Years ago I worked on one of the toughest consulting assignments I’ve ever done. One of my favorite project team members was a woman who would be responsible for one of the new call centers when the project was completed. Her favorite phrase, which she used frequently in team meetings, was “Just shoot me now.”
I felt that way this morning. Because as I fumbled for the keys on my way to school, I realized I didn’t have them. Not just the keys to my classroom, but also to the office/library, which is used by all the teachers and houses the copy machine. Because I’m usually the first one at school, and I’m old and a palagi, I get the responsibility of “the keys”.
No need to panic. I mentally retraced my steps from the night before. It had been a busy day. A day, ironically, in which I’d been congratulating myself for not losing my phone/house key.
I had the keys when I left for home in late afternoon, after helping to decorate the faleaoga for today’s meeting. Then a PC staff member driving by saw me and stopped. I got in her car to drive to the beach fales just up the road and know I had the keys then because they fell out of my lap when I got out of the car.
After the staffer and I talked for a bit, she drove off to visit another volunteer and I walked back home. Did I have the keys then? I couldn’t remember.
This morning I searched my computer and school bags. I searched my purse. I searched my house, including the freezer, thinking that maybe when I put groceries away I accidentally tucked the keys in too. I was thinking of the time I’d come home with clean laundry and groceries and put my boyfriend’s underwear in the freezer and the green beans in his underwear drawer. He swore I did it on purpose. No, I’m just easily distracted.
Nothing. I had kids come from the school and help me search my house after they searched my bags. TSA would have been impressed with the kids’ thoroughness. Actually, I think they could be good candidates for TSA. When you start a sentence with “Where is the” they spring to action and enjoy the challenge of finding the unfindable. But this time, no luck.
I walked down to the beach fale where we were sitting the evening before. The woman whose family owns the beach fale was sweeping the sand and I told her I was looking for the keys. She said some men had been there the night before and that she would ask around to see if anyone found anything.
I trudged reluctantly back to the school. It was now getting close to starting time and my room was locked, along with the office. Happily, some of the kids were able to break into my room. Clever, those kids. The office, however, was more secure and locked up tight. I had to tell my two bosses that I’d lost the keys. I apologized. I was beyond contrite. They took it in stride and told me not to worry about it, although it really was a huge deal. I offered to pay for a new lock and any damage that needed to be repaired if we had to break down the door to the office. Again, they told me not to worry about it.
I suspect that they might have been pondering the severity of the Samoan court system. Ordinarily, this might constitute justifiable homicide, but since I’m a geezerly palagi, might the courts mete out a stiffer penalty? I wouldn’t blame them. I’d have been royally ticked off, in their shoes. They were nothing but kind to me.
After teaching Year 7, I was considering the situation. I remembered that my hotel room key had opened the lock to my new house. Maybe someones house key would open the lock to the office. I started with the principal, explained my theory and asked for his key. As I was explaining, a car rolled toward the school. “I think that’s the man who owns the beach fales.” I flew outside and down the stairs. As I ran toward his car, he waved the lanyard, with keys attached, out the window. His family had found them the night before, where I’d left them at the beach fale.
I don’t know a lot of Samoan but I know “Fa’afetai Atua.” Thank God. I suggested that the principal keep the keys so this didn’t happen again. He declined. He trusts me. Or God.