Wednesday, June 3, 2009


We had a pretty scary half hour or so on our first Saturday night at the condo in Harbor Springs.  We'd arrived around 7:00 or so, just in time for David to discover that the television (thankfully!) carried the "Versus" channel, on which the Stanley Cup playoff games were being broadcast.  We'd eaten dinner on the road, so we settled in to watch the Penguins kick the crap out of the Carolina Hurricanes.  

It had been a long day of travel for all of us, though, so right after the game was over, we headed to our respective rooms for the night.  David and I stay on the first floor, in a huge bedroom I like to call "The Cave."  The condo is built sort of like our townhouse, in that it's built into a slope.  The front door is at ground level, but the back of the entry level is basically underground and windowless.  I cannot overstate the awesomeness of the sleep we get in The Cave, with no bright morning sun to wake us.  Our bedroom at home has two east-facing windows, and sleeping in without some sort of sleep mask is nearly impossible.

The lack of windows, though, also means that there's only one way into and out of The Cave.  David and I got into the room, and he pushed the door so that it was closed most of the way.  I got changed into my pajamas and turned to walk over into the bathroom when I noticed that the door was partly closed in the frame, but not actually latched.  So I just pushed it the rest of the way closed, pressing my hand against the door itself and not even touching the knob.  I noticed that it seemed to stick a little bit-- which is probably why it hadn't closed all the way when David closed it-- but I didn't think anything of it; all of the bedroom doors in our house swell and stick depending on the temperature and humidity.

As I unloaded my toiletries in the bathroom, I remembered that we'd need a glass from the kitchen so that I could take my vitamins.  I played the pregnancy card and asked David to please go up to the second level to grab a glass for us to use.  He said he'd go in just a minute, and I started to brush my teeth.  It wasn't until I was partway through brushing that I noticed that David was tugging on the door, but hadn't been able to get out of the room.

David is a big guy:  He's six feet tall and weighs easily twice what I do-- oh, and he's not pregnant-- and yet my first thought was, "I'd better put down the toothbrush and get out there to unstick the door myself.  David must be doing something wrong."  Why the heck do most of us initially presume that we can solve the problem that our spouses can't seem to fix?

So, um, my puny upper-body strength was, unsurprisingly, no match for the door, either.  As we quickly figured out the real problem, though, I started to get a little worried.  The door was not actually stuck at all.  Rather, when we tried to turn the knob from the inside, nothing happened.  The knob would turn every which way, but the bolt remained stubbornly in place.

For a very brief moment, I considered just going to bed anyway and worrying about it in the morning.  After all, we had a bathroom in The Cave, and I was tired, and did it really matter right this instant that we couldn't get out of the room?  I could just stick my mouth under the sink faucet to take my vitamin and then move directly into the sleeping part of the program.

Almost immediately, though, a hint of panic overcame the exhaustion of the day, and we started to knock on the bedroom door.  We were timid about it at first; Arwen and Camilla were already in bed, and we didn't want to wake them.  (Bryan told us later that he'd wondered what kind of joke we were pulling by knocking on the door.  He couldn't figure out what we were doing.)  When Bryan didn't come down, though, we got a lot more insistent, and also started yelling for Bryan, who eventually came downstairs.

"We're stuck in here!" we told him.

Needless to say, he didn't believe us at first.  I mean, who gets stuck in their bedroom?  Um, we do, I guess.  But he soon realized that the knob on his side wouldn't turn the bolt, either.   

Okay, remember when I said a minute ago that I'd begun to worry a little when I realized we couldn't open the door from our side?  I think that wasn't actually true.  Because I'd honestly thought that Bryan would be able to open it for us from the outside.  When we found out he couldn't, I think that's when I really started to panic.

The doorknob had no keyhole.  It had no visible screws on either side to take it apart.  (We later discovered a tiny button that popped off the plate against the door and revealed the screws, but it turns out that wouldn't have helped us in any event.)

The hinges were, of course, on David's and my side of the door, and there was only a small gap of space between the bottom of the door and the floor.  I frantically started looking around the room for something to wedge under the hinge pins to pry them out, but let's be honest-- my hairbrushes, tweezers, and shoes really weren't going to be much help.  The laundry room was well-stocked with detergent and dryer sheets, and the bathroom had plenty of extra soap and cleaning supplies, but there was nothing tool-like to be found anywhere.

Bryan retrieved the toolbox from the owners' closet in the hallway and began rummaging through to search for something small enough to slide under the door.  He finally found what may be the world's tiniest and most adorable screwdriver, which he wedged under the door.

(Confidential to Bryan:  I literally realized just as I began to write this post that we could have dropped any tools we'd wanted down the laundry chute into the laundry room.  Oh, how I wish we'd thought of that in the moment!)  

Honestly, I looked at that screwdriver and thought, there's no way this is going to work.  I was fully convinced by that point that we were going to have to call the fire department to come break down the door or something.  I mean, this screwdriver wasn't much longer than my index finger.  The handle was thinner than my pinky, and the metal portion was perhaps the diameter of a lollipop stick.

Still, David set to work wedging the tiny screwdriver under the upper hinge pin and pushed with all his might.  The upper pin, which hadn't been pushed all the way into the hinge to begin with, actually gave fairly easily.

The lower pin, though, was more of a problem.  David wasn't able to get the same leverage, because it was so close to the floor, and the lower pin was fully engaged in the hinge.  Somehow, though, after much straining, he managed to pop the pin out.

Success!  We're saved!-- or so I thought.  Even with the pins removed and with Bryan pushing from the other side, though, the door remained stubbornly in place.  

We yelled to Bryan that he was going to have to push harder.  At this point, David was literally telling me to stand back, so I retreated to the bathroom to watch from a safe distance.  I kind of wish we'd been able to see Bryan throwing himself against the outside of the door, but even as we heard the nice thunk of his body hitting wood, the hinges refused to budge.  Normally I'd praise such high-quality craftsmanship, but give me a break.  

Bryan switched tactics held a towel up by the hinges, and tried to shake the door loose by pounding it with a hammer.  When the door still didn't move, I may or may not have begun to cry inside a little.  I'd had enough time to dwell on our situation by now that I was envisioning the condo catching fire with David and me trapped in The Cave in the small space of time it would have taken us to give up on the door and call the fire department.  

When it seemed the hinges were never going to budge, David dropped to his knees again beside the knob to try to wiggle it loose.  Bryan must have started doing the same thing from the outside, because they quickly discovered that, even though the door wouldn't move on its hinges back and forth, it would actually move a little bit side to side within the door jamb.  Bryan called out excitedly that he thought he might be able to sort of "walk" the door off the hinges by wiggling it side to side, instead of trying to push it forward into the room.

It worked!  We were free!  David caught the door and the guys leaned it against the wall and we all stood around and shook our heads at the absurdity of the situation.  The guys eventually figured out how to take out the doorknob.  (Even once David had the entire knob out, the bolt still wouldn't move.  He had to push it out from the inside of the knob hole, which is how we figured out we would've still been stuck even if we'd been able to remove the knob right away.)  They put the door back on its hinges but left it knobless, which is how it remained for a few days.

Bryan called his parents the next morning to fill them in on the saga.  It turns out they'd had three doors replaced recently in the condo, including the door to The Cave.  They'd already figured out that one of the knobs on the main level had been re-installed incorrectly, and had fixed it, but they hadn't thought to look at the other two.  

For the rest of the week, I refused to shut the door to The Cave or the bathroom without first testing the knob to make sure it was still functional.  I'm just so relieved that I wasn't trapped in the room alone-- who knows whether I'd have been able to get the hinge pins out?-- and that it was David and me who got trapped, instead of, say, Camilla.  And, hey, we have a good story to tell, right.

But check your knobs, people.  That's all I'm sayin'.  


Maureen said...


Tracy said...

this just freaked me out to read (Hi, I'm Tracy, and I don't remember if I've ever commented on your blog before. but you're on the same blogroll at Arwen's that I am, so Hi, I've been reading your blog!).

I would have been so freaked to be stuck there! I'm glad you made it out relatively easily!