On the afternoon of December 24th, 1991, I was making my way home to Bonnyville from a gig somewhere in Alberta.
It had been a long year and I was looking forward to getting home for the Holidays.
As I was passing through Edmonton I figured I’d stop and do some last minute shopping.
Downtown Edmonton was crazy with the hustle and bustle of other last minute shoppers like me.
It was snowing.
Elvis was having a Blue Christmas.
Bing a White Christmas.
Marilyn Monroe was singing to her Santa Baby.
Or was it Eartha Kitt’s version?
I don’t remember now…
Anyway, it was complete Norman Rockwell and after a couple of hours I had almost everything I’d come for.
But I had one more stop at the Brick on 107 Avenue and 101 Street.
There was a full length mirror there that my Mom had mentioned she liked and so I figured I’d pick it up for her.
As I was walking into the store I noticed a suspicious looking character sniffing around the parking lot.
He had a look like he was maybe looking for something that might not have been his.
Anyway, I went into the store and browsed around for a while.
I found the mirror that I was looking for and also some baskets that I thought my Mom would like.
The salesman was a nice guy and in the spirit of Christmas gave me a hand hauling and loading my purchases into my car.
I opened up the passenger door and oh so carefully and gently positioned the mirror in the passenger seat.
I took my coat off and used it as another layer of protection for the mirror.
I thanked the salesman, shook his hand and wished him a Merry Christmas.
I locked the passenger door and slammed it shut.
I’d locked my keys in the car.
There they were.
Right there on the dash.
It was 15 below zero and there I am locked out of my car without my jacket.
What an idiot!
What’s first thing you do when you lock your keys in the car, boy?
Get a coat hanger.
That’s right, I don’t know why, but you just do.
Maybe it’s so you can gouge your eyes out while wait for a tow truck to come and open your door for you.
The salesman and I went back into the store and got a coat hanger, untwisted it and started to, or should I say, “attempted to” pick the lock.
It didn’t take too long before we realized that neither of us had a clue as to how to pick a fucking lock.
I’d never learned how to pick a lock.
It had never crossed my mind to learn such a skill.
It was something I never thought I would need.
Like a diploma.
We stood around the car for probably 15 minutes, each taking turns trying to jimmy the lock.
I was freezing.
The salesman went back in the store to get his jacket.
I continued working away with the coat hanger.
When, all of a sudden, a voice behind me says,
“You need some help?”
I turned around and standing there was the guy who I’d seen slinking around the parking lot earlier.
“Yeah, man, I locked my fucking keys in the car…”
“Here, let me help you…” he said as he slipped a “Slim Jim” out of his sleeve.
If you’ve never seen one, a “Slim Jim” looks like a metal ruler.
They’re about an eighth of an inch thick, an inch wide, maybe around 15 inches long, they have a hook on the bottom and, apparently, work like a charm.
They are also illegal as all get out and are only used by people who are either tow truck drivers or guys breaking into cars.
I didn’t see a tow truck around so I figured out pretty quick what this guy was up to on this Christmas Eve.
He stepped up to the car, slid the slim jim in between the door and window and in less that 5 seconds the door was open.
“Hey, thanks man.”
“No problem, Merry Christmas.”
“Yeah, man, you too, Merry Christmas.”
“Hey, if anyone asks, you didn’t see me out here… alright?”
“Alright, yeah sure, you bet, man. No problem, thanks.”
And like that, he disappeared into the falling snow.
Suddenly, to me, in my eyes, this guy was like Robin Hood.
You know, breaking into cars and stealing gifts from the rich to give to the poor down at the mission on Christmas Eve.
At least, that’s the way I felt about him.
A hero to the downtrodden.
He was like Pretty Boy Floyd.
But, at the end of the day, I think he was looking for a little good karma.
That’s all he wanted for Christmas…
A little good karma.
But I wonder…
Over the years, as the holiday season approaches, I find myself thinking about that day.
I’m not even sure what the moral of this story is.
But it’s a story alright…
And a good one, too.
It was my mother’s last Christmas.