Just one micro-second of inattention and you’re in trouble. One moment of not thinking and you manage to get yourself in a problem situation. Okay, that’s saying the same thing twice, but it just struck me one day how little it really takes. Because, well, here I was . . . stuck, barefoot and phone-less.
(I wrote this story some years ago, while living in Moldova. I now live in France.)
I’m living in a temporary rented service apartment because our expat house here in quiet, peaceful Moldova is severely soaked in water and we had to move out (see all about the flood tragedy here.)
It’s a sunny day and I decide to take my book onto the balcony and sit in the sun for fifteen minutes to get my dose of vitamin D3. You all know how you should do that, right? The sun in moderate amounts is your friend, especially for your bones.
I open the sliding glass doors and step onto the balcony. My feet are bare because I like the feel of a cool floor underfoot. Now, since I am generally of a save-energy-recycle-save-the-planet disposition if it’s not too much trouble, I close the sliding doors because the air-conditioner is on in the living room.
And that’s where I make the mistake.
I’m used to sliding glass doors in many places, including the USA, where you just close and open them at will from both sides. If you want to lock them, you can only lock them from the inside.
Not so here. You close them, you lock them. Only on the inside can you unlock them.
So, here I am, a barefoot Miss Footloose, locked out of the house, on an apartment balcony in the full summer sun. I take a deep breath and consider the situation:
1. I have no phone; it’s inside.
2. It will be at least four hours before my mate will come home.
3. Four hours sitting in the sun is not good.
4. The bathroom is on the other side of these doors. Also not good.
CONCLUSION: I have to get off the balcony!
The apartment building has 12 floors. But, thank the gods, I am in luck: We’re on the ground floor. To get off the balcony I have to climb over a low wall which has built-in flower boxes, newly filled with soil, and walk barefoot through a patch of soil not yet seeded or planted, to get onto the pavement. (They’re busy doing a massive landscaping overhaul around the building.) So I clamber over the wall.
Then I’m free, barefoot, phone-less but free. But I still can’t get into my apartment because the front door is locked from the inside. And I don’t know another soul in this building to call on and ask if I can hang out until my man comes home. Or even to ask to use their phone to call my husband, because . . . I don’t know his number! It’s in the phone and not in my head. I don’t know anybody’s phone number! Note to self: Memorize husband’s phone number.
I have a British friend who lives an eight-minute walk away, but if you’ve seen the sidewalks here you know that without shoes there is no way, no way, to get there without losing your feet. Besides she may not be home.
There is a security guard at the entrance of the compound, and I can get there on my bare feet. Maybe he has some idea of what to do. Or he can call the property management company. My active Romanian vocabulary is pathetic, but my predicament is easily explained with pantomime. Pointing at my bare feet ads to the drama. I do thank the gods I am in a place where showing bare feet (and bare legs) is not taboo or an invitation to sexual jollies (see my bare ankles? See my apartment? Wanna come with me?)
I prevail upon him to call the property management company. The man gets on the phone. Another man appears. They study our apartment, see that the bedroom window on the second floor (we have two floors) is open. Someone gets a ladder, but it’s not nearly tall enough. They talk on the phone some more. In the mean time my feet are burning from standing on the hot pavement stones and I’m jumping from one onto the other, looking all elegant and dignified.
A woman appears, smiling and talking to me, and making noises about a key. I don’t have a key. It’s probably the most fun they’ve had all day. There’s more messing around on the phone, talking and discussing in Russian and Romanian. I feel helpless and stupid. Then another woman appears. I’ve seen her around the building and know she’s on the housekeeping staff. Cleaning services are available here, although I don’t use them.
Praise be, she has a master key to the front door.
PS: And now I’m worrying about all these floors high up and the balcony doors that lock you out if you close them from the outside.
And, being a writer, I make up scenarios about mothers locked out and small children inside and . . . well, you can finish it for yourself, can’t you?
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Have you ever been in trouble caused by a moment of not-thinking? Ever been locked out?