In January 2007 I got locked in a toilet.
Not an actual toilet, that would be all kinds of weird. I’ve never seen fit to climb into an actual toilet. To be entirely accurate, I got locked in a room with a toilet in it.
In the UK we often refer to that room as being ‘the toilet’, but I’m aware this is not the case in other parts of the world. My understanding is that in the USA it’s more commonly referred to as the ‘bathroom’ or ‘restroom’. As this blog has no shortage of regular visitors who are based in that part of the world, I’m hopeful that the correct terminology will be shared in the comments below.
Technically it was a bathroom, as there was a bath in the room as well, but I’ve chosen to go with ‘toilet’ because I had gone into the room to use that particular facility and if we’re honest, the word ‘toilet’ is funnier than the word ‘bathroom’. Restroom I don’t understand at all, as I’d argue there are other rooms, in most accommodation, that are far more suitable for resting. The bedroom would be my starting point if I wanted a rest.
But I digress.
As I often do.
To put my life at the time into context, I was living in Manchester. It was shortly after the events described in my post ‘Mug Mugging’. I’d moved to a new flat, a little closer to my ‘then’ girlfriend, who is my ‘now’ wife. It was a step up from the hole I had previously been living in, and I’d gone from sharing with three slightly scary blokes to having a solitary flatmate. I didn’t know him before I moved in, we were just two people sharing a flat for economical reasons. I never really got to know him that well (although well enough to know that I didn’t really like him very much) because both of us spent a lot of time with our respective girlfriends outside of the flat.
On the night this tale takes place, he was doing just that, but I was spending the evening alone, as the future Mrs Proclaims was writing an essay.
During the day I worked in Manchester city centre for the civil service, doing a job that was utterly pointless and clearly a waste of taxpayers’ money. Nonetheless it paid the rent.
My journey to work required a bus. There were several bus companies competing for the business of the numerous commuters on that route. It was also the route to the university so the price of the journey was staggeringly cheap but it meant riding in an overcrowded death trap. The cheapest way to travel was to buy a weekly ticket, which meant committing to one company over all the others at the start of the week and playing the ‘bus lottery’ for the rest of the week as there seemed to be no rhyme nor reason in terms of when and if the various services would turn up.
So it was one evening that I found myself waiting in Piccadilly Gardens for a bus service that matched my ticket while seemingly dozens of double-deckers bearing the logos of rival companies came and went.
This was irritating enough, but my exasperation was compounded by a full bladder, and I was beginning to weigh up the benefits of returning to the office to relieve myself or keeping faith that my chariot might soon arrive.
I determined to wait, the walk to the office was a good ten minutes. I was shortly after rewarded with a seat on a congested charabanc that wheezed and sputtered it’s way through Manchester’s rush hour.
After a toilsome trek through tedious traffic, the bus arrived not a moment too soon at my stop.
I disembarked and raced into my abode.
Stopping briefly in my bedroom to dispose of the items in my pocket, which included my phone, wallet, and keys, I sped into the lavatory.
My flatmate was out, but, partly out of courtesy lest he return home, and partly because it was just habitual, I locked the door behind me.
And that’s when it happened.
The lock came off in my hands.
I don’t know the technical term for the kind of door lock it was, but there was a twisty bit that turned the bolt.
That’s the bit the came off.
After the door was locked.
I looked at the door and then at my hand.
There was a metal rod protruding through the hole left by the twisty bit now in my hand. I looked again at the twisty bit.
It seemed just a simple matter of placing it back on the metal rod and all would be well. Casually I attempted this manoeuvre. A little too casually perhaps because all I achieved was pushing the metal rod further into the door and out of reach.
I assessed the situation.
I examined the twisty bit in my hand once more. There was clearly no way I was going to be able to fit this to the door. I was, to all intents and purposes, trapped in my own toilet.
I thought through my options.
I could wait until my flatmate returned home, but there was no guarantee this would be anytime soon (in fact he had elected to spend the entire evening at his girlfriend’s flat and did not return at all that night).
I could phone my girlfriend and get her to come over and let me out. The flaws with this plan were numerous. She didn’t have a key to get into the building, there was no guarantee that she would be able to help from the other side of the locked door, and most pertinent of all, I didn’t have any means of actually calling her because my I had deposited my phone in my bedroom, moments before entering the bathroom.
For this reason I could also not call my landlord.
Or the emergency services.
Or indeed, anyone at all.
I looked again at the lock. It was just possible that if I unscrewed the door handle, I could tease the metal rod back through and repair the lock.
And that would have been the perfect solution if I kept a toolbox in the bathroom.
Which I did not.
Strangely I was not feeling any kind of panic. I think this was in part because I found the situation to be a tad surreal. Also there was something relatively comforting about being locked in my own bathroom. Had it been the bathroom of a friend or relative I may have been slightly more embarrassed. But as it was, there was no way anyone was ever going to find out about this, unless a future version of me decided to write a blog post about the whole experience. But why would I do that?
No the situation seemed like one which must be resolvable.
I assessed my surroundings.
Surely I could fashion some sort of a device out of what I had available.
Shower gel and toilet paper didn’t seem particularly helpful. For some reason I considered the toothpaste long and hard. Mostly because I thought if I squeezed it out in a particular way it might look a bit like the plastic explosives that featured heavily in the eighties action shows I used to watch. In the end though I had to accept that it was just toothpaste and not plastic explosive.
I looked around the room again.
I looked at the bath, but this was no time for a bath. I looked at the toilet and remembered that I did quite need to use the toilet.
I did just that and with my bladder now empty I was able to think clearly.
I washed my hands because a stressful situation is no reason to neglect personal hygiene.
“What would the A-Team do?”, I wondered.
And then I realised.
The A-Team would fashion a screwdriver out of my belt buckle, remove the door handle and repair the lock.
So that’s what I did.
And I escaped a mere thirty minutes after the crisis had begun.
There was no-one there to share my triumph and certainly no film crew to capture this historic moment.
I didn’t even have a cigar.
But in my empty flat I smiled smugly and declared aloud, to no-one at all:
“I love it when a plan comes together.”