27 January 2008

Habits are not always glitch free

Senior year, high school:

The bell for 3rd lunch had just rung, but thanks to some creative scheduling, I was done for the day. I went to the locker I'd used 5 days a week for the previous 3 academic years, and I couldn't get it open. I tried the combination over and over, my cheeks burning hotter and hotter as classmates around me opened their locker doors and slammed them shut. I just wanted to go home, but I needed my physics text and notebook from my locker. This is what I get when I stop carrying everything around in my backpack all the time.

Within 10 minutes, the hallway was empty: everyone was at lunch or in class. I took a breath to calm down and tried my combination again. And again. Spinning in the other direction. And again. Just to be certain I wasn't making a stupid mistake, I made sure I was at the right locker: 317, that's it.

The combination had always been easy for me to remember because it was made up only of digits from the locker's number. I gave the dial a cavalier spin (as was my custom), and then very carefully turned the dial clockwise to 31, a full revolution counterclockwise and on to 17, and then clockwise to 1. I reached down to the latch and gave it a hard pull, and then another, and another. The familiar metal clangs reverberated down the hall, but the door still wouldn't open.

My biology teacher from 10th grade leaned out her door and asked, "What are you doing out here?"

Defeated, I said, "My locker won't open."

"Mrs. Noyes can help you with that."

"Oh, thanks."

I really didn't want anyone else to know about my locker problem, much less ask for help with it, but I didn't have much choice. My old teacher waited for me to start down the hall before returning to her class.

When I got to the office, Mrs. Noyes was at lunch. The secretary covering the phones couldn't help me, so like any stricken, impatient teenager would, I found Mrs. Noyes enjoying her lunch outside with colleagues and interrupted. Quite rightly, she told me I'd have to wait until lunch was over.

Though it was a beautiful autumn day outside, those next ten minutes felt interminable. Being exceptionally hungry did not help.

When Mrs. Noyes finally returned to her desk, she looked up my combination: 37-11-1.

I shook my head and said, "I think I was transposing two of the digits."

"Well, if that doesn't work, come on back and I'll get the key."

"Thank you."

Heading back to my nemesis, I could not fathom why I would've misremembered the combination after all those years. I stared my locker down for a moment, unable to face one more defeat.

Right- 37, left- 11, right- 1. The latch lifted easily, as though it had no memory of the trouble it'd caused me. I grabbed my books and went home.

One year ago on TTaT: Making life easier
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  1. I always have this nightmare that I in between classes and I can't get my locker open... and the minutes are ticking by... and I am sweating and panicking.

    But it didn't happen to me in real life. :(

  2. D'oh! I used to have a fair amount of high school anxiety dreams/nightmares until one day I said, "Why the hell am I still dreaming about high school after all these years?" Now they're pretty rare.

    At least you're not having the prototypical naked-at-an-exam-you-haven't-studied-for HS dream.