8 December 2010Angie is a busy, busy woman. One minute she's here, and the next, she's on her way to New Zealand. Two nights and one day after she arrived, she was off again. We said goodbye after her pedicure and I went to work. I gave her a set of keys in case she wanted to go wandering San Francisco in the rain. A few hours later, her cab came. I met her in front of my apartment building to say goodbye and get the keys. We had already decided I would be visiting her next, so there wasn't a whole lot of sadness. We're professionals. I then went back to work and enjoyed an uneventful day. I came home, checked the mail, smiled at a new Real Simple magazine, put my key in the apartment door, turned the lock, twisted the doorknob and froze.
It was less that I froze and more that the knob was not turning. I started begging.
"No, Ang. No."
Little known fact, we never got keys to the doorknob of this apartment. For two years we avoided that by not pushing the button. I never told Angie about the button. It never occurred to me because I live my life as if that button were invisible. But it is visible. And it is pushable. And it is logical that someone would push it for the sake of safety. There was no reason to be mad. And I wasn't. But I was locked out of my apartment at 11 at night. I notified the proper entities: Angie, Facebook, XBFJ.
The reality was XBFJ was the only person I knew in this town. He was the only person who knew me, what I could & couldn't and would & wouldn't do. I had to notify him of the situation in case I needed him later. Once that was out of the way, I considered, and executed my options.
Option One: Picking the lock
It's a stupid button. There is obviously some sort of tumbler mechanism involved, or at least some sort of spring that will release it. I tried every key I had. I tried to force a few too. I took out the tweezers and toothpick on my Swiss Army key chain and tried to get them in some kind of key formation. I searched my purse for any kind of gadget and came up short. I was not getting in through that door.
Option Two: Fire Escape
Two of my windows open to the fire escape. I thought I could possibly get one open. I packed up my purse (no idea why) and went up to the roof. There -- whilst wearing off-white pants and carrying a purse -- I proceeded to improperly climb down the ladder. Now you will say "Danie, you went to college. How can you improperly climb down a ladder?" I will tell you. The ladder is not flush with the building. It's about a foot or so away. In my mind, that design was perfect for keeping people safe. Clearly the intent was for people to climb down with their backs against the building, so they felt secure, in case they were afraid of heights. That made perfect sense to me, as I slithered myself (and my purse) between the ladder and the building. My opinion changed when I could not move my knees. I would have had to just slide to the next floor. That could not have been right. So I pulled myself back to the roof. I positioned myself on the outside of the ladder and was immediately aware of the gravity of my situation.
It was still drizzling, and everything was wet. I was wearing rain boots, great for puddles, not known for traction. I was about to climb down a wet ladder in the dark with the weight of a (heavy) purse on one side. I would likely die if I fell and it would be a long time before anyone would think to look for me behind my building. But I didn't see another option. So I proceeded. No one called the police to report the black person in white pants scaling down the back of a building carrying a purse. And I lived. But I could not get either window to budge. So I climbed back to the roof to alert XBFJ of my progress. It was beginning to sink in that I was going to need help.
Option Three: Hallway Window
I have a small window that's high in my hallway. It's accessible from the outside, but only the outside that's accessible from inside the building. It doesn't really make sense om your screen, but only tenants would have access to this window. This window gave me hope. It was open. I got the screen out. I could feel my apartment's air. But I could get to it. It was too high. I tried (in my rain boots, but sans purse) to stand on the railing and boost myself into the window. No dice. I tried standing on two stacked paint cans, but I was still too short. I remembered the abandoned, rain-soaked kitchen chair in the random area behind my building. I went and I carried it upstairs as quietly as I could. It was heavy. My pants were close to ruined. The chair was only an inch higher than the two stacked paint cans. I wanted to cry.
I stacked the paint cans on top of the chair.
I stood on the railing to boost myself.
I stepped off the railing, onto the paints cans and I pushed.
I got an arm, my head, and a boob into the window.
That chair had apparently been soaking up rain for years. Its metal was rusted and its everything else was ready for disintegration. Two paint cans + one Danie did the trick. And there I was, dangling as quietly as possible, trying to find the strength to walk myself up the wall and into this window. I had almost forgotten the coat hooks waiting there like teeth to devour intruders. They would not get to gobble me though. I couldn't get myself into the window. And for a while, I couldn't get myself out either. Panic set in briefly, but I'm too practical for hysterics. In fact that practicality is what pushed me to ask XBFJ to help me.
I told him that I figured it all out, and that I would just need to hold him while he climbed inside. He asked if I should be the one climbing inside. I reminded him who was who, in terms of risky physical adventures. I asked him to come help me break into my apartment.
I told him to forget it. I could hear he was at a bar seven hours before having to be at work and I got the impression he did not want to leave. I remembered that he'd said he'd help me whenever I needed it. Apparently he did not. Just as I was mentally vowing to never offer or accept so much as a kind look for all of eternity, he said he'd be right over. I think he ran. He showed up, my bloodshot and breathless knight in dirty clothing. I held his legs, warned him of the teeth-hooks and boosted. He fell with an ugly thud. I mean I didn't throw him, it's just that he to scale down the wall.
I was home, thanks to him. I offered him water and snacks but he said no. And like a super hero, he was gone. I felt good, knowing he was out there, in the event of other mishaps. I wasn't entirely alone. And that's a great feeling.