1.13 Lost Keys

TORONTO, ONTARIO: The other day I woke up early to go to work, pulled the front door shut and immediately realized my keys were behind the locked door. Like a scene in a movie, I shouted, “nooooooooooooooo.” This was the second time in as many months that I had forgotten my keys. This never happened before, I always checked my pocket to make sure my keys were in the right place. After a string of indifferent landlords, I finally had one that was responsive to my requests. After work I embarrassingly called her to ask for the spare set of keys, which she obliged and quickly, I must add. I wondered if this was a sign of old age. I checked my pockets numerous times during work, unable to believe that I had forgotten my keys. I thought of ways that I could break into my apartment. When the door closed, I jimmied it for about ten minutes, thinking it was not really locked. I tried to pick the lock with a credit card. I live on the third floor of the house and thought about climbing up the back. I could do it, there were renovations going on next door and they had ladders. But if I actually made it up there, my back door was locked as well. I could use the ladder to climb up the front of the house and go in through the window but I live on a main street and someone would notice and call the police. I didn’t need the additional embarrassment of getting caught breaking into my own apartment.

I made plans in the event of having to use a washroom. Either I would use the men’s room in a coffee shop or just go in a deserted alleyway – very primitive. The other problem was food but this was easy: Fast food. I could join the old men listening to awful music in a McDonalds. They sit there all day and if losing my keys was the sign of aging, I surely would be joining those old men soon. I should start finding out what the fascination was with sitting in a McDonalds – it’s certainly not because of the coffee. I like to walk and could spend the time waiting for my keys exploring the city. But what if it rains? Back to the coffee shop. I had a book and writing utensils to pass the time. I had all the angles covered.

This speaks to a larger question: In the event that modern conveniences are removed, how does one survive and what is your role in this society? I like to pride myself on self-sufficiency and independence. But I am lost if I lose my keys. My cell phone holds all my contacts. I can’t really cook without detailed instructions, and even then… My independence is an illusion perpetuated through the reliance of urban life. I am not trying to delegate blame, it’s just the way things go.

If the world changed and we had to hunt and gather our own food and build our own shelters, where would you fit in? I want to reserve the storyteller position – be a source of entertainment for those doing the real work. But isn’t this important as well? Someone must remember how things were and pass the stories on to the next generation. I just wouldn’t be of any other use.

I went camping once in my life. It was with ten other seasoned campers and they had all the gear. They knew how to make a fire. They knew to put all the food into a canoe, tie it up and wade it out into the lake in order to keep bears away. They knew campfire songs. Basically, I did nothing different then at home except sleep in a tent and go to the washroom in a box out in the woods. I am learning to eat fish – mostly sushi – but don’t ask me to put a line in the water and actually catch them. First, worms. Second, taking the hook out of the fish’s mouth while it squirms in your hand. Yes, I eat fish and meat but the distance between the live animal and it sitting on my plate is too large of a chasm.

I have fancied myself a builder. Sure, I have trouble putting together a bookshelf from IKEA but in my dreams I build houses from the foundation up. The problem is reality. I always wanted to try and make an igloo but where do you start? Shelter would be a problem. I needed detail instructions on how to pitch a tent and didn’t understand why a tarp was needed on top of the tent – until it rained. See, I wouldn’t have even thought of that.

Last year in the middle of January, there was a massive power outage in my neighbourhood that went on for days. I had no flashlight, no candles, no radio. I went to bed with several blankets, a hat and my gloves. I turned all the heaters up to high, figured the power would come on in the night and I would wake to a toasty warm apartment. I had never been so cold in my life the next morning. With no heat in the winter, I had no options and went over to a friend’s house on the other side of the city that still had power. I was useless. In the summer there would really be no issue but in the winter, your brain regresses and just needs warmth.

And so, I didn’t have to break into my apartment. My landlord arrived with my keys and I went in through the front door. For the moment, I don’t have to rely on my own skills to build shelter and capture food. I’m a storyteller and I’ll stick to that.