Doors are not our friends, not really. Sure, they look pretty bedecked with wreaths and garlands. They may also protect us from half-hearted intruders in the night and provide critical privacy, but they aren’t happy about it, and it is high time we stop kidding ourselves. The most apparently innocuous of them are just waiting for the opportunity to humble us. When I fell through my back door last Valentine’s Day and broke my arm, I blamed myself and my raised door mat. This week I found out what the real menace is and intend to call it out in front of the world…or the dozen or so of you who read this blog anyway.
For several months now the lock on our back door’s knob has refused to remain in the unlocked position. We could unlock it from outside with a key, but once we shut the door, the lock reengaged. We could set it to the unlocked position manually from inside, but doing so required concentration, precision, and persistence that could take minutes. Oh, and the planets had to align. If we had anything in one of our hands, forget about it. The problem became so severe that when Joe and I left Tim at home while we went out of town for a few days back in May, I called Tim from the road and insisted that he go to the hardware store that instant to make a spare key he could hide just in case. Therefore, I should have known better than to tempt fate while in a state of undress, but I like to live on the edge. Often I have gone outside for a few minutes and thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be terrible if I got locked out?” The answer is yes.
Around 9:30 Tuesday morning, Joe, who is on vacation this week, left to for his mom’s, which is thirty minutes away, to do her a favor. Taking Tim along to help, Joe said as he walked out the door, “I don’t know how long it might be before I get back. It could be a while.” Not to worry. I needed a quiet morning. After they left, I finished my coffee and began doing tasks around the house. I started to get dressed but decided to take an arm load of wet towels out to the laundry room first. That’s how the whole thing began. After I tossed the towels in the washer, I saw the empty Blue Bell ice cream container I had rinsed and left in the sink the night before. I had saved it to make a frozen treat for my dog as seen on Pinterest. I decided to go ahead with the surprise for Mumford before returning to the other end of the house to dress. Terrible mistake. Clad in a thin summer gown and fuzzy pink bedroom shoes, I walked outside to the freezer to wedge the filled container inside. I then noticed that a couple of the prettiest plants on my patio badly needed a drink. I walked around the corner to give them some water and then started back indoors, ironically thinking, “One day I am going to press my luck, and that door is going to lock me out.” Well one day was here. I noticed that the door did not look ajar as I thought I had left it, but surely nothing could have caused it to catch.Wrong. I tried the knob and discovered the ugly truth. Oh, snap! I was locked out of my house on a hot day with no cell phone or keys, and I was wearing a gown, so I couldn’t just go knock knock knocking on a neighbor’s door. It could be hours before anyone found me. I kept wishing that Kelly or my parents would drop by unexpectedly, but I knew that they wouldn’t. That happens only when I have frittered away the morning on the computer and let the housework slide. Then I had a more disconcerting thought: What if someone else did drive up and catch me in my gown? The horror!
I ran back and forth, aimlessly waving my arms and exclaiming, “No! PLEASE, LORD! NO! NO!’ That didn’t help. I stared stupidly at Mumford and pleaded, ” I can’t do this! I CAN’T DO THIS!” He blinked sympathetically and began scratching his left ear. I knew I was in danger of becoming disoriented from the powerful cocktail of heat and fear being forced down my throat when I heard myself exhorting the dog to “do something!” I had to get proactive before it was too late. I tried the other doors in back, but I already knew they were secure. Both were locked and deadbolted. Panic akin to that I endured the day I took demerol and wanted to chew my arm off like an animal in a trap to get rid of my splint rose in my chest. Although I was outdoors, I felt trapped in the heat that would only intensify, and not the smallest flutter of hope rushed to my aid. I had no book or magazine to distract me or useful chore I could accomplish in my gown and fluffy slippers. If I could decently cover myself, I could go for help, but…wait a minute! That’s when I hit upon the idea of dumping the dog’s food out of its huge sack and biting armholes through the reinforced bag with my bare teeth. Fred Flintstone worked that look for years, and no one despised him for it. I abandoned that idea when I saw the random tears in the bag. Possums had obviously sneaked into the storage room for a midnight snack, and one might still be lurking in there. Pass.
Next I found some matches. Smoke signals! No. German is the only foreign language I have studied. Those episodes of Gilligan’s Island did little to prepare me for this. Maybe I could build a big fire in the fire pit on the patio and prompt the neighbors to call 911. Nah. Everyone would think only that Joe was burning sticks or lawn clippings again, and that still didn’t solve the problem of my attire. What if I screamed and then quickly ran into a storage room to cover myself? The neighborhood seemed abandoned, unfortunately. I doubted anyone near enough to hear me was home. Once I quit playing the “if only” game, I decided to try the car door. I typically keep the car locked, but I had to check. It was unlocked!… but now what? I rifled through the glove compartment and console in search of a bonus card I might use to break in…as if. I had never been able to make that work. I then found what I thought would save me…a forgotten car key whose plastic cover with the various remote buttons had broken off. I greedily snatched the remnant of key and put it in the ignition. Yes! I could drive to my parents’ house and lay on the horn until someone came out to investigate. I was saved!
Not so fast. I had forgotten that the key won’t crank the engine without the sensor housed in the missing plastic cover, which was, you guessed it, inside. Rats. It would turn on the air conditioner and radio in auxiliary mode, but I couldn’t run those for four or five hours. My battery would die. At this point I got mad and thought, “Why, I oughta go kick that door for doing this to me!” That’s when I remembered that Joe had once kicked in an elderly neighbor’s door, deadbolt and all, when her worried family couldn’t get her to answer her phone. It was humanly possible, and I had no deadbolt to worry about, just a weathered, malfunctioning door knob. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer of supplication, and kicked underneath the knob with all my might. Oww, oww, oww. I felt an explosion of pain rock my toes and remembered that a traditional kick leading with the tips of the toes was all wrong. I had watched NYPD Blue enough to know better. I tried again with the ball and heel of my foot. Less painful, but nothing. I did it again with a bit less conviction and then retreated to my car for another blast of sanity saving air conditioning. Strengthening my resolve, I decided to try again. Yes, it hurt my heel a little, but no pain, no gain. This time I felt the door give a little…just a little, but it was a start. Finally, I settled into a pattern: kick the door five or six times, follow up by trying to pry it open with whatever I could find–I tried hedge clippers, a scaling knife, a spatula and a spade–and then get back in the car for a cool down and pray some more. On my fourth try, I felt the door loosen significantly. There was no stopping me now. I was going to do this. I am woman! Finally, on the seventh attempt, which adds up to at least thirty-five kicks in worn bedroom slippers, the doorjamb splintered and I limped triumphantly inside. Door –2. Angie–1. I’m gaining on it!
I gave Mumford his icy surprise the next morning and watched with satisfaction while he wagged his tail and enjoyed his treat under a shady tree. The pink phlox and portulaca that had looked so forlorn on Tuesday blazed with color in the background. The deeds of good will that drew me outside to my fate not only made my dog and potted plants happy but also taught me that I could rely upon myself more than I had ever before thought possible. Win, win.