When Zippers Won’t Come Undone

My keys were stuck in my pocket thanks to a zipper that wouldn’t come undone.

Not long ago, I wrote about little angels — strangers who help us when we need a pick-me-up or a favor. I bumped into two of these angels today, when I was in need of some zipper help. I had just come back from a 12-mile bike ride and was outside of my apartment trying to get my keys out of my pocket. I was wearing black spandex shorts that have a little pocket on the butt. It’s the perfect size for keys and for the student ID I used to stick in there while running at college.

But the pocket’s zipper isn’t so perfect. When I tried to open the pocket, the zipper wouldn’t budge. After a few minutes of unsuccessful attempts, I went downstairs, thinking maybe I could find someone who would help me. As I waited outside in the lobby to my apartment, I looked through an abandoned baby book that was full of photos dated 1977. The album was accompanied by a baby book filled with details about the baby’s birth and growth. I didn’t know why the books were there, nestled underneath a stack of phone books and some copies of The Clearwater Citizen, but they entertained me while I waited.

I heard a “bing” and looked up to see the numbers on the elevator light up. I hoped someone would come downstairs who didn’t seem to be in much of a rush. Within a minute, an old lady riding a motorized scooter came off the elevator. Perfect. At the same time, another elderly woman walked into the lobby, and the two started talking.

Their conversation went something like this:

“Wow, feel this beautiful breeze,” said Helen, the woman on the scooter.

“Oh I know, they ought to keep these doors open more often,” said Anne, her friend.

I had never seen these two women before, but I chimed into the conversation, saying, “Yeah, this breeze feels great. I just got back from a bike ride, so I’m loving it.”

After easing my way into their conversation, I made my move. “Hey, this is a strange request, but I stuck my keys inside my pocket before I went for a bike ride, and now I can’t get the pocket’s zipper undone.”

“What?” they said. “We can’t hear you. The breeze is creating a wind tunnel.”

“Oh,” I said, moving closer and elevating my voice. “I just said that I’m having trouble undoing my pocket zipper, and my keys are stuck in there.”

Helen beckoned me toward her, and she began to tug on my zipper. “Hmm, it won’t budge.” She kept trying to no avail.

“Let me try,” said Anne, the brim of her sun hat shading her face. “I don’t have my glasses, so I don’t know how well I’ll be able to see, but I’ll try.” She concluded that the teeth on the zipper were not lined up correctly.

“Can you take your pants off? You don’t want to lose those panties.”

“Oh my shorts? No, if you have some scissors, I can probably just cut the pocket open.”

Helen decided she would call her son, Mike, for some help. He didn’t answer, so she left a message. “Hi Mike, there’s a lady down here who needs help getting something unzipped.” (True quote)

Oh my.

“Why don’t you come into my apartment?” said Ann. “I’ve got some scissors you can use.”

As we walked a few feet to her apartment, I said lots of thank yous so she wouldn’t worry about having a complete stranger in her house armed with scissors.

I went into her bathroom and cut the pocket open. The keys fell into my hand. Mission accomplished.

“I got ’em!” I said, smiling and dangling the keys in the air.

“Oh great! And you still have your pants on!”

“Yep, I still have them. I can still wear them, I just can’t use the pocket anymore.”

“Oh good!”

We walked outside, and Helen was waiting nearby. I told her I was all set, thanks to Anne and her save-the-day-scissors.

You never know when you’re going to run into a little angel. And you never know when your zippers will break. You just have to hope you’ll run into some sweet, little old ladies who will lend you some scissors and give you a good old-fashioned laugh.

Click here to read another story about strangers and zippers.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

3 thoughts on “When Zippers Won’t Come Undone

  1. Yes, she really did say that to her son. The conversation was paraphrased, but certain lines, like that one, were verbatim. Part of the reason I wanted to write about the story was because of the ridiculousness of the conversation.

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