Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Real-Life Locked Room Mystery

A couple weeks ago, I decide to take the day off to bring my son and his cousin to the aquarium. But as I try to transition the boys from pajamas to clothes after their breakfast, my son steps into the hallway and closes the door on us.

His bedroom door has a lock on it, facing the hallway. We have no idea why. The previous owners had no children, so as best we can figure they enjoyed locking their house guests in at night.

Anyway, it turns out my son hasn't actually locked the door. But as I usher him back into his room, I stupidly tell him not to play with the lock.

I say stupidly, because—well, if you've known any 5-year-old boys, you can guess what happens next. That's right: My son immediately stops playing with the lock and comes into his room to get dressed.

Then my nephew steps into the hallway, turns the lock, and comes back into the room, closing the door behind him.

So yeah, that happened.

Denise had left for work 10 minutes earlier, so there's no one in the house to let us out. My phone is downstairs. The lock's "safety" mechanism — as I'd already discovered weeks earlier with the bathroom door — cannot be popped with a paper clip or wire hanger; it needs to be turned with a tiny screwdriver. A tiny screwdriver I don't have in my son's bedroom. Nor is there anything I can use to remove the hinges.

But. But! It isn't all bad. It's beautiful out, and my son's room faces the front of the house. Joggers pass by every day. Dog walkers, too. At least two families had walked or biked their kids to school the previous morning. And best of all, our neighbors across the street have a small dog, who they let out into the front yard several times a day. Despite our large front yard, certainly I'd be able to get someone's attention, and we'd be rescued in no time.

A half hour in, my nephew hits my son in the nose with a plastic toy. The crying distracts me long enough for the morning's lone jogger to pass the house before I see him.

No kids walk to school that day. No dog walkers. Plenty of vehicles drive by, but all have the windows rolled up or the music too loud to hear me.

After an hour, the boys are deliberately doing things to annoy each other. My back and shoulders ache from leaning out the second-story window waiting to flag someone down. I start to contemplate tying bed sheets together. Problem is, all I have to work with is the single set on the bed, plus a bunch of little kid clothes. Perhaps the material can hold my weight, but my knot-tying ability is highly suspect. No, our situation is not yet dire enough. Maybe when one of them needs to use the potty.

The neighbor on the corner walks to the end of his driveway to get the paper. I yell to him, but we've never met, so I don't know his name. He looks toward our yard, but for some reason doesn't think to look up, through the branches, to where I'm waving frantically from the second floor window. After a second (at most), he shrugs and heads back inside, ignoring my screams beseeching him not to go.

At ninety minutes it feels like it's been four hours. Being stuck in a room with warring boys will do that to you (even if, technically, half of you is outside the window). My son is bored and only wants to go to the aquarium. My nephew, on the other hand, is loving every minute of it. He feels we're having a grand adventure.

A man in a small white sedan drives by, driver-side window open. I call out, "Hi! Hello! Can you help us?!" and barely manage to catch his eye. He slows to a stop in front of the next house down, then puts his car in reverse. He listens to my story with a healthy amount of skepticism, but the kids' faces at the window are enough to convince him I'm not just some nut hanging out of a second-story window.

Okay, maybe he's not fully convinced, but he does agree to enter a stranger's house by the back door (which I'd luckily left unlocked after letting the dog out earlier), get trailed all the way through the house and up the stairs by a dog barking menacingly ("she's loud but friendly," I tell him), and release us back into the wild.

The man (henceforth to be known as "Mike, the Reluctant Savior") then wisely makes his own escape as fast as he can. (Pro tip: Don't stick around after saving a guy trapped in a room in his own house.) Yet before he's even reached the door, my son is sitting by the first-floor closet, getting his shoes on. So we can go to the aquarium right away.

Which is pretty much what we do.

... right after I remember to run back upstairs and close the window. We were moments away from losing a cat.


The lock is now on the inside of the room, where it belongs. Actually, it doesn't belong on the door at all in my opinion, but we haven't yet had the chance to do it in with a sledgehammer buy a new knob.

The kids loved the aquarium. My son would still be there feeding the rays, if he had his way.

Also, he now plays with locks far too often.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Four-Donut Day

Ladies and gentlemen, I am an addict.

From my post's title, you may infer the object of my obsession is donuts.1 Or perhaps you think it's sweets in general.2

But in fact, my craving isn't for a specific category of food. Or rather, it is, but not in the way you think.3

What I'm addicted to is free food. At work.

The free food thing started in college. If an event promised pizza, for instance, I'd hover near the entrance like a vulture, watching for its delivery with an eagle eye, and pounce the moment my prey arrived.4

Note: These were $5 Domino's cheese pizzas. Hardly gourmet fare. What mattered was it was free.

After I entered the workforce, I continued to be among the first comers whenever free food was offered. Eventually I lost that urgency, but somewhere along the way it got replaced by something else. Something worse.

Repeat visits.

Co-workers would bring in a dozen donuts or other pastries for the team, and leave them near (or sometimes on) my desk. They figured putting them within my view made it less likely there'd be any left to bring home at the end of the day.5

Sane people, normal people, might eat one pastry in the morning. Weaker-willed folk might return that afternoon for a second. Me? I'd eat two in the morning, one in the afternoon, plus another for lunch. So yeah, I have no willpower. Yet, I have never consumed more than four donuts in one day.

Thus, the name.

It may have started with donuts, but now this behavior extends to any spread laid out in the common areas. It could be bagels or pizza, cake or fruit salad, pita and/or hummus. Maybe leftover sandwiches from a lunchtime meeting. Or every sample at that Asian culture fair thing a couple weeks back.6

I don't only do this at work — they have those samples at grocery stores and artisan shops, and I usually eat more than my fill at friends' parties7 — but work's where I have the most opportunity. If there's food for the taking, I grab some on the way by. Then again. And again. Until I've had four, I can't stop myself.

Okay, that's a lie. I could stop myself if I wanted to. But why would I want to?

After all, it's free.

1 You'd be wrong.
2 Wrong again.
3 Wow, you're bad at this.
4 This might surprise you, but I'm bad at metaphor. And simile. Also, lacrosse.
5 They figured right. They're better at this than you.
6 At least I think they were promoting Asian culture. I was too busy scarfing all the available deliciousness to pay full attention. But I kind of remember there being maps.
7 I'm also available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.