I went to San Francisco  this past weekend.  I flew in on Thursday and now it’s Saturday and I’m flying back.

This has been one of the most eventful weekends in another city I think I have ever had.

Rather than stay at a hotel, a good friend let me use his apartment as he was out of town.  He lives in a beautiful area, convenient to everything and so of course I took him up on that. He left the keys with his girlfriend who left them with her doorman and I was to pick them up when I got in.  Too easy.

Keys in hands I waved farewell to my uber driver insisting that the walk wold be fine.  It’s only 10 minutes, I thought, it’s a beautiful day, I thought, I love to walk around cities and I have very little baggage, I thought.  Not once did I think, gee, San Francisco is incredibly hilly and that 10 minute stroll may include some Beyonce butt building levels of elevation climb, perhaps I should just uber it to the apartment with my bags.

Challenge accepted.  Arriving triumphant and perspiring at his address, I set my bags down, Got the keys out and proceeded to put them in the lock.  None fit.  I could get the tip of a large brass key in and what looked like a mailbox key rattled away ineffectually but nothing would open the door.  I was stumped.

Maybe I have the wrong entry, I thought.  Oh yes, these building look attached..ish… I’ll try that entry on the corner.

Success! I got in the front door and climbed the stairs to his apartment.  Keys out again I wiggled the lock, pushed and pulled the somewhat old door and nothing worked.


Either this is the wrong building or the wrong apartment.  Given it was about 2am where my friend was, texting and calling him wasn’t really an option.  The original entry I had tried did feel a bit further back, perhaps this building links to another that is where his unit is.  I followed the back staircase down as far as I could and ended up in a semi basement corridor with narrow halls and several dead ends.  About the time I heard a bit of squeaking and scratching I decided there most definitely wasn’t a connection. But I had gotten in the front door. Surely this must be the right building. Right? No way the front door budding key would work if I was in the wrong place.   So I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat (I don’t actually have a hat) and tried to figure out another way to figure out what apartment number it was.

The Mailboxes! In the front lobby a rack of Mailboxes were propped against the wall.  I had his keys so I thought, I’ll just put the key in each box until one opens and then I’ll know which apartment is his! Proud of my creative problem solving skills I thrust the key in the first box with verve. Nope, nope, nope, nope, shit…. now the mailbox key was stuck in a box.  I wiggled and wiggled and it still wouldn’t come out.  It wouldn’t turn either, so didn’t even help solve my apartment number delima. Tugging on it I could see that I was closer to pulling the rack of boxes off the wall than getting the key out.   Finally I slid the key off the ring and positioned the other keys, stacked, and leveraged it out.

Now wary of my grand plan, I debated continuing but decided I had no choice.  I wokred with a but less verve and prayed that no one would come along to see me trying all the locks…

None of them opened.  I texted his girlfriend for help and after a few texts back and forth we determined I was definitely at the wrong building. I went back to the first entry and tried my keys again.  Nope, they definitely weren’t working.  Scrolling through the call box list to the side I did confirm I was at the right place and I decided the only answer would be to start ringing neighbors for some help.

A lovely chap let me in and confirmed that it was a tricky lock and my big brass key was the right one.

I rushed in, put my stuff on the table and ubered over for lunch, wondering what I was going to do if it didn’t work again.

I met a very old friend for lunch and told her about my amazing race style key challenege.  She took me to a hardware store and dropped me off after our meal so I could get the key filed.

Chatting to the guys at the hardware store I decided to just cut a new fresh key, hopefully this one will work better.  I also bought a can of oil lubricant and a tube of powdered graphite.  I was armed and ready for battle with this lock.

Heading out of the store I began looking for my phone to map back to the house.  No phone. Left in my friends car I went back in and called myself hoping she would pick up as I didn’t have another way to contact her.  She’d found it and generously drove back to drop it off to me.

4% battery remaining I prayed it would make it until I got back to the house, which it did.  I tried the new key, no luck, still sticky.  I shook the can of oil and sprayed it into the keyhole.  Black gunk shot out over my hands. I slid the mailbox key in and out to work the graphite around and after a few minutes I tried again with the new key…old key…banging my head against the door.  (The later also didn’t work but made me feel better. )

Someone had to come eventually.  I sat on the stoop and not even 10 minutes later out came a contractor with a great accent whom I begged to show me how to unlock the door.

I handed him my key, telling him about the neighbor confirming this was the right one. (Albeit he was viewing it from a few stories above me). Hot contractor laughed and looked at me.  “It’s the wrong key love.  You don’t have a key in this bunch that’ll open this here door. ” Awesome.

He let me in (despite being sweaty with grubby hands) and I went inside thinking I would have to move to a hotel or be locked in the apartment until my flight. Surely there must be another key in the apartment or another exit to the building.  The light at the end of this tiny tunnel got brighter when I found a garage. Maybe he has a remote inside! Raiding his kitchen drawer I found one. Hooray! Success! Freedom!

There have been few times in my life where I have been prouder of my perseverance and in-flapability.  The rest of the trip has been great. I got in and out via the garage no problem and had no other issues.  Until I locked myself on the roof this morning.

Turns out the key to the roof door is the same as the key to the street.  Why I didn’t think of this I don’t know.  But 2 hours later a good Samaritan heard me yelling hello from the roof and we got her buzzed in via a call to my friend’s cell phone.  She climbed 5 fligyts of stairs fespite being late for an event herself.  I was also a bit late. I had about 10 minutes before I had to get to the airport or miss my flight.  Which is now delayed.

Here are some photos of my rooftop alcatraz this morning.  The view was incredible, the sun warm, the wind cold.  Happily I was equipped with fresh rainwater on a table and an extra pastry I’d gotten with breakfast. I could have made it a few more hours before I would have had to test the rickety fire escape.  Thank goodness for great friends, and the incredibly fine upstanding, citizens  of San Francisco.   I’m probably staying in a hotel in the future.