Immovable object meets great force

I can happily walk past something that needs fixing at the house for years without attempting a repair. Sure, an annoying little voice in my head says “You should really fix that”, but moving from thought to action only happens if the consequence of inaction is dire, like, say, flooding or structural collapse. I don’t think this is a special gift unique to me, lots of men can do this. I can’t think of a better illustration of this benign neglect than the fiddly lock on the door into the kitchen. About two years ago a double turn with the key made it almost impossible to unlock the door for some reason, so we downgraded security and only turned the cylinder once. Problem solved. Then the single turn started to cause issues until we discovered that gently turning it while pulling the key out, only slightly, seemed to work. Problem solved again. I knew the logical progression would lead to a lock that simply wouldn’t work at all, and the reckoning came last week.

I came back to the house from a pleasant morning on the boat, and inserted my key into the kitchen door, heading straight for the wine. The bolt retreated into the lock and the door opened. The key, however, remained resolutely stuck in the cylinder. Refusing to consider the obvious (my two year run was at an end), I studiously worked to find the next Hogwarts fix. Maybe a rapid clockwise turn while moving the key up and down would be the new order. Nothing. I almost tried “Wingardium Leviosa” until I realized it meant the entire door would fly off. Perhaps it was time for a more forceful approach.

Giovanni is the husband of our housekeeper on Salina and the go-to guy for any odd job that needs doing. His width almost matches his height and I can only describe his shape as a perfect square. He is mostly muscle with some space reserved for showcasing a lifetime of pasta appreciation. I’ve been tempted a few times to measure the circumference of his forearms to see if they really are bigger than my thighs. I’m pretty sure they are. Giovanni is a great force, fortified over the years working for the Sicilian forest service and hauling masonry around.

Luckily Giovanni was working next door at my neighbour’s house the day my kitchen door lock called it quits. Walking over slowly, purposefully, I knew the consequences of asking him to help. Solving the problem would involve power tools and ultimately lead to a pile of mangled metal, with the potential for collateral damage. I was desperate, and Giovanni was willing.

Following some brief discussion about the problem (“the key is stuck and won’t come out”), Giovanni’s intervention started as you would expect. He tried all of the things that I had already been trying just in case I didn’t fiddle with it quite the right way. His patience ran out a lot faster than mine did, and he started asking for tools. The first tool requested was a simple wrench so that he could apply more force to turning the key. I obliged, and within a few minutes, the key had broken off in the cylinder. Giovanni assured me that this was to be expected and that now things would really escalate. I started to wonder if I would need a helmet.

At this point, the only possible solution was to drill through the cylinder. The plate on the door wouldn’t come off unless the cylinder was removed, and the key prevented the cylinder from moving. Power tools. Giovanni headed off to get a drill, relishing the opportunity to do battle with hardened steel. The drilling noise was ear shattering and I feared for Giovanni’s hearing. The drill bits were reaching the surface temperature of the sun and he seemed to be bending them to hollow out the cylinder. After 15 minutes he was sweating in my air conditioned kitchen but no less resolute.

As I couldn’t really do much to help I decided to have lunch. It would be a little annoying with all the noise, but I was part of the team. We all had to contribute. I opened a nice bottle of Passobianco (a lovely chardonnay from Etna) and prepared my standard Mediterranean selection of tuna, Antipasta Eoliana, some whole grain bread, and a bit of cheese. I did ask Giovanni if he would like a little something, but hunger was fuelling his determination.

Just as I was about to suggest a break in the operation, Giovanni broke through and proudly displayed the defeated cylinder. I knew he would get there eventually, and that his great force would prevail. I’ve kept the lock and the cylinder as a tribute to his determination. Thank you Giovanni. By the way, I also noticed the gate doesn’t close quite right…..

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