Yesterday morning I was supposed to de-stress with a relaxing massage, but I was running late (mistake #1) to my appointment. I rushed off without taking the therapist's phone number with me, but I didn’t think I would need it (mistake #2).
It wasn’t until after I parked that I also realized I’d forgotten to plug my cell phone in last night (mistake #3). Only a blinking sliver of power was left if I needed help. I wasn’t worried. Ahead of me was a half hour of quiet, blissful relaxation. No cell phone necessary.
The therapist’s office was on the second floor of an Italian villa-esque building. Three doors lined the brick courtyard on the side, but they were all locked. I stopped in a gift shop and asked how I could get to the second floor. The woman told me to try around back. When I did, the door popped open.
I ran up a stairwell, through a second door, and found the therapist’s office overlooking the courtyard below. Only a couple minutes late. I took a deep breath, and I knocked. And knocked. I waited and knocked again. No answer.
After ten minutes, I figured no one was coming so I walked back to the stairwell. But when I turned the doorknob, it didn’t budge. I pushed and tugged and turned again. Nothing. I mentally retraced my steps up and down the three floors. I went upstairs and opened the door—this led me to the roof. The only way out was to jump. Deciding against that option, I went back down to the courtyard and jiggled all the doors. No luck.
By now I was sweating a little. My hands were starting to shake. Would I be spending my weekend in this building? What would my husband do when I didn’t come home? I had our only car. He had the girls. With the little power I had left on the phone, I called him—seven times. No answer. On one of the walls was a red triangle with the number of a security company that’s supposed to keep people out of the building (not in). I called it. Disconnected.
I tried all the doors again. I thought through my dwindling options. And then I did what any panicked damsel in distress would do. I called 9-1-1. They connected me to the local police…and the local fire station…and some other office for emergencies even though I explained repeatedly that it was not an emergency. I was a bystander on a four-way conversation on how to get an uninjured person out of a locked building that was not burning to the ground. Apparently there’s no protocol.
Minutes later, with sirens blaring, a fire truck and police car flew up to the sidewalk. Mortified, I waved to them from the courtyard. I explained that all they needed to do was go around back. It was unlocked. Someone could hold open each door, and we could all walk out.
Open a door? If wasn’t going to happen. After all, there were six of them, and one of them was wielding a crow bar. Showtime.
The guy pounded the lock on the gate. Nothing happened. They all stepped back and he clobbered the metal until it ripped apart. I was free (and very grateful, I might add). One of the policemen waved to me, and I was off. Just like that.
When I finally contacted the massage therapist, she apologized profusely for the mix-up. No worries. I told her I write fiction, and we novelists love stuff like this. The scene is filed away in my brain—the embarrassment, the heat, the trembling in my hands. All I need to do is add a few creepy details. A dark night. A dangerous animal. A cell phone that dies before I can spew out my address. Maybe there’s someone looking for me…
Sometimes people ask me where I get ideas as I write fiction. Crammed in my head is a library of mistakes I’ve made, consequences from when I’ve messed up. As long as I keep making mistakes (and getting trapped in buildings), I’ll never run out of inspiration.