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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Hopelessly Trapped

Hopelessly Trapped! Chuck says don't close the door when you go into a restroom until you check for escape routes.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - A Self-Taught Skill

By Chuck Hinman

Hopelessly Trapped!

In the late 1970's, the Lease Records division of the Land & Geological Department where I worked was relocated to the newly refurbished Pioneer Building. It had been the long-time home of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. It was an old building. The men's restroom at the back of the second floor was so old that instead of marble doors and stalls, it had thick, oft-painted plywood stalls and doors.

One morning when I pulled one of the stall doors outward and entered, I let the door close by itself. Somehow the door was so heavy, it 'clomped' shut and in doing so, the door hardware went too far and trapped me inside the stall. Oh God, why me? I tried the door time after time and there was no way I could get out. I was hopelessly trapped!

How to escape without being observed

I considered whether to lie down on the floor on my back and slide out but that was impossible since there was only about twelve inches clearance. What if someone came in and inquired what I was doing lying on the floor.

My first concern was how I was going to escape without being the object of scorn from my co-workers the rest of my life.

If only Chuck had had a screwdriver

So I pulled my pants up and decided to be cool while I figured out what to do. And remember this restroom serves about thirty men. Whatever I did, I would have to do when there was absolutely not one other person in the restroom to know of my dilemma.

Aha. I noticed the door was hung with three hinges -- with three flat-head screws to each hinge. The hinges had been painted so many times the screw heads were level with paint. Of all the times to be without a screwdriver. I reached in my trouser pockets to see what I had that I might remove those screws with.

Chuck had a dime and it did work - slowly

Fortunately I had a dime and when there wasn't someone using the restroom, I used the dime to chip the paint out of each of those nine screw heads. It was slow but it was possible!

I succeeded getting the first screw out -- with just eight more to go my fingers were red from the strain.

No longer trapped but predicament not kept secret

Finally, the last screw was out and I was able to remove the door and set it at the side of the stall!

I straightened my tie, cleared my throat, and tried to walk nonchalantly back to my desk. It felt so good to be back that when the first person asked, "Where have you been?" -- I forgot my intentions and broke down and told the whole sordid story.

Escape not on the news but still comes up for laughs

My miraculous escape didn't make the channel six evening news but it frequently comes up for laughs when lease records people get together to reminisce old times working at Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

One thing I learned from that experience. Don't close the door when you go into a restroom until you check for escape routes.

Written by Chuck Hinman: Emailed: Saturday, 20 February 2010.

This story was posted on 2014-09-28 06:09:20
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