Shortly after college, I rented the first floor unit of a beautiful old duplex built in 1920. I loved living there, but one of my biggest pet peeves was that it had these crazy double-sided deadbolts on the front and rear doors that required a key on BOTH sides.
I faced the same odds of having quick departures as I did quick break-ins, virtually none of either.
Maybe if I hadn’t just spent the last few years living off campus, where I never owned a key (because we just left the door wide open for all of our other closest friends and random strangers), I might have transitioned better to keying my way in AND out of this place.
Unfortunately, there was a lengthy adjustment period.
One Saturday afternoon in the summer of 2000, I was running late (as usual), for a family gathering. My mom called to let me know everyone else was already on their way and I needed to hustle to get there on time. I assured her I was just stepping out the door, literally.
I hung up with mom, yanked the kitchen door shut behind me and… whoops, I didn’t have the key to exit the deadbolted door to the duplex. Sigh.
I quickly realized, not only was I missing the deadbolt key, but I didn’t have the kitchen door key either!
Frantic, I scattered the contents of my purse (which was A LOT of contents) all over the hallway floor, convincing myself that I must have grabbed my keys and they were in there somewhere.
They weren’t in there.
So, I scooped all of my belongings back into my purse and ran upstairs to the neighbors, but they weren’t home either.
I was trapped, there in the hallway. I needed a key to get into my apartment, or to get out of the duplex, and I was already running late (as usual).
At least I had my phone. YES, MY (awesome flip) PHONE!
I called mom back, no answer.
I called my sister, no answer.
Back then, cell coverage was spotty and you couldn’t always easily connect like today, no text messages either – I know, right?
Moving on to third tier support, I called my aunt, yay, she answered!
I shared my dilemma, but her and my uncle were almost to the destination (which was another thirty minutes away) and she was nearing a dead zone. She asked if I had any windows open. I told her I did, but I couldn’t get out to climb back in, plus I was way too short to reach, even if I could bust out of the house.
She claimed she had an idea. I should just sit tight (like I had a choice). I didn’t argue, she was already breaking up and I would just have to trust she would send help, maybe my cousin.
About fifteen minutes passed when I heard a car pull up. I looked out the backdoor window and saw an oversized rolly polly man (resembling something like Chris Farley or John Candy’s build) headed my way.
I didn’t recognize him, and I was suddenly a little panicked, this couldn’t be my knight in shining armor here to rescue me.
This had to be someone here to visit my neighbors, or at the wrong house all together (since all the houses in my row looked identical).
At least he couldn’t get in to attack me or anything, thanks to that double-sided deadbolt.
Frozen, I just stood there, staring face to face with this extra round (unkempt) man (who was NOT my cousin), when he came to the door.
He pressed his gigantic face against the glass, cupping his jumbo hands around it so he could shade the sun and get a good look at me, and started shouting, “ARE YOU NICOLE???”
Me (hesitating): Yes?
Him (still shouting): YOUR AUNT SENT ME. I WORK WITH HER.
Whew. My aunt made extra cash delivering pizzas for a nearby Italian restaurant. I could see by the logo on his tomato stained shirt he worked there, too. She must’ve called the restaurant to send reinforcements.
Him: I’M GOING TO CLIMB IN YOUR SIDE WINDOW AND LET YOU BACK IN.
Me: Awesome, THANKS!!
Meanwhile, I’m thinking, seriously???? I’m not sure I have any window wide enough for big boy to crawl through, but if he says so, OK.
Nervous that my next call might be to 911 if this guy got himself lodged in my side window, I stood with my ear to the wall listening for anything that might be cause for alarm.
He headed around the side of the house towards the driveway. I heard a car door (or trunk) whiz open, some shuffling around in it, and then it slammed shut again. This followed by some metal clanking around on the pavement and (extra heavy) footsteps scurrying up what sounded like a very squeaky ladder (all the while I’m thinking please, ladder, don’t give out if that is a ladder).
Immediately after that, there were some muffled booms which sounded like he was trying to hammer the old wooden framed window up as far as it would go, but I was pretty confident he just removed my window all together.
When that stopped, it sounded like he tossed a couch into my dining room (and it bounced a little). In reality, I think he rolled off the window seat onto the floor (and bounced the whole house a little).
At least he was in!
Moments later, I heard what sounded like Frankenstein running towards me, from the other side of the kitchen door, paired with a houseful of leaded glass cabinets, and the contents of them, clinking together in sync with his rapid pace.
He was quick for a big guy.
And, THEN, I heard music to my ears!
He unlocked kitchen door and greeted me there, looking like he just finished a triathlon in record time, which he kinda did.
Hooray, I WAS IN!!!
I didn’t take time to assess any damage while he was there.
I just headed straight for my rainy day fund box, grabbed some wadded up cash, located the exterior key, and graciously thanked him for liberating me, as I (keyed him out and) set him free to his pizza deliveries (with a little extra loot in hand, which could’ve been anywhere from five dollars to fifty for all I knew).
After he left, I put the screen back in the window, wondering just how he made it in WITHOUT removing the whole window.
All I could imagine was him flattening out like something out of a sci-fi movie, squishing himself through the small opening, and becoming (extra) full-sized again on the other side. However he did it, I was grateful.
Thanks to the oversized knight driving a pizza van, I survived my first double-sided deadbolt dilemma and made it to my family function casually late (as usual).