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?
* * *
Have you ever been in trouble caused by a moment of not-thinking? Ever been locked out?
I’m glad you got help and managed to get back in to your apartment before your husband came home. I got locked out on a balcony, 2nd floor for 2 hours in South Africa, in the rain, phone inside and no one around as it was a holiday let. I just yelled help, till a neighbour heard and called the landlord who sent someone round with a key, but as it was South Africa, I’d left the key on a half turn inside the lock, so the door had to be broken to let me out, hubby arrived home half… Read more »
Oh, what an awful story! I hope can laugh about it now?
Hilarious! Thx for sharing your misfortunes with us. 😉 Luckily, haven’t been locked out since living abroad, but I do have a story. Several years ago, I left my 2 beagles in the running car because I just quickly had to run back inside the house for something, right? Well, of course, one of the beagles put her paws up to the window and pressed down the automatic locks with me looking on. Not good. I didn’t have a spare car key so I had to get a hold of my ex who was at work and get him to… Read more »
Phew, scary!The Dutch have a saying: An accident sits in a tiny corner. Good thing you had someone else with a key to call!
Dear Wendela, thanks for your story. About 20 years ago we were on holidays in Le Lavandou, South of France. We had just arrived at our rented flat and went on the balcony to enjoy the view. Our little boys closed the door for fun and it locked also – and of course they were too small to unlock. We were shocked! Because it was off season and nobody around. We shouted and finally a woman heard us. We explained her as good as we could, where our agent had the office. She reached the agent just before they left… Read more »
I’ve been locked in once, does that count? I went to the toilet and I was then unable to open the door. I figured they would come and look for me when they wanted to leave, since I had the coach keys in my pocket! And I only had to wait 5 minutes!
Wow, only 5 minutes! I was locked in a restaurant bathroom once and it took my husband 20 minutes to start wondering . . . and I don’t have a habit of lingering in bathrooms any time anywhere. He was reading the Herald Tribune at the time and probably just “forgot” about me 😉
I got locked in a toilet in a monastery on the Greek island of Kea. The monks were away on some monkish business and there was only a caretaker who would have had no reason to come looking for me. I took the latch apart with my Swiss Army Knife to make good my escape. I now never travel without one.
I wonder if your door might have latched because it was on the first floor, as a security feature.
Shamefully, one time I was locked out of my house while I was pregnant. After a nice walk around the neighborhood trying to decide what to do, I finally broke into my house, only to find my keys in the pocket of the outfit I was wearing.
I did exactly the same thing in Dubai but it was mid-summer and about 40C outside. I would have been nothing more than a damp spot on the concrete by the time my husband came home. Fortunately I was able to hail some passing workmen, who fetched security to let me in. Rent increased the higher up you were in the building and I was so glad we’d decided to save some money and take one on a lower floor. If I’d been on the 20th floor I would have been scuppered.
Haha – good stories always come out of predicaments. Now this hasn’t happened to me yet, but my nightmare in this scenario is locking myself out not just barefoot but naked. Not that I meander around naked, mind you, at least not when sober, but somehow the thought is just too terrible to bear. Like being in a hotel and retrieving the newspaper in the morning, and the door falling shut behind you accidentally. Not a pleasant thought. Glad all that was bare on you was just your feet:-)
I have a history of getting myself locked out or locked in, but fortunately so far not in a state of nakedness. I suppose there is time yet 😉 but I’ll try not to lie awake worrying about it.
Once without looking carefully, I stepped out of a boat onto a wooden dock that wasn’t attached to anything, and I and started to float away with my one year old baby strapped in a heavy car seat in my arms, and the dock was sinking.
Wow, I bet you won’t look at a glass sliding door in the same way ever again! What a great story it makes though. I have a similar story. I came out of the house to answer the doorbell and the wind blew shut the porch door behind me, locking it. I was living alone. The electician who I had come out to talk to asked me whether I was doing the washing or anything. YES!! Yes, I was, the back door was open for the dryer! The electrician pulled out his ladder from the van and hopped over the… Read more »
You just never know what “little thing” might get you into trouble. You sure were lucky to have your electrician there!