After two weeks of backpacking through some of the bigger cities in the Southern Germany, I arrived in my new temporary home groggy but excited, my German a bit more easy to roll off my tongue than before. I stumbled and tripped over my words as I was exchanging pleasantries with my new boss and commenting on how nice the hotel looked where I would be working in for the next two months. After that he drove me and my backpack, which I had once again packed too full in an optimistic bout of self deception of my own strength, to the apartment that would be my temporary home.
The lock on the front door was old-fashioned; it was one of those that allow you to peek through the keyhole. After showing me how the TV worked, my boss waved me bye and reminded me what time to be at the hotel the next day. I turned the key in the lock after he left and went to explore the apartment.
Soon hunger started creeping into the pit of my stomach. It had been a long day and I hadn’t had any dinner yet. Remembering the grocery store right next to the house, I grabbed my wallet and went to the door.
It didn’t open.
I pulled the key out and sarcastically gave myself an imaginary pat on the back; apparently my inability to deal with doors does transfer internationally. Well, maybe it’s just a bit stiff. This time I carefully made sure to push the key all the way in and turned right – yanked the door and nothing. Tried turning the key to the left but it wouldn’t budge that way. Umm, that’s weird. Maybe I had accidentally mixed up the keys? I tried the one that I had thought was meant for the door downstairs, but quite obviously it wasn’t the right shape for this lock. I tried the first key again. And again.
At this point I started doubting my own sanity. No way could a lock just be this difficult to open, what was I doing wrong? I put the key in upside down. I tried to force it to turn left. I tried putting in the key that belonged to my apartment in Finland. The door stayed locked.
After twenty minutes I collapsed on my bed and staring at the plain ceiling contemplated my life and all the choices I had made that had led me to this point. I could see the headlines flashing before my eyes: Stupid Finnish girl doesn’t know how to operate doors. Foreign worker removed from an apartment she locked herself in. Or whatever any of that is in German. I wanted to lie there forever and just accept that this was my life now. But the grumbling of my stomach drove me up, and with the motivation of desperation I charged at the door again.
Key wiggling did nothing. Luckily, I did have wifi, and after vigorous googling I was eyeing a Wikihow article with two bend-out paperclips in hand, trying to pick the lock. This is where my life as an outlaw starts, I thought calmly. My first offense will be breaking out of my apartment. An hour mark on my confinement passed as I gave up the picklocks. I tried the key again – turning right, where it wouldn’t unlock the door, and turning left, where the key wouldn’t go. I sat there on the cold floor glaring at the door that had unexpectedly become my greatest nemesis, and one more idea popped into my head.
I stood up and started searching for a screwdriver. Oh man, how was I going to explain to my boss that I had to unscrew his front door? This wasn’t going well. I rummaged through empty drawers one after another until my eyes happened on something shiny. It was the most hopeful thing I had ever seen: it was the spare key.
Fearfully, excitedly, numbly trying not to get my hopes up not to jinx it, I inserted the new key into the keyhole. I turned right. After more than an hour of key wiggling I knew that left was a no-go zone.
At that point I figuratively had to throw my hands in the air in the universal gesture of “What is this I don’t even”. Swallowing my pride I dialled my employer, and as he picked up, I sheepishly told him: “I can’t get out of my apartment.”
“Just turn the key to the left.”
“I’ve tried that”, I replied, trying to contain my desperation. Still, in one last exhausted effort I inserted the spare key again and this time turned left.
Oh, the joy! Sweet strawberry cheesecake chocolate chip! Praise the gods and the German engineers and Illuminati! With an audible click the stubborn door had finally opened. I was free! Free!
In a moderately delighted manner I calmly informed my employer that I was out, thank you for his help and I would see him tomorrow. After that I pranced down the stairs and into the store to buy vanilla pudding and whisky to calm my nerves. What a wonderful world it was out here behind the locked door!
For the rest of my time living there, my door was never locked from inside again.