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Monday, March 11, 2013

The joke isn't just on me: it is me

It's 7:30 a.m. on a weekday in January about 20 years ago. Gail, Ryan and Eric were visiting her family out of town; I was alone in the house except for the dog ("Hund") who wanted to do its morning business outside. I opened the back door of the kitchen to let Hund out onto the deck and saw that the dog's water bowl had frozen solid. Hund will need water during the day after I go to work, I thought. Even though I was wearing just a t-shirt and underwear, I darted outside, grabbed the bowl, and tossed the ice out of it.

Then I heard the door lock behind me.

I'm not kidding. This really happened.

Years before, Nortel had administered some kind of psychological aptitude test that said I am unusually calm in a crisis. Alright, let's assess the situation. It's below freezing, I'm nearly naked, and I'm locked out of my own house without anyone inside. There is no emergency key buried anywhere. The only good news: at this point I doubt I've been seen by the neighbors. What's my next move? As I pondered this, Hund looked at me and I could see the gears turning slowly inside the canine brain: "stupid is as stupid does".

Knocking on a neighbor's door to ask for help was not an option.

I knew the front door of my garage was unlocked. I swallow hard, walk around the house to the front, pull up the garage door, quickly step inside -- I think without having been seen -- and pull the door back down. Now I'm out of view, and it's a little warmer. The door from the garage into the kitchen has a glass pane, so I pick up a hammer and figure that I'll pay a glazier later to fix what I'm about to break.

After ten whacks, I realize that it's tempered glass. I could hit it all day before it breaks. Score one for the builder of my house.

There's an electric drill nearby, and I wonder: can I drill out a lock core? It's only brass, right? Can't do that to the door I'm in front of, however, because the cord won't reach the nearest outlet. Memo to self: buy an extension cord for the garage.

But there is an outlet on the deck, by the door that triggered this episode. It'll take time to drill out the lock core, and it will make noise, and the neighbors are sure to see me -- if I don't die from exposure first. In desperation I spotted an empty black plastic garbage bag. Aha! Wearing it as a kilt like a modern Scot, around the house to the deck I walk with drill in hand.

Telling the story now, I am so thankful that the lock core was indeed soft brass. After 10 minutes of elbow grease the drill did its job and the door knob fell off. Adventure concluded.

No neighbor has ever mentioned it. Either I was not seen, or my neighbors in those years were truly gracious. If it happened today, somebody could easily take a video with a smartphone.

I have since replaced every exterior door lock with a type that doesn't lock automatically. Consider doing that to your own house, lest you fall victim and go viral on YouTube.