The Blonde Next Door

I take pride in the fact that, on a normal day, I am a competent adult. I strive to be responsible and self-aware. There are occasions, however, where my blonde roots take control and throw everything into disarray.

Today was such a day.

For whatever reason, I left early for work. Even with the fact that I overslept, I managed to take a shower, style my hair (sort of), get dressed, tend to the animals and the garden, and still pull out of the drive 5 minutes earlier than I usually do. Then I hit more green lights than normal and made it to work in record time.

“Ok,” I thought. “Guess I can get a jump start on my puny pile of paperwork. Maybe I’ll straighten up the office before everyone gets in.”

The first order of business is always checking in the mail. I usually get mail the evening before so it’s ready to be sorted in the morning, but I didn’t yesterday.

Our front doors are locked, of course, and I used to unlock one of them long enough for me to step out to the mailbox. Then one of the ladies showed me a trick where one of the doors catches if you open it while it’s locked. I’ve been using this trick for weeks and have never had a problem. Being the slightly paranoid person that I am, though, I typically close the door slowly and check that it hasn’t shut on me.

I’m not paranoid enough that I make sure to bring any key with me other than the mailbox key.

This morning, I was too distracted by the construction in the suite across the hall to pay proper attention to the door. The suite had been gutted and was being rebuilt to accommodate a dentist office. At the moment the lighting fixtures are hanging loose and the walls are just going up, so the place looks massive. I was halfway to the mailbox before a voice in the back of my head queried, “Did you hear the door catch?”

“Of course it did,” I answered myself. “It always does.”

Psych!

I returned, hands empty because we didn’t get any mail, and noticed something off about the door. Just to be sure, I tried both locks.

“Crud,” I muttered.

There’s a lady who sits in the hallway almost every morning, waiting for her bus. She had been contemplating the sunshine, but she turned at my muttering.

I had one hand on my hip and the other running through my once-styled hair: both habits I employ to help me stay calm and concentrate. At least that’s what I tell myself.

“I locked myself out,” I said, half-laughing, to the lady.

“Oh, no,” she said. “That’s not good.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “And I left my phone and keys in there.”

And this, children, is why I need to find more business skirts with pockets. Had I been accustomed to pockets, I might have stuck my keys or my phone in them. As it is, I hate walking around with a handful of keys just to check the mail.

I darted outside to see if any of my coworkers had chosen this moment to show up. No new cars were parked in our spot. I checked the back door, where employees usually enter. Naturally, it hadn’t decided to spring open today as it sometimes does. Why is that? Because I was the last one in, and I always make sure it’s latched.

Back at the front doors, I chewed my lip and darted a glance at the lady, who was back to staring outside. I was pretty positive she didn’t have a phone. That left the three or four construction workers across the hall.

Fine. I’m an adult. I don’t intend to make a habit of it, but I could manage to ask someone just this once if I could borrow their phone. I just had to be sure I knew the office number. It’s not like I dial it often, and this isn’t like my old job where I repeated it in messages a hundred times a day.

At the same moment when I located the number written in tiny font on a posting on the door, a new construction worker arrived, wearing his phone on his hip and carrying some pieces of wood over his shoulder.

“Excuse me,” I said, stepping toward him. “I have kind of a weird question. Could I please borrow your phone? I locked myself out of my work.”

These are the days when my short build, little girl voice, and upbringing work in my favor. The man didn’t hesitate.

“Sure,” he said with a smile. He immediately handed me his phone and turned to deposit his armload in the suite next door. “Do you know how to use it?” he asked as I turned on the screen.

Well, ouch. “Yeah, I have an iPhone, too,” I said. “Thank you!” I looked up long enough to make sure I would remember which man loaned me the phone, because I have a habit of forgetting that kind of thing; luckily, he was the only guy in a bright blue shirt.

I dialed the office phone, but it wasn’t 9:00 yet so it went to voicemail. I had expected this. What I really wanted was the on-call number, which I thought I knew but wasn’t sure about. The recording played and I repeated the number under my breath.

This next part is what prevented me from having to loiter by the back door until someone showed up to let me in. Yesterday one of the ladies, who is always in the office around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, told me she would have the on-call phone today. I knew she was in the office because I’d seen her light on, but I hadn’t made my rounds yet and so hadn’t said good morning. (This is also why you should announce your presence, even if it’s just by walking past to fill the copier with paper. Had she known I was in, she may also have noticed when I went missing.)

She picked up on the second ring.

“Hi, it’s Phoebe,” I said. “So I’m calling from the phone of one of the guys working next door because I locked myself out when I went to check mail.”

She laughed. “I’m on my way.”

When she arrived, I asked her to hold the door while I returned the phone to its owner, who was watching me from his work station (along with a few other men working nearby). “Thank you so much!” I said again. I shared a chuckle with my coworker as I slipped inside the office. “I can honestly say that’s a first for me.”

It’s a good thing I’ve been learning lately about how to ask for help, and that I’m already skilled at laughing at myself. Add “admit you make mistakes” to topics I’m studying currently.

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