By Amber Adrian

what's the first thing you would do if you had just landed in a dusty parking lot on a hot September day, eager to run rapids and spiral down waterfalls with your boyfriend and fourteen other hardy souls? You, my non-accident-prone friend, would likely grab an inner tube, pop open a beer, and wait for the fun to begin. I, on the other hand, slathered on some sunscreen (missing several key places, I would later discover), locked my car, and slammed the door shut—with my keys sitting on the drivers' seat.

That's right. In the outback of Sonoma County, California, two hours from my San Francisco home, I locked my keys in my 1999 Suzuki Esteem.

John and I had just arrived on the banks of the Russian River for Flotilla 2005, our annual festival of pure hedonism. It was time to submerge scantily clad butts in the chilly water and float lazily downstream under the Northern California sun, stopping occasionally for cold beverages and grilled meat. This agenda did not, however, allow for disastrous misadventures of the idiotic persuasion.

While everyone else was bustling about, angling for the best inner tubes and wondering how to waterproof their cell phones, John and I called the AAA hotline. Halfway across the world, a phone rang in Bangalore. The man who answered was very polite. He tried hard to be helpful, but he had no idea where we were, probably because neither did we. Apparently, telling AAA to "look for the bendy place in the highway near the exit with the clump of trees and all the cars" isn't enough for them to go on. Bottom line: AAA wasn't coming.

The situation called for resourcefulness and ingenuity. Since I'm neither resourceful nor ingenious, I started looking for a rock to heave through the window. Luckily, there were brighter folks around.

John began gamely, even cheerfully, searching the scrub brush at the edges of the parking lot for a coat hanger to jimmy open the door. I tried to help. We found a stray boot, a hypodermic needle, and lots of rocks, but no handy wire hanger. So John dug through his backpack and pulled out his Leather-man tool (basically a Swiss Army knife on steroids), then started to cut a piece out of a nearby barbed-wire fence.

Meanwhile, another plan was afoot. Paul, a good friend from previous Flotillas, was inspecting the car's round manual door locks, which, when locked, stick up about half an inch from the door. He muttered something about string. I didn't catch what he said, but he sure seemed excited. Soon his muttering turned to rummaging. He opened his car (which was conveniently unlocked) and scrounged an umbrella and a length of green twine from the back seat. Using John's Leather-man, he cut a spoke from the underside of the umbrella. Then he threaded one end of the twine through the hole at the tip of the spoke and tied it off. At the other end of the twine, he tied an open knot, creating a loop about an inch across, and leaving a long tail of loose twine.

Amidst much naysaying from Team Flotilla, Paul, now the official Patron Saint of Idiot Girls Who Lock Their Keys in Their Cars, turned toward my Suzuki. He had a determined look on his face. In fact, he looked ready to kick some locked-car ass.

As he and John discussed the likelihood of fitting the rod through a space designed to keep out rain, John unfolded the pliers from his Leatherman and gingerly pried the top of the window about an eighth of an inch away from the door frame. Paul slid the umbrella fishing pole through the crack and maneuvered the "line" just above the lock, keeping the loose end of the twine hanging out the top of the window. He then tried to loop the open knot over the lock button. And completely missed. He jiggled the string. He missed again. He jiggled it a third time. And a third time he missed. "$&#@!" he said. "$&#@!" he said again.

He took a deep breath and gave it one more shot. And this time, finally, he managed to loop the knot over the lock. Then, very slowly, so as not to pull the loop back over the button, he tugged on the loose end of the twine, closing the knot snugly around it. And finally, God bless him, Saint Paul pulled the string taut and popped that puppy open.

As he would yell multiple times throughout the day and well into the night, "I MacGyvered the hell out of it!"

Amber Adrian is a theater writer in 5an Francisco who blogs about her supreme ineptitude at mooseinthekitchen. blogspot.com. she is sorry to inform you that all the stories are true.

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