Friday, July 9, 2010

How would you pass the time?

At a Seattle coffee shop, this barista tells me I can choose the restroom key with the orange block of wood attached or the one with the yellow block. "But I prefer the orange restroom," she says. "Why is that?" I ask. "I guess I have a fondness for it," she tells me. "Because I got locked in there overnight once." At this, all the coffee shop's patrons turn their heads and look at her wide-eyed, ready to hear her tale.

It was after she had closed the coffee shop one night, and she was the only one working. She went to use the restroom, leaving her cell phone and other belongings on one of the tables. The restrooms have those doorknobs with a keyhole on the outer knob, but just a round smooth spherical handle for the inner knob. When she went into the restroom, the outer knob somehow broke off. When she tried to get out of the restroom, the door wouldn't open. She had no way of contacting anyone, so she was stuck there until the opening crew came the next morning and pried the lock open using a credit card.

"What did you do in there for all those hours?" a patron asks. Another barista answers for her. "She cleaned the entire restroom! With hand soap and paper towels!" The girl shrugs. "What else was I supposed to do?"

What an experience, eh? I used to have nightmares about getting stuck in the restroom of a used bookstore I used to work at, but it never happened. Now I've met a girl who has lived my nightmares!


  1. All I can think of is how I would MacGuyver my way out of there. On the TV show Tosh.0 they interviewed a guy who was trapped in an elevator for two days and had the security footage posted on youtube, and he swore he tried everything and there was no way out, but I think I could probably have found a way given time. In a bathroom... the doorknob could probably be jimmied, and that's where I'd start (gently rattle it back and forth, feeling for changes in how it reacts as you do.) You could also dismantle the doorknob it if you had a screwdriver, but not everyone does (I have a mini swiss army knife on my keyring.) You can take the door off the hinges with a hammer and a wedge, and there are parts you can take off a toilet that could be used in a pinch (the toilet tank lid would work as a hammer and and any sturdy piece of steel or a quarter could be used as a wedge if you're careful,) but this might damage both the door and the toilet and yourself. That is the real question, how much damage is your freedom worth? A patient person with no tools in an interior bathroom could scratch or kick a hole through the drywall given enough time. I would probably stop after trying to dismantle the lock. Oh, wait, you could push aside the ceiling tiles and go over the wall that way, although a lot depends on the layout of the bathroom. You might at least be able to make it over to the other bathroom and get out that way. Anyway, this is all water under the bridge, because a more patient, thoughtful person ended up being trapped. But I would have gone a long way to avoid the embarassment of having to be rescued.

  2. I want to say that I'd use the time to compose an epic poem or really get into the nitty gritty of deconstructing some grand philosophical concept. But I'd probably just sit down and cry. And then kick the door over and over again until I hurt myself. But hey, at least you'd be trapped somewhere that comes stocked with a working toilet!

  3. Um, why didn't they have a cellphone? or aren't stall allowed to carry personal belongings during a shift? :/
    Anyway, it's funny how she spent the time cleaning the bathroom, of all things! With hand soap and paper towel, no less!

    Oh, and PS. this is why I always carry a multi-tool in my pocket. ;)