The plan was for me to meet at Tom’s house 5:30 in the morning and then drive north together in his car for three days of fishing. Manyu rode along with me, so she’d have our car while I was away. Our dog, Jack, came along, because he comes along whenever he is allowed to. We pulled up to Tom’s house, when three or four different things all happened at the same time. I started to open the driver’s side door when Manyu asked me whether I wanted to give her my set of keys while I was gone. Jack jumped over my lap in an attempt to bound out of the partially opened door. I grabbed the dog and simultaneously pulled my keys out of my pants’ pocket to hand them to my wife. I then leashed Jack, and he and I got out of the car.  Manyu did the same from the passenger side of the car, and we both closed our doors.

I then walked back to the hatchback to get my clothes and fishing gear. The hatchback was locked, so I asked Manyu to unlock it. She said that she couldn’t because both sets of keys, hers and mine, were in her purse in the car. She said that she didn’t know I’d locked the car. As I was telling her that I hadn’t locked the car, I realized that Jack had.  Our dog’s foot had hit the lock button on the driver’s side armrest when he tried to clamor out of the car. I pulled the wool hat off my head and threw it on Tom’s lawn. “Damn it!” I shouted. 

I hadn’t broken into a locked car for at least thirty years, well before the introduction of key fobs and car alarms. Still my mind flashed back to the only method I knew.  I knocked on Tom’s door, told him I’d locked the keys in the car, and asked him for a coat hanger.  His response was, “Who has metal hangers any more? And what would you do with it anyway?”

The man had two good points. I was genuinely stumped as to how to proceed, when Manyu walked up to me and said, “We have another key at home. The one without any buttons on it.”

I asked, “We do?” 

Tom asked, “The valet key?”

“The valet key,” I said.  “Manyu, do you know where it is?”

“Of course,” Manyu said, “but we’ll have to go back home get it.”

The valet key. I can think of only one place in all of La Crosse that even has valet parking, and I’ve never used it. I’m not even sure what a valet key is for. I thought that it was to keep crooked parking attendants from getting into the trunk, but if that is the purpose, why would our Subaru Outback, which doesn’t have a trunk, have the extra key? I guess it doesn’t matter.  That morning I was just glad that it did.

Tom drove us both home. Manyu retrieved the valet key, and we rode back to Tom’s.  Manyu then woke up the entire neighborhood by setting off the car alarm when she unlocked our car. I retrieved my gear and hugged Manyu good-bye.  “I’m sorry I got mad,” I said.

“Don’t forget your hat,” she replied.