I yell at horror movies.
Not scream. Yell. Like an exasperated, uncertified life coach.
The main characters in typical jump scare-peppered torture porn are not life choice role models. I ask them why they’re not calling Triple A about that cut fan belt after their girlfriend just tumbled into the pool of decaying roadkill. I suggest they stay inside instead of going outside to investigate that noise – and if they do, they should certainly put on shoes first. Or a shirt. That maybe instead of going upstairs to figure out why there’s water soaking through their apartment ceiling, they should call the super. Maybe don’t resurrect your girlfriend with the equipment that just electrocuted her – those sorts of decisions shouldn’t be made in the throes of fresh grief.
I do this from a place of superiority. I admit it. Part of me relishes lecturing characters in horror movies because I believed – until this week at least – that I was smarter. Given that I will go ghost hunting at the drop of a hat, superiority was totally an illusion, but sometimes we need to be shown these things.
This week, I locked myself out of the house for the first time.
I’ve only owned this house for a year and change. Prior to this, I’ve locked myself out of an apartment exactly once. I fancied I was neurotic about it. I made sure my keys were in my pocket. I checked that pocket at least three times before I pulled that door shut. I do a ‘perimeter check’ before I leave anywhere: keys-wallet-phone. I’m a pro.
What I learned on Tuesday was that I’m nothing more than a creature of habit. Those habits kept me insulated in a cocoon of smugness; the same smugness that unironically lectured the Arnies, Carlys and Lauries of the world about their analytical thinking.
Disturb those habits even an inch, however; and you’ll find me standing on my front porch, barefoot and empty handed, staring at my locked front door in classic scream queen shock.
With soft-soled feet, no phone and no survival skills to speak of, I panicked. I cried. Mike Myers could have picked me off in five minutes or less. It took way too long to occur to me that I needed to go next door and explain what just happened, and build a contingency plan in case that avenue failed. Eventually the panic subsided, but I can (reluctantly) admit that the average protagonist of my Netflix horror queue would survive in adversity with way more grace.
Laurie 1; Jen 0.
Our neighbor came to the rescue with a staggering level of kindness. We aren’t strangers, but we don’t know each other’s names. He handed over his phone, his phonebook, and two pairs of flip flops as we tried and discarded Plan A, B, and C in quick succession.
Every locksmith shutters at 5PM. The police station referred us to said shuttered locksmiths. Neither one of us is physically or emotionally equipped to cut a metal screen and chuck a heavy object through our own window, even if we had the tools.
Plan D involved opening the garage door with the opener inside the (also locked) car parked out front. Which required breaking into a car with a coat hanger (provided by the neighbor), and hopefully not getting the police called by a concerned neighbor at the same time.
That might have handily solved a problem or two, at least.
Teamwork prevailed. With one person manning the wire and one guiding it like Mission Control during a space station docking maneuver, we successfully broke into that car.
And triggered the car alarm, of course.
It took another lifetime to locate the car keys and then figure out how to disengage the alarm with a fob that hadn’t worked in several years (hint: key goes in the door). The neighbor – who has qualified himself for canonization at this point – nearly electrocuted himself trying to disengage the car battery while we flailed, and triggered the car alarm a second time. The rest of the street is probably now quietly plotting our demise.
The story will be funny eventually. In maybe a year, after the punishing embarrassment has worn off and I’ve proven to myself that I can be trusted again.
But Laurie Strode? Heather Donahue? Wendy Torrance?
Much love, girls. No more judgment from me.
Though, keep your keys and your phone on you. And wear shoes. Just saying.