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Jim Mullen: Unlocking locks of luck

Jim Mullen • Updated Mar 3, 2017 at 4:15 PM

You’ve all seen the pictures, you’ve all read the stories about that bridge in Paris – the one where lovers would clamp padlocks on the railings to symbolize their love.

What putting a lock on a bridge has to do with love escapes me. Why not throw a hot dog over a tennis court to symbolize your love? Or shave off one eyebrow? Or hammer a nail into a grapefruit? It would make about as much sense as the padlock idea, which makes you wonder what 13-year-old came up with it in the first place.

Of course, the more pictures of the bridge that showed up in the press, the more young lovers came to attach locks to the bridge. Finally, part of the railing collapsed from the weight of thousands of locks, and they had to forbid locks altogether. What does that symbolize?

Since that wave of publicity hit, I have noticed padlocks showing up on all kinds of bridge railings, not in Paris, but in this country. It’s become a thing, like carving your initials on a tree. And it’s about as reliable a predictor of lasting love as that turned out to be.

“That’s right,” said my oft in-and-out-of-love friend Jody. “What I’d really like to know is, are any of those couples who put locks on the bridge still together? Where is the follow-up reporting on that? We know what happened to the locks, but what happened to the lovers? 

“Well, take a guess,” Jody continued. “She didn’t like his friends, he thought she spent too much money on her nails, she didn’t like his boys’ nights out, he doesn’t let the dog sleep in the bed, she threw out his favorite T-shirt, he was sleeping with her best friend. They fight about money, booze and in-laws. Putting a lock on a bridge is easy. Loving somebody is hard. It’s a full-time job with no days off, no vacations and you work for a crazy boss.”

Jody was on a roll. He had this idea between his teeth, and he was going to keep shaking it. 

“Where do people get the idea that love is easy? Is it the 50 percent divorce rate? Is it all the murder/suicides? Is it all the single moms struggling to get along out there? Is it all the Adele breakup songs? Do padlock lovers really think they’ll meet the person of their dreams, stick a lock on a bridge and everything will be hunky-dory from then on out? Even in romantic movies, it doesn’t work out that way. At least not until the very end. And, by the way, that’s the same movie your padlock boyfriend didn’t want to see, so you went by yourself while he went to see ‘X-Men.’ What could possibly go wrong in that relationship?

“A padlock or a wedding ring is not some piece of magic that will keep you together if the thing it symbolizes – real love – fizzles out. Sometimes the symbol can actually get in the way. A big, flawless diamond seems to cause temporary insanity, not a deeper, more lasting love. 

“You should hear the things they say. ‘Oh, he’ll give up crack once we’re married.’ ‘Oh, he won’t need to drink once we’re married.’ ‘He loves my children.’ ‘He left her; he’s with me now.’ ‘He’s going back to college right after the baby’s born.’ ‘Her mother’s OK once you get to know her.’ 

“Sometimes I think love is just a big con game.”

Wow. I’d had no idea Jody had given the subject of “love padlocks” so much thought. While he’d never gotten married, he’d had a string of girlfriends as long as my arm, and they all seemed to stay friends. His relationships never ended badly, they just never led to anything more. I just assumed he hadn’t met the right one yet.

“How do you know so much about this?” I asked.

“Because I have a drawer full of padlocks,” he said. “I can find that bridge in Paris blindfolded at midnight.”

Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.

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