24 February 2012

Locked Out!

Welcome back. I appreciate your company. My wife, Vicki, is away. Maybe you can help me find a good hiding place for our house key in case I lock myself out.

Breaking In

The first time I locked myself out of a house, I was living alone in Ithaca, NY. I drove into the garage, which was sort of a tunnel under the house. It would have been a 2-car garage, end to end, not side by side, if I hadn’t had a sump pump installed with pvc piping. Before adding sump pumps (plural), the basement and garage would begin flooding as soon as rain was forecast.

Anyway, I got out of the car, grabbed shopping bags from the trunk, and couldn’t open the basement door. I can’t recall why I didn’t have my key to open the deadbolt lock, but I didn’t.

After returning the bags to the trunk, I walked around the perimeter of the house, marveling at how safe I would have been if I were inside. Every door and window was locked shut.
Tools used to remove basement door. 
(Burglar mask not shown.)

Being new to breaking and entering, though equipped with basic tools I kept in my car trunk, I decided to go for the basement door rather than destroy a window. I removed the door hinge pins, which were on the garage side of the door, and more-or-less chiseled the door out from the door frame. It only took about 30 minutes if you don’t count the hour spent repairing the door and door frame.

Saved by the Bell

The last time I locked myself out was in our present home. I returned from jogging at 0-dark hundred, took the front-door key from my pocket, and…whoosh…the key went flying into the darkness, where I gave up searching. 
Do you see the key? (Simulated daytime 
reconstruction of flying key.)

I don’t remember where our son was. I don’t think he was away at college yet, but he wasn’t in his basement bedroom, where I could have roused him. No doubt the cats, three at the time, would have rushed to my aid, but they were inaccessible, shuttered in the basement utility room.

Vicki was sleeping. When I departed our second-floor bedroom, I closed the bedroom door, placing her beyond easy listening to the front doorbell. Even if I’d left the bedroom door open, however, she probably wouldn’t have stirred. It’s not that Vicki doesn’t wake up easily, which she doesn’t; it’s the nature of the waker-upper.

If I whisper that it’s time to get up, that can work. If the alarm goes off at the fire station, where she spends nights as an EMT volunteer, she’ll usually respond quickly. If the alarm clock on her night stand, a foot or so from her ear goes off, that’s probably not going to do it, especially since she can reach that alarm. If I ring the doorbell? Not a chance.

I could have whistled loudly. (Remember? My grandmother taught me.) The whistle may or may not have worked, but Vicki would definitely wake to the sirens when the police respond to a neighbor’s complaint.

I also voted against throwing pebbles at the bedroom window. Even if I could find a proper pebble, I knew such actions were fraught with possible errors. And smashing a window wasn’t guaranteed to wake her.

Should I just wait a few more hours for daybreak to renew my search for the key or until the neighbors let their dogs out? Vicki may have given the neighbors an extra key, or I could at least telephone Vicki. Our phone ringer would be on by that time, which isn’t to say she would hear it with the bedroom door shut.
Relevant portion of closed and 
locked front door.

Clearly, my best chance for immediate access was to go with the doorbell buzzer and complement that by slamming the brass front-door knocker. Much to my surprise and delight, Vicki opened the door! It only took about 20 minutes.

Wrap Up

After that last experience, I’ve been extremely careful how I carry and handle the key. Still, accidents happen, and I’ve put off hiding a key too long. OK, truth be known, I haven’t put it off. Shortly after I was locked out, I hid a key, but I forgot all about it until the crew replacing the house siding found it for me.

Well, you can’t remember everything.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again in about a week.


Here’s a link to a few hundred possibilities. (Maybe I'd remember a gnome.)
Hide-A-Key Devices

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