Monday, September 26, 2011

The Bathroom Door Lock Incident

On a whim Vince and I decided to catch a movie the other night, but we were about 25 minutes early for the film we wanted to see. Since we’d already eaten dinner, we didn’t need to stand in line at the concession stand to load up on popcorn and enough caffeine in the “small” diet soda to keep us both awake for the next 48 hours.

Instead, we opted to go to the restaurant next door and order a quick margarita. We plunked ourselves down on the bar stools and waited patiently for a bartender to show up.

After several minutes, the switch was flipped and “patient” turned into “impatient.” Before “annoyed” joined the party, I told Vince I was going to the ladies room and he should order me a frozen strawberry margarita if the AWOL bartender ever materialized.

I entered the ladies room and scoped out the situation. You never know what you’re going to find in a public restroom. There may be two stalls. Or three stalls. Or, depending upon the average age of the establishment’s clientele and quantity of alcohol served, there could be dozens of stalls in there – you just never know. The worst scenario is when you push open the door – or try to – and realize it’s a one-stall arrangement and you’re going to have to wait outside until the current occupant finishes her business. Who, incidentally, gives you a snotty look upon departure because you inadvertently rushed her by pushing on the door.

Anyway, in this particular restroom, there were two stalls. And the place was deserted.

Whenever I’ve entered a public restroom lately, I have been finding that the first stall has been left, uh, unflushed and full of paper. I always want to say, "flushing is a simple maneuver, ladies. Try it!" But the culprits never hang around long enough for me to chastise them.

I suppose I should be a good citizen and flush the toilet myself, but I’m always fearful that it is going to overflow and I’m going to do that high-stepping thing right out of the bathroom. Before I’ve had the opportunity to go.

So I shudder and move on to the next stall. Fortunately, the next stall is usually good to go, so I lock the door and quickly conduct my business and then head to the sink to wash my hands.

Sometimes I even take a little gander in the mirror, but my days of prolonged primping in front of the mirror in public restrooms are long over. I’m usually out faster than my husband, which is a peculiar point of pride for me. Probably because men always poke fun at how long women take in the restroom.

On this night, however, I took so long in there, you’d’ve thought I was getting prepped for one of those beauty makeover shows and they were experiencing a major glitch with the spackle, er, foundation.

So why did it take me so long, you ask? Oh, stop it! Don’t be gross.

No, see, I had a little issue with the lock on the bathroom door and I couldn’t get out. It was not one of those simple push button locks. Nor was it a twist lock. No, it was one of those sliding bolt locks where you have to turn the lever and slide it to the left so the bolt clears the doorframe.

But this shouldn’t have posed a problem. I mean, those types of locks are not usually beyond my level of expertise. So I confidently slid the bolt, grasped and turned the door handle with my right hand while simultaneously taking a step to walk out the door. Except that the door didn’t open and I ended up smacking both my forehead and right knee against the closed door.

I was grateful no one else was in the ladies room at that particular moment because the “thunk” when my body parts hit the door was loud.

I laughed a little ruefully, rubbed my smarting forehead, ignored the pain in my knee, and tried again. Only this time I didn’t attempt walk out at the same time as I turned the handle. Instead, I simply turned the handle.

But the door remained locked.

Now remember, to this point, I had not yet had a single sip of frozen strawberry margarita, so it’s not like my brain was addled with alcohol. Plus, I think of myself as a fairly intelligent woman, so I was a little nonplussed that I could not figure out why such a simple maneuver as unlocking and opening the restroom door was eluding me.

I then got up close and personal with the lock so I could examine it. This required me to slide my eyeglasses up on top of my head and bend over with my eyes about a quarter inch away from the lock so I could see it clearly. (Yeah, you’ll get old one of these days, too, and your eyes won’t work right either.)

At any rate, I slid the bolt back and forth a couple times to analyze the situation. It became evident that the bolt was not clearing the door frame, so I did what any analytical woman would do in just such a situation.

I started jiggling it.

When that produced absolutely no results, I did the next logical thing – I tried slamming the bolt over to try to force it clear. I did that until my finger was red and nearly bruised, but the door still wouldn’t open.

At this point, I’m seriously thinking I might have to call out for help, which would be especially mortifying because I think I would have to yell pretty loudly to be heard above the canned Mariachi music coming out of the speakers.

But even more critically, I’m thinking there is no way I’m going to have time to finish a whole frozen strawberry margarita before the movie starts.

Before resorting to screaming for help like a girl, I tried busting through the door with my shoulder like they do in cop shows. Yeah, like that worked. All it resulted in was a sore shoulder. Clearly, those doors are props on cop shows because the flimsy door and lock on this bathroom stall didn’t even budge.

Now, I’m standing there with a sore forehead, kneecap, finger and shoulder and I’m still stuck inside the stall. I’m wondering if I should start digging through my suitcase-sized purse to see if I had somehow dropped a Phillips-head screwdriver in there so I could remove the lock entirely, but I realized that was just plain silly. I mean, I might from time to time find a flathead screwdriver in my purse, but never a Phillips-head. Come on!

Starting to feel a little desperate, I mentally measure the distance between the bottom of the door and the floor and, given that I’m not a toddler, I realize there is no way I can slither out underneath. The sides of the stall run full length from floor to ceiling, and I know I can’t vault over the top of the door unless someone handily left a pole vault in there by mistake, which they did not.

I am, by the way, STILL the sole occupant in this ladies room, which is a marvel in and of itself. Ladies rooms usually get non-stop action.

Finally, in a last-ditch effort, I jerked the door, twisting something and turning something else and pushing at the same time – and, voila! – the door magically popped open.

I stood there with my mouth hanging open, a little shocked that I’d managed to free myself. But, spurred on by the thought that Vince might have initiated a search party, I washed my hands, tsk-tsked at what the drive over in the convertible did to my hairdo, patted it down ineffectually, and bolted out of the ladies room.

Part of me, however, wanted to go back into that stall and figure out WHY the darn thing wouldn’t open the first hundred times I tried…but I didn’t want to tempt fate and get stuck in there for the rest of the evening.

Meanwhile, I get back to the bar and Vince is casually sipping his margarita, chatting with the person to his right, and noshing on chips and salsa without having given a thought to me desperately trapped inside the stall in the ladies room.

So, did we make it to the movie on time? Well, yes. But I sat through the first half with an ice-cream headache.

Chugging a frozen strawberry margarita? Not such a great idea. Carrying a Phillips-head screwdriver in my purse? Now that idea is starting to look better and better…



  2. Whenever I’ve entered a public restroom lately, I have been finding that the first stall has been left, uh, unflushed and full of paper. I always want to say, "flushing is a simple maneuver, ladies.
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