I can’t believe another year is almost over. Time really does fly! And sometimes so do I. Multiple times in a week.
My last trip of the year was one of those. I decided to tack a trip to Maine for an early Christmas into the middle of my two trips to North Carolina for work, which led to 8 days on the road.
Due to these extra days and combination of workwear and casual wear (as well as a Christmas gift or two) I found myself packing in a larger than normal suitcase. Which means I had to check a bag.
My initial connecting flights to North Carolina and my flights to Maine all went off without a hitch.
On my trip back to NC, however, I wasn’t so lucky.
My flight from Maine to Newark was delayed about an hour, but honestly, that’s pretty much the norm, so I wasn’t even that annoyed. I would still make my connection, so what difference did it make which airport I was killing time in?
I made it to Newark, grabbed some water and found my gate. Just in time to hear literally every single phone in the C concourse go off with a weather alert at exactly the same time.
I look at the alert on my phone to see Newark is under a “snow squall” alert.
I’m very confused as I look from my phone to the window, where it is bright and sunny, without a cloud in the sky. Despite having heard the same alert coming from hundreds of other phones, I almost convince myself that the National Weather Service sent an alert for the wrong location.
My flight was still on time, so I wasn’t too concerned about imaginary snow squalls.
About 30 min later, while we are boarding the flight to NC, I look out the window again, this time to see a wall of grey literally erasing the sunny skies inch by inch. Sure enough, by the time the front door is closed, we are in the middle of a full on snow squall. We spend an extra hour on the runway, being de-iced and waiting for the squall to pass.
At least I was able to make good use of the first class seat I had been upgraded to.
We land in NC without further incident, but later than planned, so now I’m starving! I decide to grab food to go on my way to the hotel and just settle in for the night. I happily check in, get to my room, and gobble down my dinner before I decide to open my bag and unpack the few things I’d need for my overnight stay.
Like most suitcases nowadays, my suitcase has TSA approved security locks on it. I, however, have never felt the need to actually use these locks, nor set a personal combination, at any point in the several years I’ve had this bag. Or so I thought.
This time, though, when I try to push the little button to release the zippers and open my bag, nothing happens.
I look at the little combination lock next to the zippers and see a set of random numbers. Well, somehow they must have got changed since I dropped my bag off at check in.
I’m sure it was the snow squall.
Not to worry. I’m sure the combination is just the standard factory set combo. So I set the digits to 000, and push the button.
I try several other generic combos- 123, 999, 888- all with no success.
Well this is going to be an interesting 24 hours in NC if I can’t get into my suitcase.
I have been known to pick a lock or two in my time- when I’ve locked myself out of my house or car once or twice. I might not know the combo, but if TSA can open my bag with a key, I’m sure I can pop it open too. The only tool I can find to aid in my lock picking efforts, however, is a ball point pen. I’m sure I can adapt.
Roughly 5 min later, not only have I not managed to pick the lock, but I have broken the tip of the pen off into the lock.
If you were the betting type, now would be the time you’d be placing large bets on the odds against me ever getting my bag open again.
I’ll admit I may have been a little frustrated and maybe slightly more worried I’d never get to my favorite pair of jeans locked inside my bag again.
But I’m nothing if not resourceful.
I find myself at the front desk asking if they might have a pair of pliers. Which of course they don’t. They were very sympathetic to my plight, however, and a few minutes later, I am on the elevator, equipped with 2 screwdrivers, a pair of nail clippers and a staple remover. I’m sure this is a lock picking kit any pro would be jealous of.
I try muscling the zippers out of their locks with the screwdrivers with no success. So I decide my best plan of attack is to get the pen nib out of the lock, and try to focus my attention back on the combo.
I try the staple remover to no avail. Did any of you betting types bet on the nail clippers saving the day? They have the perfect pinch to grab the end of the pen tip and ease it out of the lock.
Score one for nail clippers!
I finally decide the only way I’m getting into my suitcase is to figure out the combo that I must have known at some point but have absolutely no idea what it might be now. I pull up a chair, make myself comfy, and start working my way through every one of the 720 possible combinations, 1 digit at a time.
Luckily, the combo I had set at some point in the past, started with a low number, so I had only worked my way through 60 or so of the 720 options, when I hit the button and heard the pop of the zippers releasing.
Success! My favorite jeans were liberated and I was able to show up to work in appropriate work attire the next da!
And I can now add suitcases to my list of lock picking accomplishments. I’m sure this skill will help keep me in the survival group a little longer when the zombies finally invade.