I wandered outside yesterday afternoon for something to eat, and when I began to head back I realized I’d left my keys inside and had locked myself out. It took 45 minutes to get back in, and the way I managed it drew a small crowd. Flashing firetruck lights, an extension ladder against the building, loud walkie-talkies, etc. The talk of the neighborhood.

My first move was to buzz myself into the building and ask the fat guy who lives upstairs if I could hang myself out of one of his windows and drop down to my level. His place looks out on a four-walled open-air space that adjoins an open window in my kitchen. He was cool about it, but said the only window is in the bathroom and I might not fit. He was right — strictly a job for the Asian guy from Ocean’s 11 — and it was too far to drop down anyway.

So I called a couple of locksmiths and was told it would probably cost $150. Didn’t like that at all. Then I remembered that my street-facing living-room window was open without a screen. Do you guys happen to have a ladder of any kind?, I said. “Why would we have a ladder?,” the guy said. “We’re locksmiths.” I went over to the hardware store across the street and asked if they had a ladder I could borrow — nope.

So I sucked it in and called the local fire department — took me a long while to finally get through — and asked if they’d mind doing me a favor. Less than ten minutes later a big shiny red truck arrived with three guys aboard. “Have you got ID that says you live here?” the top guy asked. Yes, I do, definitely. They took the ladder off the side of the truck and three minutes later my door was open, situation solved. Thanks, guys — good of you to do this. “You’re welcome, have a good day.”

Tax dollars, public utilities…a good thing!