Locked out in Bahia by Richard Klein
The sky was spotlessly blue and we decided to spend it sunbathing by the sea. The beach was almost empty but, on the down side, it was a bit disappointing as it was enclosed in a lagoon rather than facing the open ocean. The water was shiny blue but shallow and muddy with hardly any waves, and while the sand was very thin and bright, the vegetation came close to the water, allowing for only a very narrow strip that was covered in rotting leaves. As the day progressed, the sun strengthened and after getting bored of lying on my back looking into the emptiness and being unable to swim or enjoy waves, I got up and asked Rosa if she was up for a beer.
“Where do you think you’ll get a beer here?”
“I think a boy just opened the door of that bar in front of where we parked the car.”
“Are you sure that is a bar?”
“It looked like one… Didn’t you see the chairs folded on top of the tables behind the house?”
“Well, if it’s a bar, yes! I want a beer.”
“Can you hand me the wallet? It’s in your bag.”
She stretched out and looked in her straw beach bag. “It isn’t here. You must have left it in the car.”
“So can you pass me the car keys?”
“You have them.”
After a short argument, the coin dropped that I’d somehow locked both keys and the wallet inside the car and now my morning in paradise was going to be spoiled by trying to rescue them. Not believing what an idiot I was, I got up and went to the empty bar and asked the teenage boy whom I’d seen earlier on for some help. My initial idea was to get something like a fishing line to hook the lock pin and then pull it up to unlock the door. I‘d seen the police once do this with an abandoned car in Rio and figured I could do the same. When I got there, the boy didn’t seem to be too interested in serving the potential client – me – but more intent in staring into the horizon to look cool and macho.
“Hi, you alright?” I said, trying to sound and look even cooler than him. “I have a problem with my car. Do you think you could help me out?”
The mulato youth with native features stopped looking at the horizon and, without saying anything, nor giving away what was going on inside his mind, went in to call the bar’s owner, probably his dad. A few seconds later, a tall and strong black guy in his late thirties came out of the door. Like his young attendant, he was in shorts and no shirt.
“Good morning”, He said with an indifferent but intense face. “How can I help you?”
Trying not to seem like a complete idiot, I scratched my head and explained. “Uhm… I locked my keys inside my car and need to get them out. I was wondering whether you have a hook and a piece of twine so I can put it through the window and pull up the lock.”
He looked at me seriously, measuring my abilities and my potential as a client and then he smiled. “A line and a hook will never open your lock. Where’s the car?”
Already feeling like an absolute shmuck, I led him there, noticing that we were being followed by a bunch of kids, who probably regarded this guy as their hero and wanted to see him in action. He kneeled down to examine the lock closer, then got up to look at me, making sure I noticed his disdainful expression.
“You’re lucky that your lock is not one of those new electronic ones.”
He kneeled down and started giving small side punches near the lock. I wondered what he was trying to do, but didn’t dare ask as everyone around seemed sure that he knew what he was doing. After a few repeated and slightly stronger punches, the pin started reacting, moving up slowly until it suddenly jumped into the unlocked position. He opened the door, laughed.
“Today you can only buy beers from me!”
He went back with the kids, all of them proud that the bar owner was clearly smarter than the carioca. A small crowd of adults had also gathered around to see the action of the day. They watched with curiosity as I pushed the car door open and went in to get my keys and my wallet. Because it had been parked under the sun for a couple of hours, an unbearable gust of hot of air came from inside. As I stepped into the oven-like heat to get the keys and the wallet, a tired mosquito flew out. I did not contain the joke and said out loud.
“This mosquito deserves a medal – it’s a freaking hero!”
No one found that funny, and perhaps despising me for having got into that mess, they dispersed. After I got back to the beach, Rosa and I spent the rest of the day getting beers and snacks from Rufino’s Bar. Despite his show-offy manner, he turned out to be a friendly guy. Perhaps as a form of rudimentary marketing, after lunch, he turned on his Lambada sound system. The music attracted local kids and teenagers to dance to the region’s rhythm in an almost pornographic way. Despite their youthful ages, they were very risqué, the guys dressed in inexpensive beachwear, wearing dark glasses and with gel on the hair, while the girls were in miniskirts, some of them using make up. I suspected Rufino, the bar owner, hired them to make customers join in. As the alcohol took effect under the scorching sun, we watched that surreal party and remained there relaxing until the sun set. We returned to our hotel room feeling very sexual after seeing that festival of juvenile sweaty rubbing.