My roommates, warm in their beds after a pink-Mike’s-Hard-Lemonade-induced bout of dancing to my father’s precious David Bowie record – “don’t let anyone touch that except you,” he said when I packed it in my bag last August – hadn’t answered the door, and I was locked out of my apartment.
It was Saturday night, and I had put off doing laundry until then. I was coming back from loading a curious mix of Philadelphia Flyers T-shirts, sweaters and boxers (I just throw it all in on cold) when I found the door locked.
I could list all the presidents of the United States and probably more than half of every NHL team without much effort, but in my 19 years on Earth my ability to remember small, important details has been much more like that of an 80 year old.
I had a nagging feeling over the past few weeks that my recent lapses – forgetting when my bus for work leaves the stop, arranging to see Hop Along on my mother’s birthday, leaving my reporter’s notebook in Philadelphia before a four-day trip to New York City – were all snowballing toward something bigger; the ultimate f—k-up, the one that really did me in, the one I would finally pay for. I couldn’t get away with all of those so easily.
Usually, though, I did. In middle and high school, I had frequently gone back after hours, getting the attention of a janitor or late-staying teacher to open the door and let me in, so I could fetch a forgotten textbook or notebook out of my locker.
“You’ve got to start remembering these things.”
They’d say something to that effect every time. “Keeping track of your stuff is part of being a responsible adult,” they’d say. I’d reply with a shrug and walk the mile back to my house.
And once, when I missed that bus to work but headed it off along its route, the driver scolded me in front of all the other riders for having to make a special stop. Though I still got away with it, I’ve met the shuttle, decked out in “Take Charge” graphics, at Broad Street and Polett Walk ever since. I thought I had learned my lesson.
But when I went down to the security desk only a few hours into Sunday morning to ask about unlocking my room, all I could see was a Pitman School District custodian in a maroon polo shirt opening the door for me.
“Did you try banging really hard?” the security guard asked. He could either see that I felt 12 years old inside, or didn’t want to be bothered with finding someone to open my door at 3 a.m. “How hard? Did you kick it at all?”
Yes, I did. My roommates had a lot more fun than I did that night – I couldn’t wake them.
And that’s when the price for all those close calls finally dropped on me: $50. I signed a waiver that said I understood my next bill would be even higher next month and my beckoning bed put me out of my misery for a few hours.
I’ll admit I’m upset that $50 won’t be redistributed equally among the Pitman High School janitors, the TASB shuttle driver and my mother, the people who suffered most from my lapses in memory. Instead, it is all going to The View for a process which took a total of 10 minutes to execute and 20 to plan.
It took being taken advantage of for profit for me to finally declare war on my forgetfulness. My rent is due April 1, my roommate owes me a new Xbox controller and I have to call my mother on May 9.
And I will always pat my pocket before leaving and make sure I have my keys.
Joe Brandt can be reached at email@example.com.