Monday, April 6, 2020

E is for Escape

My children were young, around 4 and 7. It was a hot summer day, and we were gathering up our swim gear to go to the pool for the afternoon when I realized we left my daughter's pool floatie at a friend's grandparent's house after a birthday party there the day before.

I loaded the car with the beach towels and pool toys and snacks and two children and drove to the home where the pool party had been held. I parked in the one spot of shade available and rolled down the windows so my kids wouldn't poach in their own sweat, even though it was literally a thirty second errand. I even peeked over the pool fence and spotted the floatie sitting on the side of the pool where we (Emma) left it, and no, it is NOT asking too much for me to expect a 4 year old to get the ONLY item she herself carried into the party.

When I went to the door and explained to the homeowner that I needed to get the pool floatie, he let me in and pointed to a closed door that led to the basement and access to the swimming pool (it's worth noting here that the gentleman, who was home alone at the time, had had a stroke several years earlier and moved rather slowly, plus he was kind of grumpy, although I'm not sure whether that was due to the stroke or simply a personality trait). I apologized for being such a bother, thanked him profusely, and went through the door, carefully closing it behind me, and down the stairs. 

The basement of this house was a rabbit warren, as was the case with most of the homes in that neighborhood, as choppy rooms was a design flaw of many 1950s-era ranch-style homes, but after a bit of wandering, I found the "rec room" and the french doors that opened onto the pool area. I was met with a blast of hot air when I opened the door, and I quickly shut it as soon as I stepped over the threshold so as not to let the air conditioned air out of the house or the hot air in. I picked up the floatie, walked back to the french doors, put my hand on the knob and---it didn't turn. Locked from the inside. 

Thinking of my poor, hot children sitting in the sweltering car, I started banging on the french doors, but the many rooms, the flight of stairs, and the closed door were between me and the homeowner, and no amount of banging brought him to the rescue.

The gate! Why didn't I think of the gate before? I walked along the pool area fence, feeling quite silly that I hadn't thought of just walking out through the gate in the first place. The gate had a regular doorknob for opening the latch, and---it was locked, as in it need an honest-to-God key to open it, from the inside or the outside.

I was trapped. 

The fence was at least 5 feet tall, although it might as well have been 10 feet, because it was topped with spikes and there was no way I was going to be able to climb it to get out (and I was a CHAMPION fence climber as a kid, and I DID contemplate dragging pool furniture over to use as a leg up, but there wasn't anything that was going to be substantial enough to do the job). The gentleman inside was at the front of the house and wouldn't be able to hear me if I yelled. The houses were spaced pretty far from each other, so no neighbor to help me out. It was close to 100 degrees, and I was dripping with flop sweat, coupled with plain ol' heat sweat from standing on a big slab of concrete in full sun (because who builds their pool in a shady area, and anyway, is there a hotter place to be than next to a pool that you can't get into?). 

And I was trapped.

I stood at the gate, hysterically laughing, because the alternative was bursting into tears, and that's when I saw something black stuck to one of the bars of the fence. It was a key keeper and the key was inside. I unlocked the gate, and I was free!

My kids were hot and cranky inside the car, having been fighting with each other probably from the time I disappeared inside the house. They did stop long enough for me to explain how my 30 second errand turned into ten minutes (or ten hours, hard to know), and we went on to the pool, and as far as I know, that homeowner either forgot all about me, thought he had imagined the whole thing, or thinks to this day that I'm still in his basement

The pool area of the house. French doors evident, as are
the spikes on the fence and lack of any climbing apparatus.


  1. That sounds so stressful. I'm glad you spotted the key holder although I love the image of the home owner thinking you're still somehow wandering around in the basement. Weekends In Maine

    1. For all that guy knows, I'm still down there! I'm REALLY glad I didn't try to climb over the fence before finding that key holder!