I pour myself a glass of wine, and we eat leftover mac and cheese. Nothing says tired and sad diner like mac and cheese, and nothing says exhausted, cranky, sad and tired like leftover mac and cheese.

I would just like to say for the record — hello, karmic equalizers of the universe? — that I hate commuting. There.


3 thoughts on “Clearly, I have cursed myself.

  1. Okay–I am SO sorry, but I couldn’t help but giggle as I read this, mostly because of the humor in the writing! The way you write Howie’s reactions and behavior is just so hilarious, just like how Calvin Trillin has written about his wife Alice in affectionate ways.

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