The drive north was spectacular on Tuesday--bright leaves, blue sky, no traffic. I had carefully written down directions to my bed and breakfast, and then promptly lost them. I ransacked my car when I stopped for gas near Askov, couldn't find them, and just gave myself up to the gods. The gods, and Highway 2, got me to Grand Rapids.
Once in town, I cruised the main street, past the Old Central School (now a little shopping center), past the place that sells bear bait and circus peanuts, past the turnoff to the Forest History Center, until I realized I was never going to find anything without directions. Brand-new cell phone to the rescue. I had $7.00 of time, so I pulled into a parking lot, flipped it open, and called Doug. He got on Google, found the address of the B&B, and I was on my way.
The talk that night at the lovely public library on the banks of the Mississippi was very pleasant. The room was full, there were door prizes and cookies, I was interviewed by a radio star and filmed for public access TV, people bought my book, and the wonderful Far Side of Fifty blogger and her husband, the Far Guy, had driven two hours to see me. Their dog was with them, though not in attendance at the library.
The next morning it was back to Duluth. This time, I knew exactly where I was going: to my friends' house to dump off my stuff, down to Canal Park to visit my Kenspeckle friends, back to John and Ann's place to change clothes and eat a sandwich, and then on to St. Scholastica by 3:30 for a 4 p.m. event.
At first, all went according to plan. I narrowly avoided a black pickup truck on Skyline Boulevard that zipped right through a stop sign, found John and Ann's house, dumped my gear, drove to Canal Park, found the only free parking place in the area, and chatted with Rick and Marian for 45 minutes. Then back to John and Ann's, feeling like the world was my oyster.
And the world remained my oyster, right up until the second that I realized I had locked myself out of their house.
It was such a beautiful afternoon. It had rained in the morning, but the skies had cleared and the leaves were bright orange and gold in the sunshine. I tried the knob, rattled it hard, tried to make the dead-bolt key work in the knob lock, which it most certainly was not about to do. Why had I set that lock? What had I been thinking?
I trotted around to the front of the house, tried the solidly locked front door, stared at the windows in dismay. They were all properly shut, with screens firmly attached; no burglars were going to get into their place, and neither was I.
I flipped open my cell phone. I was down to about $5 of time. Called my husband. What could he do? He was in St. Paul. He called John. John called me. I explained that I had accidentally locked the knob lock on their back door and didn't have a key. "Nobody has a key!" he said. "We never use those locks."
Despair rolled over me.
I stared at the house, their nice, cozy, solid house, wishing it weren't quite so solid, wondering how I could have been so stupid, wondering if I was going to have to give my college talk in my two-day-old sweaty driving clothes and polarfleece vest, wondering if I was now forcing an entire family to break into their own home.
I suggested that John call a locksmith, and I would pay for it. He said no, he'd call his wife. So I hung up--I was now down to $3.75 of time on my phone--and waited. And waited. And waited.
At a quarter to three, he called back. Ann might have a key; she wasn't sure. I would have to drive to Hermantown to get it; she couldn't leave work.
I moaned. "I don't have time!" But there was nothing else to do. Into my car, up Arrowhead Road, over to Hermantown, pulled into the bank, wrong parking lot, pulled back out, drove a little farther, found the right parking lot, called Ann from my car--$3 of time left--and she met me in the lobby, clutching a ring of keys. In their rattle, I heard hope.
"This one might be for the knob," she said, picking one out of the crowd. "I'm ninety percent sure." If not, she said, I could call John again and he would leave work and hoist me up and stuff me through one of the unlocked windows, after first removing the screens. "That'll amuse the neighbors," she said cheerfully.
Funny! Funny! It was now 3 p.m., and I had a half-hour to get back, get changed, eat something, and get to the college. And have I mentioned that I had no firm idea what I was going to say once I got there, or which parts of the book I was going to read?
All the way down Arrowhead Road, I fretted. Ninety percent sure it was the right key? Stuff me through a window? Give a talk at a lovely private college in dirty clothes and sandals?
The key fit.
I burst into the house, took a deep breath, did everything I needed to do except plan my talk, hopped in my car, and mounted the granite steps to beautiful Tower Hall with fifteen minutes to spare.