The key to success
Every traveller knows this moment. You are in a strange city. The night is dark and cold. After a long journey, you are tired and hungry. You are sick of lugging luggage. You reach your destination, in my case a friend’s apartment, and the key won’t open the door.
My mate David has offered me the use of his apartment in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. I’m well-armed with instructions, a map and the keys. The taxi driver has wound his way through the alleyways to Rue Matheron and deposited me on the doorstep. The first key opens the outside door and I’m confronted by stairs. The light for the entry area doesn’t work, so when I close the door, it’s inky black. I feel my way up two flights, where the landing light does work. I’m there — well, almost.
The second key goes in after some jiggling and I turn it once, twice, thrice. The door won’t budge. Try again. Check that this is the right apartment. Well of course it is, after all, the key fits, doesn’t it? Looks like I might be spending the night on the landing.
The phone number I have for David is not connected, a recorded message tells me. I am without Wi-Fi. I need help. It’s nearly 11pm, but something must still be open. Yes, the bar next door is just closing. My plan is to persuade monsieur le patron to let me send an email to mon ami en Australie. David is hardly likely to be sitting by his computer at 7am, but desperate times and all that.
The bar owner is most anxious to help. He is happy to give me access to his Wi-Fi. Indeed, he seems more concerned than me that I should not be homeless. I’m sure he has French Resistance heritage. We are aided in this operation by a young drunk who is under the impression he speaks English fluently and can help. He doesn’t and he can’t.
Email sent, monsieur le patron decides to review the evidence. I do have a key? Yes. It fits the lock? Yes. But it won’t turn? Yes, it turns but the door won’t budge. You have pushed? Of course I’ve pushed. Have you tried pulling? Pardon, monsieur? I do know a tirez from a poussez. Well, all this is getting me nowhere, so I decide to retrieve my bags and seek alternative accommodation. Back up the dark stairs I go. I give it one last try. I know it’s useless, but I pull. And I’m in. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: email@example.com. Columnists will receive an elegant Cross Classic Century Medalist Ball Point Pen, in production since 1946, with a polished chrome casing and 23-carat gold-plated trim; black or blue ink. $89.95. More: luxurypens. net.au