This might seem like a meaningful discussion of the nature of life, but it's really a metaphor for forgetting your bike lock combination.

No, wait. That's backwards. Doesn't matter. You know what I'm talking about; we've all been there. And this time, I actually have something close to a legitimate excuse. It was my daughter's bike lock, and because she was in Brazil for the last year, it sat unused in the garage, quietly drawing up its plans against us. I'm convinced that it reprogrammed itself.

Here's how it plays out for anyone who has forgotten their combination.

Step one: I know the number. It'll be that sequence I always use. Click … click … click … click … annnnd pull!

And it's still locked!

You look at the lock with mild dismay. Those are the numbers, all right. Perhaps if you just clear it and start again, everything will be fine. You give the numbers a good Dutch Rub, as we used to call the painful epidermal abuse we gave to our closest friends. Remember that? You twist the skin on someone's forearm, and the friction generates pain, and it's your manly way of saying, "You're my best pal. If I loved you more I'd have to punch you."

So you scramble the numbers, line them up again and pull.


Focus. If it's not your default number, it's something close. Maybe it's your ATM PIN? No. You try it backwards. No. Hey, maybe it's the last four digits of your Social Security number. Nope.

Then you realize that this isn't surprising, because your lock default number, ATM PIN and last four Social Security digits are all the same.

"Did you figure it out?" Wife calls from upstairs.

"Not yet."

"Did you try the phone numbers?"

Oh, right. That's the next step: entering everyone's last four phone-number digits. Daughter's: no. Wife's: no. Mine: no.

OK, then, let's try birthdays. Still nothing.

You think back to when you bought the lock. "Hold on: I had nothing to do with the buying of this lock. This was purchased two years ago when we had a French foreign exchange student staying with us. Try 1789, the year of their revolution." No.

Desperation starts to set in as you realize that Daughter could have picked numbers for reasons you'd never suspect. Say, for instance, she had just finished doing her math homework and chose the 17th through 20th digits of Pi.

With no other options, I looked up the website for the lock manufacturer, whereupon I learned three things:

1. When you're young and imagine yourself in your mature years, you never consider that you'll be sitting in a garage googling a bike lock manufacturer.

2. I was irrationally angry that the company's website did not have instructions on how to instantly defeat the locking mechanism.

3. I read, with dismay, that the lock's combination could be customized. Could. That meant someone could have decided not to reset the numbers it came with from the factory and simply wrote down the sequence on a Post-it that was incinerated by municipal trash burners a long time ago, because someone saw a scrap of paper that said "9345" and nothing else and thought huh, that couldn't ever possibly be useful.

I googled the possible number combinations. There were 10,000 possible ones.

Well, best get started, then. If I get faint, I can order food. I can use this app right here on my phone.

If I remember my password, that is. And I don't.