Biff America: Germs and burglary


It was a fairly large parking lot. So I might not have noticed the nicely dressed, middle-aged lady a few cars down had she not been walking around her vehicle pounding her own head.

Actually, it was more a lightly tapping in frustration rather than pure pounding. I thought to myself, this gal seems a little wacky, which also served to remind me this past 12 months has made us all a little wacky.

Doing my best to ignore her, I got into my car and attempted to drive away.

Having just gotten my second COVID-19 vaccine, I decided I better get home, get dressed and do some skiing before any side effects might kick in.

I had to drive by the agitated lady to get out of the lot. She was still pacing, talking to herself, so I gave her a wide berth. As I rolled by slowly, she waved her hands to flag me down.

I rolled down my window, pulled up my buff and said, “Hey, what’s up?” She asked if I had a cellphone she could borrow. She was well dressed and looked fit. That being the case, I got out of my car to hand her my cellphone in case she ran, and I had to chase her down.

She dialed a number, listened, and then handed me my phone in frustration. “My husband won’t pick up. He probably doesn’t recognize your phone number.”

Despite my better judgment, I asked what the problem was. She motioned me over to her fancy car with tinted windows. She pointed through the windshield, and I saw a cellphone and car keys on the dashboard. I could hear her cellphone ringing.

“I locked my phone and keys in the car,” she said. “I was supposed to pick up my husband and kids 20 minutes ago at the resort after I got my vaccination. We have an appointment later today that if we miss will take a month to reschedule.”

I quizzed her on her timeline. Waiting for a locksmith or AAA would take too long and cause her to miss the appointment.

I offered a possible third option.

I had just picked up some laundered shirts from the dry cleaners, so I had a thin, wire coat hanger in the car. I told her I might be able to open her car with that, but I warned her that — succeed or fail — it might slightly scratch the rubber molding around her car’s door. She answered that the car was leased and asked me to give it a try.

As I was wedging the coat hanger between the door and vehicle, I could hear her cellphone ringing again.

“I bet that’s my husband,” she said. “He must be frantic about missing our appointment.”

Now is not the time to explain how I acquired the skills to (sometimes) be able to open a locked car door with a coat hanger, but I will say I needed a little more clearance. I grabbed a screwdriver from my car, wedged it between the door and the frame and asked her to put gentle pressure on it.

We were standing shoulder to shoulder, with her putting pressure on the screwdriver and me working the coat hanger. We both yelled in delight when the lock popped open. I refused her offer of cash. I asked for my screwdriver back and hurried back toward my car.

Over my shoulder I heard, “Hey, wait!”

As I turned, she approached me fast, put both hands on my face and said, “You’ll never know, thank you.” As she walked away, she said over her shoulder, “sorry.”

I didn’t know if she was sorry for taking my time or touching me. But I did know her touch was both scary and electric.

I’m not a particularly touchy person. Of course, I often hug my mate and occasionally my oldest friends and family. And once, when the plumber showed up at my house on time, I hugged him. But until this pandemic, hugging and touching never scared me. But as absence makes the heart grow fonder, I long for the day when I can hug a plumber without showering in hand sanitizer afterward.

It was while driving home another fear gripped me. I hoped it was actually that lady’s car I had just broken into.

Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at

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