Getting locked in the loo in a public place. Come on now, it has happened to all of us.
The absurdly common phenomenon of a stiff lock or handle on a toilet cubicle door is my living nightmare. And the worst part is that you enter the cubicle utterly oblivious, to be confronted with fate before you have even realised what is happening, before your cheeks have even met the seat.
Not only did this happen to me, but it happened in a foreign country, and as any linguist will tell you, international door locks are infinitely more devious…
So there we were, my friend and I, café dwellers sipping cappuccinos and nibbling on Foccaccia. Totes italiano yah. Then all of a sudden, Mother Nature’s call beckoned me to the water closet. As I stood to excuse myself, my friend dramatically grabbed my arm. “Don’t do it!” She yelled, panic in her eyes.
“What on earth are you talking about?” I asked, dumbfounded in response.
“That toilet is a DEATH TRAP. You get in, the door locks and then you can’t get back out again. DON’T DO IT!” I looked at her. She was telling the truth. The sheer terror in her voice made me realise she’d obviously had a traumatic experience in there. Nevertheless, I was bursting. I yanked my arm free and said “Don’t be so melodramatic, I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you…” she mumbled under her breath as I walked briskly to the loo.
Once inside, I discovered a sink, a soap dispenser, some paper towels and one cubicle. Very dark, very dank, very south Italy. In the interest of hygiene, my plan was to get in, do my thing and get out. No fuss, no muss. So, when I had been in (and done my thing) and couldn’t get out, I began to worry.
I remembered my friend’s words of warning, foreshadowing this very event, but I had filed these words in that dusty old cabinet at the back of my mind, behind the pressing thought of my tiny bladder.
I jiggled the handle. It wouldn’t budge. I jiggled it again. Nothing. A pin-prick of panic stuck to the back of my neck. Oh god.
I sighed and let my hands drop to my sides. This is could be worse. I have back-up. My friend is still sitting in the café enjoying her coffee and Foccaccia. She knows I’m in here and how tricky the door can be. She told me herself. She’ll come looking for me any minute now…
3 minutes later, I was still stuck. I tried turning away from the door handle, pretending not to care, and then pouncing on it and rattling it violently, as if to surprise it into submission. No dice.
But wait – I’d now been in here a total of six and a half minutes. The other people in the café would know something is up. They have no idea that I am in this predicament. And if I were to re-emerge, their minds could jump to all manner of conclusions. I shook the handle once more. It refused to move. What sorcery is this?! Is there some specific way of opening this door that involves uninhibited bodily contortion? Does everybody know something I don’t? Why is this happening?!
Beads of sweat decorated my brow as fear rose in my throat. My heart jumped out of my chest, ran to the corner of the room and exploded. The walls began to close in around me, my life flashing before my eyes: getting my tooth out at the dentist when I was 6, my dad buying me a Cinderella Castle so that I wouldn’t hate my parents for it. My brother and sister pinning me down in the living room and dangling spit over my face. The first day of school and getting called four eyes by a boy in my class and crying about it for 15 minutes. Forgetting my lines in the school production of Joseph in front of my entire family, and the rest of the cast looking around for some kind of cue. My first ever hangover the day after my first night in halls of residence and calling my mum in a panic with no idea of what was happening to my body. And of course, accidentally drinking a shot of wee on my 20th birthday (VERY long story)…
It wasn’t hot in there, it was just me. Drenched in a feverish sweat with a hot neck, my blood sugar dropped to critically low, get-me-a-mars-bar-right-now levels. My legs gave way beneath me and I sank down against the wall, staring helplessly with tears in my eyes at the door that would remain closed for all eternity. This was the end. I could see a bright light…
Suddenly, the door burst open, and my friend stood over me, looking down at me with a knowing expression on her face.
“Bloody death trap.” I managed, amidst the panting.