Of the many ways that I had planned to celebrate my birthday, spending two hours locked inside the bathroom at my house, continuously yelling "hello, can someone please help me?" out the window was not one of them!
But, it makes for a funny story, it allowed me to meet my landlords, and it reminded me of the kindness of strangers.
My birthday begins with an early morning phone call from my friend Kevin in Homer. We chat for a while and when we hang up, I plan to go back to sleep as it's only 6am. I rest for about a half an hour and then the excitement of what I have planned for my day entices me to get moving.
Already showered, dressed and ready to go, I make one last stop at the bathroom to check my makeup. A quick flick of my wrist usually turns the door handle, but this morning, it doesn't turn. I toggle the handle back and forth, back and forth, sure that the spring inside the handle will release itself, and me.
I easily remove the handle and am just as easily dismayed to find that there is no way to remove the lock mechanism without a screwdriver. Though I have many tools in my makeup kit, a screwdriver is not one of them.
I find myself staring at the handle and as I jiggle it one more time, knowing it is stuck, and I am stuck, a loud laugh escapes and I'm soon having to lean myself against the cool, white wall, to keep from falling over. Seriously? This is happening on my birthday?
After wiping the tears of laughter from my cheeks, I open the narrow window, push the screen out of the way, and lean the upper part of my body out, looking down to the right through the alley and in to the small space between my building and the next one, where I can watch people walk by.
Or I could watch people walk by, if anyone were doing so. I wait. As I wait, I wonder how I will keep myself from going crazy if no one is along soon. I'm in the bathroom and have no phone, no book, no computer. My only company is my mascara brush, a lonely and unhelpful adversary at this moment.
Finally, one, two, three, four, five, six people walk by in the space of about a half an hour. Mom's with strollers, men with briefcases, a kid on a bike, a couple holding hands, a young man walking his dog.
Leaning as far out the window as I can, rubbing my ribcage against the metal frame, I yell "Hello, I'm stuck in my bathroom, can you help me?".
No one stops, although a few do look my way. I realize just how crazy the situation is and just how crazy I must seem. I'm leaning out the window, in an alley, facing the brick wall of the brownstone on the other side, about 30 feet from the sidewalk, with a space of about 10 feet where I can see people walking by.
This means that I am mostly invisible to those walking by. This means that in order for someone to see me, they have to stop and look down the alley. This means that they have to assume that the person is actually in distress and is not crazy.
I am forever aghast at the man who swore at me, as if I had planned to lock myself in the bathroom. As if it was the highlight of my birthday to hang out a narrow window, in to a narrow alley, and to yell for help.
I am forever grateful to the young man on his way to school who stopped, turned around and came down the alley to my window. Who took a chance that I was actually in distress and not a nut. Who offered to knock on the landlord's door below me. Who, upon realizing that they weren't home, went to the corner store and borrowed a paper and pen and left a note on the landlord's door, telling them I was upstairs, locked inside the bathroom.
Half an hour later, when the landlord's cousin Louise emerges from their home, taking the side door in the alley right below me, and not the front door on the street as she normally does, a few phonecalls findthe landlord's brother Reggie and his son Victor on the other side of the door.
The fun continues when, after about 20 minutes, Reggie works the frame off from around the door, opens the door, comes in to greet me and then closes the door, "just to be sure it will open" and, it locks again, stranding us both inside.
Victor swears out loud and I swear under my breath, and we're soon all laughing, but only once Victor repeats the task of working the frame from around the door and releasing the door.
Victor goes off to school, now late. Reggie goes off to work, now late. At last, I can begin my birthday celebrations.
The next day, I make an apple pie, with the help of a housemate, and present it to Reggie, Victor and my landlord Pooran, who I meet for the first time. He is nervous and anxious that I am angry, but I assure him over and over that it makes a funny story and will surely be one of the highlights of my time in New York City.
Not the actual getting stuck of course, but the fact that it makes for a funny story, that it allowed me to meet my landlords, and that it reminded me of the kindness of strangers.
The day is beautiful and warm. I pass below maple and oak trees shedding their leaves, and a slight breeze sweeps the leaves down the sidewalk ahead of me. I want to slow this moment in time down.
At last I reach my early morning destination: Colson's Patissiere. I'm greeted with cheerful staff and a surprise gift certificate from Taz. I am touched by his creative generosity and I heartily indulge in coffee and a sweet treat while I open gifts and cards from friends back home.
I further treat myself and indulge in a manicure and pedicure. Kalli is my beautician and she laughs when I tell her my birthday bathroom story.
This is my first trip in to Manhattan since I arrived. With my new birthday outfit and painted nails, I feel like a city girl and I'm ready to explore Broadway, as I wait for the doors to open for Mary Poppins.
Mary Poppins is excellent and the front row seats are well worth the cost! The staging, costumes, music and acting is phenomenal! After the performance, I walk around Times Square, taking in the brilliant chaos.
Too much coffee, too much sugar and too much excitement leave me feeling exhausted. I head home, having happily celebrated turning 43.