Friday, January 22, 2010

A Boring Day in 2005

The summer when I was 12 my parents told me that since they bought me a lot of toys and took me on a long vacation to visit friends and family across the country, that there was no reason I should ever be bored.  To make sure of that, they forbade me to be bored, and said if I ever uttered "I'm bored" again they'd teach me what boredom really is, locking me in my room 24 hours a day for the rest of the summer, except for bathroom breaks.

I've only uttered the phrase "I'm bored" once since then, one day late in August, 2005, shortly after returning to India from a trip abroad.

And, I sure had a boring day when I missed work that day.  Things went fine in the morning, till just after noon.

Leena left for the day to go run errands and visit her father in the hospital (heart troubles, he had a bypass surgery the next week (his second one)).  I finished my lunch and decided to take a quick shower before the van came to pick me up.

So far, so good...

Until I toweled off and turned the handle on the bathroom door and it didn't open.  I cursed and tried again and the door still wouldn't open.

I inspected the crack between the door and the doorjamb and it looked like the latch was moving all the way and not blocking anything, but the metal around there was slightly bent, though that didn't seem to be the issue.

Eventually I decided it was a screw sticking up from the metal plate attached to the doorjamb.  I tried converting some of the few things in the bathroom, the narrow end of a toothpaste tube, the heater elements of my steam inhaler, and a toothbrush into some sorts of tools to try and press it back into the doorjamb, but nothing worked, nothing was both thin enough and strong enough to do anything.  Similarly I tried to get the pins out of the hinges, but without anything strong enough to use as a hammer,  to pound from below, and nothing string enough to try and pry them out from above, that wasn't successful, either.

I yanked on the door in different directions hoping to pull it just enough somewhere to get around the screw, but no luck.  Most of those just ended up with me hurting my hand, the cheap, sharp metal of the door handle digging into the skin of my fingers.  I gave up with that since it seemed more likely I'd hurt myself instead of the door opening.

At various times I kept getting the brilliant idea of try and squeeze through the window and climb down the pipes, then remembering there's bars on the window for security.  And in any case, without any clothes or keys, that wouldn't be a much better situation to be in...

Around 1:30pm I heard the doorbell ringing and my cell phone ringing and figured it was the driver.  But the bathroom I was trapped in was so far from the front door they couldn't hear me.  Then when the ringing stopped I hoped I could yell out the window to get the watchman to bring the driver over to ask him to call Leena on his cell phone (I figured I could at least get the number across...).  But they couldn't hear me (the bathroom is on the side of the apartment away from where the driver parks to wait for me).  Once they were gone I felt lonely, not knowing when the next opportunity would come.

So, I spent the next eight hours in there all by myself.  I usually dress and undress in the bedroom outside the bathroom, so I was in there without any clothes, just a wet towel I'd used and two tiny, dry washcloths...  I spread the towel out to lay on it and keep me at least a little insulated from the cold tiles and used the washcloths as a pillow.  Other times I sat up, hung the towel from the rack to lean against it.  On the whole, it was pretty boring without much to do but periodically check the lengths of the shadows outside to see how far the sun had moved.

When the shadows were getting long both my cell phone and the apartment phone started ringing away.  Some I could tell were Leena, some weren't.  Lots of SMS's coming in, too, but what could I do?

Finally about 8pm Leena got home in a total panicked state, fearing the worst.  I heard her park and unlock the door so I yelled for her and she rushed to the bathroom door, asking "are you okay?" to which I answered, "I'm bored".  She tried to open the door from the outside but couldn't, it simply wouldn't budge.  She had a screwdriver but that didn't help, so she called Kalesh, the guy who does the building maintenance at her brother's shop and told him to come over, "abhi, jaldi an emergency…"  ("now, fast")

When Kalesh got there it took him nearly an hour with a hammer and chisel to break part of the door to get around that screw sticking up and get me out...  I wrapped myself in the towel first, though.  He had to smash up part of the door and it completely ripped apart the mechanical stuff for the handles, but no big deal, it got me out.

Leena was still shaken up and told me how her day went.  She said by 6:30pm she was worrying a little that she hadn't heard from me and I hadn't replied to her messages, but thought there was a chance I was in a long, long meeting or something.  By then, too, at work my close friends and colleagues Anuj, Renu and Cyndi were getting worried that I didn't show up, didn't answer the door when the driver rang the bell,  and didn't call or message to let anyone know I would be out of the office, which is very unlike me.  Anuj, though knew the situation with Leena's father and was reluctant to call in case I was just at the hospital with Leena's family or something and didn't want to be disturbed...

Eventually Cyndi talked him into calling Leena and when neither of them knew where I was and I wasn't where either of them thought then they started to panic, but unfortunately Anuj was at the office without his car and couldn't dash out to find me.  That's when Leena tried to rush home but got stuck in traffic, and what was usually a fifteen minute drive from her family's house took her two hours, of mostly waiting without any cars moving.

And all the while I was just bored laying on the bathroom floor.  I never panicked, figuring eventually she'd come home...  No worries...  Just boredom and daydreams...

Now I know my lesson, always bring a good book into the bathroom...  On the other hand, it could've been worse, I could've been stuck in a room unable to relieve myself without making a major mess...

Since then we've had several other bathroom door mechanisms break on us, twice while people were inside and unable to get out, but both of those times someone else was in the apartment to open the doors without difficulty.

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