Arriving at the London flat, we knew it wasn’t going well. Our tour manager Brian (not his real name) organised a flat through Air BnB, rather than stick us in a hotel. There were four of us, and it made financial sense. The problem was, there were two beds, not four, as Brian had thought. Luckily we were only three that night, so we made it work. The place was clean, but there was no internet, no TV… Not much of anything other than beds; an otherwise empty place, where it seems no one had lived for some time.
A man received us; clean-cut, shaven head, thin. Pleasant enough, but nervous. He wasn’t the owner/landlord, he was an agent, a cleaner, a go-between if you will. He handed us a set of keys and we settled in. Two of us went to the pub soon after and got trashed. We returned, stumbled another beer into us, and went to bed.
The following morning we were a little hungover, but mobile. I went out for breakfast leaving the keys, and upon my return, Harry (not his real name) let me back in. He had been out while I was out, but Mark had let him in.
Our ride turned up, and we pulled the door shut behind us. This is the first time all three of us had left the flat. We went to work, setting up for a showcase gig in a basement venue, lugging heavy equipment down and back up the stairs.
We returned to the flat in the early evening, and found ourselves locked out. The Yale lock worked just fine, but the deadbolt was on, and we had no key for it. The nervous cleaner must have visited during the day and forgotten we hadn’t a key for the deadlock. The funny thing at this point is, Harry is carrying a bucket of beer we took back from the venue. The plan was to leave the beer in the flat, splash some water on our faces, and head out to eat. But all we could do was leave a bucket of beer at the door. I phoned Brian to apprise him, and we went off to eat. Indian. Mark and Rick met us there. They had already been put up in a hotel, leaving Harry and I with the flat.
While we were out, things started to kick off. The landlord said there was only ONE set of keys, and we had them. We were convinced someone had locked the deadbolt, because we sure as anything didn’t have the key for it. I ordered my dinner, and phone calls and texts flew through the air. Soon enough I had to abandon my food (before tasting a single bite) to babysit a locksmith. The landlord insists we have to pay.
Neighbours stick their heads into the hallway upon hearing a DeWalt cordless boring its way through an already damaged door. Eventually we get in. The deadbolt in question is one of those ‘close behind you’ types, spring loaded, locking automatically. The simplest explanation now is that one of us (probably me because if there’s a way to screw something up, I’ll find it) had engaged the lock last night, for extra security. No matter when it was engaged, it was never a problem because the flat was never empty; until this morning.
But the question is, what kind of landlord has only one set of keys? Even better, he says there is NO key for that spring-loaded deadbolt. Why… the eff… Would you let your place out, knowing there’s a lock with no key? And why would your agent not think to tell a tenant? Why not even have a note stuck to the inside, explaining there is no key?
Back in 2013 my family and I rented a houseboat on an Amsterdam canal. That was through Air BnB, and oddly enough, there was a lock with no key. The owner/agent made sure to explain it to us. No problem. But here in Belsize Park, logic takes a holiday.
Fizz, whirr the drill spins, and with the help of an awl, we’re in. Rick brings me a doggy bag from the restaurant; my food is room temperature and not all that great. Potato-something-or-other.
Next is the matter of paying the locksmith. Landlord thinks this is all our fault, and he’s somewhere else in England anyway. The cleaner/agent wants nothing to do with this. Brian is texting me, saying we should scarper. But it’s bad karma to leave the locksmith in the lurch; he’s a good guy. Young family man, plays bass, spins the discs in his spare time. This was supposed to be his day off. Over the phone the landlord is berating him, treating him like an arbiter in this mess. That ain’t right. Anyway, the locksmith is flabbergasted, as a guy who knows locks, why anyone would let their place out with an unknown lock. I pay him. Fortunately he can take a card, because none of us have any cash.
Brian booked Harry and I into the same hotel as Rick and Mark. Our luggage and the bucket of beer need a new home. We bid goodbye to the locksmith, tell him to take a few beers, and off we trot. I shut the door (minus one lock) behind us, and pop the keys through the letterbox, leaving the ordeal behind us. But…
Brian phones: “What did you do with the keys?”
Me: “I did what I always do in these situations, I left them inside.”
Brian: (Long, empty pause.) “That’s the only set.”
I guess the locksmith will have another job.