Saturday, March 05, 2005

I Pulled A Jamie

Remind me never to leave the house again.

Forgive me for not blogging these past couple of days, but I've been trapped in a stairwell. I had an appointment early on Thursday morning, and it happened to be in one of the 4 buildings I have yet to frequent in this city. Jason dropped me off, but had some errands to run, so we parted ways and in I went.

Inside the front doors was a small landing, with a set of stairs leading up and a set of stairs leading down. The sign told me that the office I wanted was on the second floor. That's easy: 1, 2, the end. Normally I would be able to handle it, but there were two factors working against me: it was early, and I didn't know which floor was the first floor (which therefore makes it harder to determine which one is the second). In determining the first floor, I usually use these simple tricks:

1. Which one is the main floor?

2. Which one is the ground floor?

3. Which one is labeled #1?

Sadly, I could use none of these handy tricks. Quite literally, I came in off the street and found myself on this tiny landing. There was no main/ground floor. No arrows pointing me to safety. No one around to ask. So, I thought it was safe enough to walk up a flight of stairs. At the next landing, I peered through the door and saw a hallway with a couple of offices with unfamiliar names. I felt justified in assuming that this was the first floor, and headed up a second flight of stairs. At this next landing, I saw no sign of the office I was looking for, but I opened the door, determined to hunt it down. The hallway took a series of twists and turns, and I realized I had made a mistake. I found myself walking by many private offices, and the rustling of my passage caused a few disgruntled employees to look up at me and sniff haughtily. When I reached the end of the hallway with no luck in finding my destination, I knew I would have to turn back, and be seen retreating, retracing my steps by these same prying eyes. My cheeks burned at the thought of this walk of shame when I saw my salvation: a door leading to a back set of stairs.

I was almost giddy as I trounced down the flight of stairs, the sound of my steps echoing in the silent staircase. I was sure the floor below me would turn out to be the second one, and by my estimation, I would practically be on time. No harm, no foul. Except when I reached the appropriate landing, I found that the doors were locked. I looked through the window, but the room on the other side was blackened. I tried the handle again, more insistently, but it held fast.


I headed down more stairs dejectedly, thinking I would have to snake my way through more unfamiliar building before getting turned around again. But at the bottom of the staircase, there was another set of locked doors. I jiggled them mightily, but to no avail. There were some janitorial things scattered around the foot of the stairs, mops and buckets and the like, and this was my first inkling that something was amiss.

I raced up the stairs, my brain just beginning to consider that I might have gotten myself into a predicament but still somewhat optimistic that there was some silly mistake, and I would soon be sitting in an overheated waiting room reading Ladies Home Journal and trying to ignore the stale scent of an old lady sitting too close beside me. On my way back up, I noticed a door that led outside, but the slight relief I felt from the glimpse of daylight was quickly replaced by dread as I read the sign affixed to it: Door Locked At All Times. Great.

I went up and down those flights of stairs, trying and retrying every door, knocking on each one, politely at first, then more desperately, and eventually with an all-out panicky pounding that still brought no one to my rescue. I sat on the concrete steps, and felt the seconds tick by. The minutes pounded in my ears. I felt that the stairwell could flood with my mortification, and I would be glad to drown in it if it meant never having to admit to my mistake.

I took stock of my purse. No cell phone of course. I thought briefly that this was a convenient and predictable plot twist, but then I remembered that this was not a B-movie, but the sad, sad reality of my life. I had some kleenexes, a comb, my Winnie the Pooh keychain (he's dressed as an apple, it's very cute), a lifetime supply of lip gloss, sunglasses, 3 sticks of gum (2 of which had old pennies stuck to them), 2 pens and no paper. If I was going to write a heart-wrenching goodbye letter to Jason, I would have to write it on my own arm. Oh, the indignity.

Every few minutes, I would trudge up and down the stairs, giving each door a half-hearted rattle. The only door that looked remotely promising was the cursed door that I had passed through, but my attempts at making noise went unnoticed. In all my time, I had seen not one other person in the hallway, and all the office minions were apparently too far away or too harried to hear me. I was going to die in a stairwell. I hoped Drew Barrymore would play me in the TV movie.

I wondered how long Jason would sit out in the car until he came looking for me. My guess: a long freaking time, especially if he stopped for donuts. But what good would it do? If he went looking for me in the right office, they would tell him I had missed my appointment. Then what would he do? I could practically taste the salt on the margarita that he would drink on the cruise he would take with the hot bimbo from his work after he had cashed in my life insurance and danced on my grave. Jerk. I leapt to my feet with the rage that I felt. What an ingrate! I cooked him dinner and did his laundry and put up with him hogging the blankets for five whole years, and for what? So he can take up with that bottle-blonde floozie just days after my untimely demise?!!?? I grabbed hold of the door and I rattled it with every ounce of outrage that I felt. I imagined that I rattled the bones of my good-for-nothing husband, wishing that I could get my hands around his neck when I suddenly realized that I was looking into the face of a petite 50-year-old woman. I stopped dead.

"I'm stuck!", I yelled through the door. "I'm locked in here."

She looked back at me in silence, probably thinking to herself that it was a good thing they kept all the doors locked if it kept the crazies likes me out of the building.

"Can you let me in?", I asked, trying my best to look non-threatening.

"It's locked", she responded.

"Yes, I know it's locked. I got locked in here and I need to get out."

"Well I don't have a key."

"Is there anyone who can help me?", I pleaded, trying not to let the desperation seep back into my voice.

"Can't you use the outside door?" she yelled back.

I shook my head. "It's locked too!" I shouted, a little impatiently. I gestured down the flight of stairs at the big red sign, even though I knew it was impossible for her to see it from her vantage point. To show her I had tried all my options, I made my way down the stairs, and rattled the door to prove my point. The door swung open under my weight, and I spilled outdoors. The breeze stung my cheeks, tears stood out in my eyes. The door had been open all that time, and I had never even tried it because the sign. The damned lying sign!!

I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and made my way around the back of the building. My heels filled with slush as I trudged through thigh-high snow, but I high-tailed it out of there, knowing there was a good possibility that the woman on the other side of the door had alerted security that a woman fitting my description was trying to break into her office. I made it to the parking lot, spotted Jason sitting in the car, and I dove in the backseat.

"Home!", I ordered him. One look at my ruined pantyhose and my red face was all he needed. And home is where I plan to stay.

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