I’m Still Here
Have I got a story to tell you? I spent a stressful 24 hours packing all of my worldly possessions into a large suitcase and a couple of boxes. So, I don’t really have a lot of stuff. It was still a pain in the ass trying to decide where everything needed to be and what I’d forgotten and what I needed. Moving is always a headache, this time it was a migraine. Not only did I have to think about what I was going to wash my face with but I also had to worry about washing my face in cold water. This is the first time I’ve had to worry about cleaning toilets and paying utility bills — another step towards turning into my parents.
So my family helped me pile my stuff into the boot of the car. We had to fold down one of the seats to fit it all in but we managed it in the end. On the way there we came to a realisation. When I got there I would be spending a week by myself with no internet and no TV. I really needed to buy a TV — and it had to be that day because I don’t have a car to take a TV home in. My mother casually asked what I would be doing for food and I said I’d walk to the shops after I moved in, forgetting it was a Sunday and the shops would be closed by the time we arrived in Leeds. And then my mother asked if my new bed was a double bed. It is. We were bringing all my single bed sheets.
Turn the stress level from 5 to 7. We stopped off at a shopping centre, with an hour until closing time and split up to buy new bedsheets, a new TV and two weeks of grocery shopping. Ooh, and cleaning supplies. We got back to the car, carefully piled all the things onto our laps and drove off. My Dad had my shiny new 19″ screen on his knee and he kept turning the radio on and off with the side of the box and ejecting my brother’s CD while he was trying to drive. Me? I had cereal, eggs and frozen chicken piled up past my eyes. I couldn’t see a thing. The stress level was up to 10 now, as far as it could go. I was past panic and floating around in this serene dreamscape in which I continually imagined myself as having already moved in — unpacking, doing a little cooking, making some awesome sandwiches and calling my future internet service provider.
We finally arrived at my new place. The paint was peeling on the wall outside and some prick had littered my front patio with egg shells and a broken, rotting chair but peering through the glass of the front door it looked nice inside — my future flatmate had already been in to clean the place up and work her magic. I pulled out my front door keys — the first one slotted nicely into the lock and turned easily. So far so good. The second key slotted nicely into the lock… and wouldn’t budge.
Now we turn the stress level up to 11.
I tried turning the key both ways — it wouldn’t move. I twisted that thing with all my might and it wouldn’t move. My father stepped up to give it a try, no joy. My mother gave it a shot. Nothing. This was starting to turn into the opening act of an Arthurian legend, like maybe if someone could get this door to unlock they would be crowned King of England. My brother asked everyone to stand back and he solemnly approached the door and its stubborn key. He rolled up his sleeves and spat on his hands a little. A hush decended upon the street. In the distance, a dog stopped barking. High above, the grey clouds rolled. I knew my brother had a knack for magically fixing things. I held my breath.
He tried to turn the key left, right, he pulled the door towards him, away from him, upwards, downwards. Beads of sweat stood up on his brow. Nothing. Nothing worked. I called my flatmate. After all, she’d managed to successfully get in. She said that both of her keys were a little stiff in the lock but that she always got in eventually and that we should try pulling the door towards us or pushing it away. She couldn’t remember which. We tried both. Neither worked.
I tried calling the company I’m renting my flat from. No reply. Of course there was no reply — it was a Sunday! Why would they be open on a Sunday? A better question would be why was I trying to move in on a Sunday. I kicked the door, I beat my fists against it impotently. I called my friend back — she was surprised we weren’t in yet. It never took her this long. We gave up. We climbed back into the car, piled frozen chicken and cereal back into our laps and drove back to my parents’ house — my father turning the radio on and off all the way home. That was the first day.
I called up the company the next morning. Their telephone system gives you a choice of three extensions to press for, each of which is a dead end and none of which matched my problem. Eventually I managed to wring human contact out of their dark telephonic labyrinth. The woman I spoke to didn’t seem to appreciate the kind of disaster that the day before had been. She said somebody (presumably someone more qualified to deal with my problem than her) would call me back if I left a number. A few hours later, no call. I called them back. This time I ended up talking to a very polite Scottish woman. She told me if I just popped down there (you know, just 26 miles in rush hour traffic) they would give me a new key, a key that opened the door. I looked at the clock — 4:00 p.m. I asked her when they closed. 5:30. Shit.
I got a lift from my brother. We made it there for five o’ clock, which was pretty ass conisdering all the traffic we had to sit through. I ran into their bullshit offices. It was chaos in there. Painters and handymen wandered around aimlessly amongst fellow students looking lost. A stray cat with one ear hissed at me as I passed it. I wandered into the wrong office, they said I needed maintenance. Maintenance led me to this customer reception area/open plan office/Victorian dining room. It contained no less than six tables, a dozen phones, some fake leather chairs and, for reasons that escaped me, two king-sized matresses. Just as it had been over the phone, no-one appreciated the gravity of the situation, they didn’t care they had turned my stress level up to 11. They probably couldn’t count that high. I explained I had been helpfully given a key that didn’t open my door. I thanked them for testing it out before handing it over, it really saved me a lot of hassle. A guy took my address, scrutinised my key and then wandered off to find the corresponding key in their bullshit key system. Five minutes later he wandered back in and told me he couldn’t find it. Later he came back dragging behind him the one guy there who knew what he was doing to confirm that it was file number four he was looking for. The guy said yes. He brought back the key and compared it to mine and decided they were identical. The guy who knew what he was doing brought up a picture of the key on his computer and asked him if that was the right key. My guy spent a further five minutes holding his key up to the screen and squinting. I just sat next to these big matresses and repeated the word ‘incompetent’ in my head over and over. My guy wandered off again and came back to say he couldn’t find any blank keys to make a copy of the master key. Eventually he just tinkered with my key and handed me the master key as well and told me to give them back later.
We drove through more heavy traffic to try out the new keys. I walked back up to my new front door — complete with broken chair and egg shell. I tried the new key in the lock. Nothing. I sighed — never mind. Must still be a bad copy. Master key time. The master key didn’t work. Same problems as before. This started to make me wonder. Do I have the right house? Is it really just a question of technique? If the master key doesn’t work maybe there’s something wrong with me. I called my flatmate again. We compared tiny details such as the peeling paint and black door — I defintely had the right place. She didn’t know about the broken chair and the shells, that annoyed her. It turns out she had already cleaned the place and garbage had been subsequently dumped there by the neighbourhood assholes, perhaps the same assholes who filled our recycling bin with crap so the bin men wouldn’t empty it. Sophie had to empty it by hand. Now I knew two things: my new neighbourhood is full of assholes and I have the right flat. I got Sophie to describe her magical technique for opening the door. As I repeated the steps aloud Matthew acted each one out to no avail. I checked my watch — it was 5:40. The offices were shut. We gave up and drove home through rush hour traffic. The second day.
I called the stupid bullshit company’s stupid bullshit number again. I ended up talking to this guy — maybe it was the guy who knew what he was doing from day two. I told him the whole story — I told him I was sitting in my parents’ living room surrounded by my stuff instead of my flat. He said I need to come down there. Again? Well, they needed to check that the key didn’t work.
I told him he didn’t need to check, he just needed to change the God-damn locks. After all, if my key didn’t work and the master key didn’t work there must be a problem with the locks, right? The guy had another theory, that maybe the keys were fine but I was too much of a dumbass to unlock and open a door. I can’t say this hadn’t crossed my mind but I’d rejected it out of hand because my family are not dumbasses. They have their shit together, they have a lot of experience of unlocking doors. The guy didn’t call me a dumbass over the phone, he was too professional for that. But he said things like he couldn’t take my word for it, that the keys should work just fine, that the key fucking turned anti-clockwise. I resented the implication. So the guy told me he would find the other master key, drive down to the flat and see if the lock was indeed broken.
He called me back a while later and told me his key had worked fine. I asked him to repeat himself. He had turned both keys in both locks, they had unlocked with ease, he had opened the door and set foot inside my flat — something I had never achieved. This was unbelievable. He had used a master key, I had used a master key. Mine didn’t work, his did. Was my aura dirty? Was I really unlucky? What did you need to do to get in this place? I hesitated. Did he have the right place? Black door, peeling paint, broken chair, egg shell. He had the right place. The mystery deepens. How or why this guy’s keys worked and my friend’s keys worked and no key I touched worked has thus far gone unexplained. I have three theories:
- Wrath of an unjust God
- Gypsie curse
- The Midas touch but backwards
So here’s how we left it. This joker has told me that if I pack all my shit up again, pile TVs and frozen chicken up to my eyes and drive back into Leeds he can guarrantee me entry to my flat. So I’m moving in tomorrow. At least I think I’m moving in tomorrow. I hope. I mean, what else can go wrong?