The last thing I wanted was a long ordeal. My husband and I had just arrived in Berkeley for our annual family visit, and my stepdad and little brother, who’s eight, had met us at the airport. They were driving us to our Airbnb apartment, an ordeal that turned into a long, grueling, stop-and-go circuit around the entire Bay Area. The whole holiday season was uncommonly wet, and unusually cold, by Berkeley standards — a big disappointment because this East Coaster, eager for a break from the cold, had optimistically packed a decidedly autumnal wardrobe. The rain was falling in big, plashy drops, so when we arrived — finally — at the apartment, we were anxious to get inside and stop traveling. I had to pee, and was trying not to show it by dancing about in an “I’m Cold” rather than a “My Bladder’s about to explode” kind of way. I fumbled for my phone to find the text message from my Airbnb host, which had instructions for finding the key.
She had written, “I am putting the keys on the back side of the small white fence to the left of the house. it is in a magnet key lock on the other side of the fence. The combination is 207.”
Seemed simple enough, but these kinds of things always fill me with a kind of dread, that somehow I missed a crucial detail which will cause me to end up stranded, or at least significantly uncomfortable. That the apartment was the only residential building on an otherwise broad-streeted, corner-gas-station, whizzing-car block added to my slight unsettled feeling.
So. We saw a white fence, check. But, hm. It was padlocked shut. Same with the fence on the other side of the house. Shake the fence, no luck. Any evidence of a key? Nope. Note for us on the front porch? Nope.
Rain on the pavement. Slow soaking of my suede shoes. Tap tap tap goes the bathroom dance. I feel panic starting to rise up the outsides of my neck. I know we’ll figure it out, but can feel the panic slowly threatening to take over my mind into worry and frustration. Husband paces, stepdad paces. Keep panic at bay, keep warm, focus on problem solving. Try the gate again, reread the text message. Pass the phone, read the message aloud. Fence, door, phone.
“So, um, Deedee?”
“So is this, like, a mystery adventure? Did they leave you a code, and now you have to go on a search, and then you’ll find a secret key, and then figure out how to use the code? Can I help you look for the mystery?”
“You know,” I said, “that’s a really great way to think about it.”
It takes a kid to turn your anxiety on its head like that.
I told myself to be patient as he now peppered me with questions about every step of the “investigation,” wanting to open the lockbox himself (we did find it, eventually), and insisting that he help us carry our luggage into the house, even though it weighed as much as he did. And by the time we were inside, I was in a curious mood myself, wondering if I would be the one with such superlative instincts as to be able to discover the location of my host’s invisible cat (I was).
With his little voice, piping up in the midst of my slowly rising discomfort and worry, my brother had reminded me that all it takes is curiosity, to turn worry into an adventure.