Lies and Untruths

Peter Gillette

Last Wednesday, while departing for Austin, Tex., I set my cell phone down atop the trunk of my housemate’s car as my ride to the airport pulled up. This one simple, mindless act set a karmic chain of events into motion. This is my story:I have learned that Nokia cell phones are as resilient and reliable as Nalgenes. For three days, my housemate drove to New London and back, at highway speeds. For three days, unbeknownst to her, my little Nokia defied all laws of physics, spitting in the face of inertia, braving the elements, surviving rain and snow, and it stayed safely nestled on her car. My theory is that it froze to the car. Keep your flip phones, O fashionable ones: Sunday night I returned to find that my little Nokia’s battery was full and its surface was, if anything, cleaner than it was before.

Meanwhile, in Austin Saturday morning, I left the apartment where I was staying with Brooke, a friend. I left a note boasting that I had “finally figured out how to get around on Austin’s buses.” I then made the three-mile trek to Texas’s storied illustrious capitol for a terrific day of nothing.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but payphones are now few and far between. Most people carry cell phones with them. I finally found a pay phone, and called my friend. Seventy-five cents later, no answer. So I walk.

I was walking under viaducts after about a half hour of wandering, and I was lost in the Texas dark. The cabs didn’t stop for me. I flagged down a cop, who kindly drove me home, on the condition that I “tell people how nice the Austin PD is.” Consider it done.

I’m home now . and locked out. There was a tatted-up, pierced guy sitting outside two apartments down. I asked to use his phone. I said I was locked out, from Wisconsin. He says he’s from Oregon, he’s locked out too, and that his car just got stolen. He’s got bad karma. By this point, it’s 29 degrees outside and we’re in sweatshirts. I take a cab back downtown to a coffee shop/bar. I meet some kind locals. It’s 12:45 a.m. now. I’m cold. I find another payphone to call Brooke. She’s about to leave work. Brooke, apologizing profusely, can meet me by 2.

We pull into the parking lot of the apartment complex, relieved. We walk up to the door . she had somehow, right before then, lost her key. We go back to where she works and look for it, before driving to the other side of Austin to track down her very ill roommate, who had an extra key. At 4 a.m., we roll into the apartment lot, and walk in.

There are a few morals to this story: think of life as a sitcom, and setbacks won’t faze you. The other is that if you leave a Nokia cell phone frozen to a car, you’ll get lucky. The final lesson is that luck always runs out. Whenever you experience an act of kindness, just remember that you will soon come upon a locked door. All I can do is thank my lucky stars that my car didn’t get stolen. That’s because it got impounded months ago.