I was chatting with a student recently when the topic of locking keys in cars before gigs came up–I can’t recall what on Earth we were talking about that led us to this topic, but I told him a story about the times (yes, I’ve done this more than once!) that I’ve locked my keys in the car right before a gig.
Here’s what I told him:
Keys Locked in Car #1
I did all sorts of dumb things in high school, like forgetting my music for important gigs, but I somehow managed to avoid locking my keys in the car until the end of my senior year. Since I came from a town of only a little over 100,000 people (Sioux Falls) in a state with only a little over 700,000 people (South Dakota), I ended up doing the sorts of gigs that would be reserved for professionals in larger urban areas. Therefore, I found myself playing bass for the local theater production of Guys and Dolls. I had decided, about 30 minutes before the start of a show (I liked to cut things close in those days), to drive over to a nearby Seven-Eleven and get a Super Big Gulp. It was a hot and muggy June day, after all (South Dakota is frigid in the winter and scorching in the summer), and I needed to get all caffeinated up before the show.
I ran in, slamming the door to the car, and after coming out with my massive soda, noticing that, to my horror, my car keys were sitting on the passenger seat… and I had about 15 minutes until the start of the gig! Luckily, I had left the bass in the pit, but I was at least a mile away and dressed in pit black during the middle of a really hot day. Without thinking twice, I started sprinting downtown.
I made it to the theater–barely. I was sticky with sweat and aching from head to toe, but I made it. I played the gig, calling my parents from the theater’s pay phone at intermission (this was in a pre-cell phone era) to have them drive over and get my keys out of the car.
Keys Locked in Car #2
You’d think that the keys-locked-in-car predilection would have been stamped out with that episode in high school, but I guess I had to learn that lesson one more time…
I was on my way to a Northbrook Symphony rehearsal on a freakishly cold March day back when I was the principal bassist for that group, driving up north from downtown Chicago after wrapping up a gig earlier that day. I’d made plans to meet an old friend who was in town auditioning for the Chicago Symphony. We had enough time for a good dinner and a nice chat, and I bid him farewell as I walked back to my car, rubbing my hands to keep warm and ready to head off to my evening gig.
I pulled out my keys, staring at them blankly. Where the heck was my car key? I had my keys right there in front of my face (I’d gotten into the habit of making sure that I was always holding my car keys as I closed the car door after that incident back in high school).
I peered inside the car. Aargh! My stupid car key was in the stupid ignition. What on Earth…? I suddenly remembered yoinking that key off my keychain earlier that day for the valet during my previous gig, not wanting to give him my janitor’s set of house and school keys along with that car key. I had checked my keys before going in to dinner, and I had them–just not my car key. And now I was locked outside, bass in the car, with the temperature around zero degrees Fahrenheit and a gig fast approaching.
To make a long and annoying story short, I called a locksmith, paid $100 (twice what the gig I was heading to was paying–I played really poorly paying gigs in those days), and actually made it to rehearsal, dashing in with frigid fingers and a racing heart as the oboe was playing the tuning A. I remember unpacking and trying to tune, having a great deal of difficulty even holding my bow because I had been outside in subzero temps for so long waiting for the locksmith. My stupid hands ached for days after that rehearsal, but I made it–and got my $50! Another chapter in the life of a freelancer…
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