My Greatest Fear #25: The Key Breaking Off in the Lock

I have never had a key break off in the lock, and yet the possibility of it happening crosses my mind at least once a week.

I’m not even sure why I think this is a thing that can happen. I’m sure it happened once in a movie I saw in my formative years (ages 1-29). Little things in movies always make their mark on me. I have a vague recollection of a movie in which a swarm of killer bees fight their way into the house and take down a person. It doesn’t make sense, but because I saw it in a movie, I no longer walk naked around the house covered in honey.

Back to the key in the lock. Have any of you ever had this happened? Here’s the average scenario that crosses my mind:

Picture me stumbling from my car to the back entrance to my building, my arms draped in grocery bags so that I don’t have to take two trips. It’s a good thing I’m very “strong” and “manly.”

I make it to the door. I don’t want to put down my groceries lest they get water and/or feces on them (feces is everywhere. And yes, that’s officially the new title of my autobiography: Feces Is Everywhere, by Jamey Robert Stegmaier [the “Robert” is there so strangers know I’m a man]), so I grapple for the right key and insert it into the lock. This is the danger zone.

Because my arm is weighed down by bags full of mango-orange juice, cat treats, and 2-for-1 Breyer’s ice cream, I am acutely aware that this is the moment when most keys break off in locks. So I am very careful, and I manage to open the door and make it inside before I am attacked by someone waiting in the parking lot for a resident like me to fumble with my keys.

If the key actually broke off in the lock, I’d envision two things happening:

  1. I would immediately go into survival mode. This means that I’d eat as many of the groceries, starting with the cat food, to build up a thick layer of fat to protect me from the elements. I would, as is my way, create a crude loincloth out of my environmentally friendly canvas grocery bags. Then, using only my wits, charm, and lighter fluid, I would create a fire in the parking lot to attract the attention of my cat in the hopes that he would understand that I’m locked out and would either call the police or FedEx the spare key to me.
  2. Because I would have not only prevented myself but also other people from entering the building, I would expect my fellow residents to quickly turn on me. Gentle reminders that I kindly invited them to my Festivus party would fall on deaf ears, and they would chase me from the property.

As you can imagine, I don’t want any of those things to happen. A simple solution would simply be to not carry more groceries than I can handle, but that’s preposterous, and I will not consider it.

Have you ever had a key break off in a lock? Did your worst nightmares come true immediately afterwards?


14 Responses to “My Greatest Fear #25: The Key Breaking Off in the Lock”

  1. Lorena says:

    The best part of this post is, without a doubt, what your formative years age range includes.

  2. Sarah says:

    Prepare to be terrified: Broken keys can happen in real life. The empty shell of a human being that you see before you when you see me is a testament to that.
    As a freshman in college, I broke off the key to my truck in the ignition. As a natural consequence, I was forced to live in the dorm parking garage, subsisting on used textbooks and the mud that flakes off of car tires. That lasted for several months, until they expelled me from school for poor attendance and for scaring the undergrads with the cautionary tale I had become. The locksmith never came.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Oo wow, breaking off a key in the ignition is WAY worse than breaking it off on the back entrance to my building.

      It sounds like you made the best of your situation. My only disappointment is that a loincloth wasn’t involved.

      (Great entry on the WBO over on your blog today, by the way.)

  3. John Aughey says:

    The reality of #2 is that your neighbors, who also cannot return to their homes, must form a tight knit community with you as their leader, surviving by eating only what they can dig out of the ground and scrape off of the surrounding walls. Without any way to recharge your cell phones, you must assume you are alone in the world and obliged to repopulate the world for the good of humanity.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I like it! Especially since all of this is happening within the bounds of our gated parking lot. I would have to claim the youngest (but legal), most supple females as my own, leaving the other males to fight amongst themselves. Wait, that’s really sexist. I’ll let the other males AND females fight amongst themselves.

  4. T-Mac says:

    While I’ve never snapped a key, I did once (as a young child) leave a key at home, then try to pick the lock with a thin stick like McGuyver. Needless to say, it didn’t work. The stick broke off in the lock almost immediately, and an adult had to remove the lock to get the stick out.

  5. Anne Riley says:

    Yes, this once happened to my husband! Old key, old lock. Took a while to remove the key fragment and actually I am not sure how they did it!

  6. Jill says:

    I might be confused, but doesn’t your door have a number code versus a lock? Or, as would be logical, there is probably more than one entrance to your building…

    On a side note, whenever I buy groceries, I ALWAYS have to get all of them inside in one trip. Sometimes I almost fall over or fall down the stairs trying to get up to my 2nd floor apartment, but daggunit, I will get them all inside in.one.trip.

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