The summer heat is oppressive, rolling over Kansai in heaving waves of humidity. News reports say the temperature is somewhere in the 30s which means nothing to my American sensibilities apart from “nearly unbearable.” I honestly think I used to be better at tolerating heat and cold than I am lately; last year’s 40 degree winter had me shivering in a frozen block of agony and, as of the past couple of days, this summer’s 90 plus degree heat has me absolutely furious since the humidity is not only affecting my sleep pattern but my ability to leave the house. I don’t mean the heat has sapped me of energy; I mean that the humidity has warped the door and its lock mechanisms and literally trapped me inside.
Sound ridiculous? A few weeks ago, I’d have thought so, too, but as the summer approached, Sean and I noticed that the door was becoming harder and harder to pull open, soon requiring a series of heavy shoves. The warpage theory is Sean’s and it kind of explains the door, but doesn’t set my mind at ease about the lock, which, in the past couple of days, has required even more of an effort than the door. Even Sean must expend Herculean efforts to get the stupid thing to turn. Last night, when he came home from his calligraphy class, he rang the doorbell rather than wrestle with it, only to find that I was having no more luck than him. We pushed, shoved, rattled, and swore and finally, after 5 minutes or so, got the key to turn in the lock. About 5 more shoves and he was inside. The lock, by the way, is new – every unit in our building was replaced perhaps a month ago and was working pretty well until this week.
Today is Monday, one of my days off, which I had intended to use for a bit of shopping. I have, against my better judgment, agreed to be a camp counselor for one of my company’s English Summer Camp sessions. Casual clothes are required and I haven’t bought a pair of shorts in 4 years. Squirt guns are also advised – for games, not for discipline – as are six packs of beer for when the kids go to bed. I’d have bought all of those items, plus maybe some lovely fish for dinner tonight, if today wasn’t such a hot day that opening the lock was impossible. That’s right; impossible. Not difficult, not time consuming – impossible. I slathered on the sunscreen, pinned on my sun hat, jiggled my bike keys in my pants pocket and prepared to leave the house. I twisted, I shoved, I pulled; that lock wasn’t budging. In annoyance and despair, I began to grunt and jiggle the door handle, in hopes that it might loosen the lock’s teeth. Nothing. I don’t know how possible it is to throw all of one’s weight into their two fingers, but nonetheless I tried, growing angrier by the second. It was as if the lock was stuck in place by super glue, so relentless was its hold.
I threw my hat on the floor, to join the bag and keys I’d hurled there when I first tried opening the lock. I shoved and pulled, gritting my teeth, the veins in my neck, no doubt, standing out. In frustration, I ran to the bathroom to get a cool washcloth – Sean had said it was the humidity that caused the door and the metal to warp; maybe cooling it down would help? Again, nothing. Nothing.
For half an hour I worked on that lock. Twisting, grunting, shouting, kicking. Finally, I stopped – I felt the sides of my neck pulsing uncomfortably – and stalked back into the dark living room, where I threw on the air conditioning. Maybe, I thought, the cool air dissipating throughout the house would help. 15 minutes later, I tried again. 15 minutes after that, I gave up. I was, for all intensive purposes, trapped.
So I’ve been inside all day, not buying squirt guns, not buying the “Summer Baa-gen” pedal pushers I saw at JeansMate, not perusing the fish market for tomorrow’s ceviche, not feeling the breeze in my hair as I pedal to midtown. Instead I’ve been writing which, of course, can never be a waste of time. But I assure you that when Sean returns from his karate tournament and finally succeeds at wrenching open this hermetically sealed chamber, I will explode from the open door like a coiled cat pouncing on the prey it has, so far, only been able to watch.