Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Landladies and Handymen

My living situation in New York is unusual by Dallas standards. Most of my fellow graduate friends have gotten their own places or moved in with significant others. I, in the style of a college freshman, share a kitchen and bathroom with strangers.

I found my roommates on craigslist. They are both male and software engineers. They have things like health insurance and regular hours. I think I puzzle them.

But the place is great – it’s a half block from Times Square and came fully furnished with a bed, desk and a bookshelf. Granted the kitchen is missing a spatula and more than half of the dishware has some sort of chip or crack… but generally, it’s charming. And my roommates are hardly ever there. When they are, they’re very nice.

...then there’s my landlady. Let’s call her Laurie. And Laurie’s dad -- we’ll call him Laurie’s Dad the Handyman.

Laurie thinks it’s alright to drop by the apartment unannounced and pick up mail. Annoying? Yes. Unlivable? No. She usually comes by in the early afternoon. The only reason I know she’s been there is that her mail’s gone and sometimes my bedroom door is open? So I’ve started locking it. Problem solved.

Laurie’s Dad the Handyman, however, likes to drop by unannounced around 10 pm and just start fixing shit. Granted, the things he’s fixing are usually broken, but they aren’t things I’ve requested be fixed and I don’t see the need to fix them at night, when people are trying to watch trashy reality TV shows in peace.

Here’s the scene: I’m sitting in my room, watching The Bachelorette, drinking a glass of cheap Cabernet and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. So, loving life, when I hear a single knock followed immediately by the sound of someone unlocking the door.

I open my bedroom door to check, but I already know. It's Laurie’s Dad the Handyman.


“Oh. Hi. I thought you wouldn’t be home.”

He always says this, no matter what time of day it is. Then he surveys the door and says, “You guys have three locks on this door?”

That's incorrect. We have two. I tell him this and he nods and looks very concentrated.

“Got to fix the lock.”

In retrospect, I probably should have been more concerned with the fact that the man fixing my door lock couldn’t tell the number of locks in front of him, but Jillian Harris was about to divvy up roses in the other room, so I didn’t take much note.

I settle back into my room with my grilled cheese. Less than five minutes later, there’s a knock on the door that is NOT immediately followed by someone unlocking it. Realizing that Laurie’s Dad the Handyman has made the mistake of locking oneself out while trying to fix a lock, I pause my show, take a sip of wine, and head toward the door to let him in.

“One second,” I yell through the wood while I turn the lock. But it doesn’t turn.

“Can you turn the lock?”

I tell him I’m trying, but I can’t.

“You can’t?”

No, I tell him. I can’t; it’s not moving.

“Did you try turning the lock?” he asks a third time. I want to cry and laugh at the same time.

Yes. I’ve tried turning the lock. It’s not turning.

“Well,” he says, “that’s not good.”

And it dawns on me that Laurie’s Dad the Handyman has locked me in my own apartment. A feeling like panic sets in, but then quickly, and strangely, turns to curiosity. Taking away the uninteresting concluding solution to the problem – that Laurie’s Dad the Handyman calls a locksmith to let me out – what would I do if I were locked in my apartment for an indefinite amount of time? A series of questions run through my mind.

How much food do I have? About a week’s worth of grilled cheese and cereal. But only one bottle of wine.

What would I tell people at work? I could never tell them the truth. I’d have to go with something more believable, like a case of the chicken pox. Adult chicken pox would buy me at least two weeks.

Can I climb out the window? No. I’m seven stories up and not MacGyver.

Then panic sets back in and with it more questions.

How long will it take a locksmith to get here? Is that what he's doing on the other side of the door now, calling a locksmith? I don't hear him on the phone. Do locksmiths come at 10 o'clock at night or just crazy landladies' dads? What is he doing over there? Is he DOING anything?

Suddenly, Laurie's Dad the Handyman has an idea!

“Do you have any pliers?” A flash of brilliance.

Laurie keeps a tool box under the sink. I open it and on top is a shiny pair of pliers. Using the magic pliers of freedom I manhandle the lock until, yes, at last, it turns. Laurie’s Dad the Handyman enters without so much as an apology and proceeds to continue his work.

You’d think that after all that maybe Laurie’s Dad the Handyman would be discouraged, maybe call a locksmith to come fix the lock, but not him.

And you’d think that I, the near victim of house arrest, would take the opportunity to leave my apartment while I had the chance, breath in the New York night air and do something more exciting with my night than reheat my grilled cheese and finish my show. Not so.

I spent the rest of the evening in my room listening to Laurie’s Dad the Handy Man pitter around outside with the lock until he left. When I woke up the next day and tried the door, it worked perfectly. And a part of me was disappointed.

Parting question to you all:

If locked in your apartment/house/box/place of dwelling and unable to phone a locksmith, what’s your plan B?


  1. Change into pajamas and read for fun! Let someone else worry about the door.

  2. Bust out a window??? Use a knife to start carvingout the door???? Probally would try to solve it right then because I would start freaking out and it would bother me until I had solved it.

  3. I'd unscrew the door with my power drill. :)
    I live on wine and cheese so I'd be set for about 48 hours. Then I'd be taking that screwdriver to my neighbor's wall prison break style. ;) p.s. love your blog <3 KB