Solitary Confinement

Photo by Oumaima Ben Chebtit on Unsplash

Almost two months ago, I was changing the doorknob on my bedroom door when I accidentally locked myself in after letting the door close sans doorknob.

I felt hot and cold at the same time with the sinking realization that I was really and truly stuck. My cell phone was left on my kitchen table, where I was blasting 90s music from Spotify as I worked, so I couldn’t call the landlord.

I also live alone, so it wasn’t like anyone would get home and get me out. It’s funny how your instincts kick into full survival mode in situations like this. I screeched in frustration, angry at myself for not being more careful and at the gravity of the situation.

How in the world was I ever going to get out of there?

I pictured minutes, then hours, and finally days passing with me locked in my bedroom, my hair not long or straight enough nor my window high enough for me to pull a Rapunzel and let my hair down to invite someone up, preferably with door mishap experience.

After giving a final sharp yelp, I was hit with an idea. The only way I was ever going to get out was for someone to help me. And the only way for someone to help me was to yell for help. I decided to make as much noise as humanly possible.

I ran to my window, slid it open and shrieked into the cool Spring air.

“HELLO? CAN SOMEONE HELP ME? I’M STUCK IN MY ROOM!”

At first, I felt like a barbarian for yelling so loudly and begging for attention. Yet, I knew there was no other possible way for me to get out unless I was able to somehow work the door back open again.

Now I can handle most household situations, like covering the cold draft in the living room with plastic on the windows, or changing the batteries to stop the obnoxious intermittent beeping of my fire alarm.

But doors are not my specialty.

Where was Bob Villa when I needed him? It was a ridiculous thought but I remembered how he used to be everywhere on TV before, and nowhere to be found when I needed him most, never mind that I didn’t have a TV or know him to even be able to call for help. My cell phone was still on the kitchen table, now blasting Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise.

I continued making noise, pounding on my bedroom door, and yelling help a few times. It actually felt good to scream, to ask for a helping hand, to humble myself and finally admit that I couldn’t get out of the situation alone.

I’ve always prided myself in being a self-sufficient person and if I don’t know how to do something, I take it upon myself to learn (aka Google and YouTube). But this was too much, and way beyond my scope of abilities. I was also having a melt down and you can’t really do much in that state.

But it wasn’t from a lack of trying; I ended up breaking 3 ballpoint pens while trying to crank open the latch.

I approached the window again.

“HELP! CAN SOMEONE CALL THE BUILDING? I’M STUCK IN MY ROOM!”

The parking lot beyond my window was silent, except for the occasional slam of car doors shutting and alarm systems locking them with one shrill beep.

This went on for a good hour and my voice was getting hoarse. I pulled on a cardigan to warm me from the chilly air coming through the window, then sank down to sit on the floor in one corner of the room.

An R&B Jodeci ballad started up and I gave a deep sigh, rubbing the skin of my throat. I realized the situation was a kind of a metaphor for my life, when there were many times that I needed help but was too afraid to ask for it out loud so I wouldn’t disturb the peace.

This time was different. The only thing keeping the peace would do in this scenario was keep me trapped. So I made noise. Why did I feel it was so wrong for me to make noise?

If you fall into a ditch in the middle of the street, you’re going to yell to be heard. How was this any different? But more than an hour had passed and my cries for help were ignored. I felt like a kid who invested their hard earned money from selling lemonade on that toy they dreamed of for it to only be a dud. Cheated.

So if yelling for help worked as well as remaining silent did, what was there left to do? I kept right on yelling. Almost two hours into it, the window from the unit upstairs slid open and a male voice shouted down to me.

“Are you okay over there? Do you need some help or something?”

“Yes, I do! I’m locked inside of my room. Can you call someone from the building to help me?”

“Sure no problem, I got you.”

Eureka! It was as simple as that.

Another forty-five minutes to an hour later, my landlord arrived and crawled through my window, since my front door was deadbolted from the inside. He turned a screwdriver inside the gaping hole where the doorknob had been and popped the door open in two minutes.

When I stepped into my kitchen, I felt a momentary sense of new freedom. In almost three hours of solitary confinement, I had learned what I hadn’t in nearly 30 years.

Don’t be afraid to raise your voice to be heard – no matter how long it takes, you’ll be heard eventually.

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