Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Denise, my partner in crime since we were freshmen in high school, e-mailed me in April announcing that we were due for a week at the beach this summer. I thought that was funny since I live five houses from the ocean, but what she wanted was to meet halfway between her home in Seattle and Crescent City.

I recommended a place I've stayed at in Taft, Ore., at the southern end of Lincoln City. It's a modest home on the edge of the bay. We each drove about 250 miles to meet at the house Sunday before last. The rental company gave me a 4-digit code that opened a lock box with three keys inside: one for the three exterior doors, one for the laundry/storage room and a third that opened the detached cottage.

We soon fell into vacation mode. We slept until 7:30 or so, then ate our oatmeal and blueberries either by the picture window or outside, depending on the temperature. We shared books and magazines we'd brought and read until it was time to "get ready."

Around noon we left on a quest for lunch and bargains at the Factory Outlet Mall. Then we'd return to the house for a walk or to soak up the sun from the Adirondack chairs on the deck. Eventually we'd forage for dinner, then read until we fell asleep.

On our last night in Lincoln City we left the house around 7:30. We planned to walk to a restaurant down the street for fish tacos.

I locked the door and shut it behind me. Denise, who had taken

charge of the keys since we arrived, attempted to lock the deadbolt.

The key didn't fit. She'd grabbed the wrong one. Through the window we

spotted the key we needed to unlock the door I had just shut.

The experienced management company was prepared for this. There was

a second lock box marked "emergency" near the door. I called for the

code, unlocked the box and found three shiny keys. Unfortunately none

of them fit our locks.

When I broke the news to my new best friend Kurt at the rental

agency he chuckled, "Sometimes you have to break in a new key. Just

jiggle it." What happened next was both frustrating and hilarious. Over

the next two hours three different men summoned by Kurt attempted the

impossible. They jiggled and we giggled.

First on the scene, a young security guard named Jimmy assured us

we'd be inside in no time. We watched him try each key on each door.

Twice. Then he got on his radio and called in the big guns. "My boss is

a retired sheriff," he said, "He can do anything." When the boss pulled

up, he was so confident he had a quick fix that he left the engine of

his 4x4 running. His young sidekick held the flashlight as he jammed

the keys into the locks. He refused to admit defeat. He circled the

house and tried again.

It was getting dark and cold. Denise and I slipped out of the

ex-sheriff's earshot and called both Lincoln City locksmiths but got

their answering machines. To date neither has returned my call for


Finally Kurt announced that "the maintenance guy" was on his way

over. Relieved, I pictured a man holding a tried and true key. Instead,

the man who showed up clutched a crow bar.

The ex-sheriff promised that he'd vouch for us if the rental company

tried to charge us for damages. At 9:45 p.m. the knob finally fell off

the kitchen door and the three gents grinned in triumph as they held

the door wide open for us.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.