Our accountant has an office in a two story building that also houses offices of various other professionals. It’s a beautiful building with an indoor waterfall and a few reflection ponds. Tall broad leaf plants reach to the top of the second story. It gives the illusion of being in a park rather than inside a man-made structure.
I’m telling you this because we had a meeting with our accountant in that particular building this past Friday at five 0’clock. An odd time to be sure, but because tax season is in full swing he often works beyond the traditional five o’clock time when other professionals go home to relax with their families.
Our meeting lasted roughly an hour and at the conclusion he told us that exterior door to the building would most likely be locked. Not a problem he said, because from the inside one only has to twist the lock to the right and it opens then automatically locks again when the door falls shut.
We gathered our tax support papers and took the elevator to the first floor lobby. Enjoying the beautiful décor we strolled to the door and indeed found it locked. Bruce, my husband, turned the dead bolt to the right as instructed and gave the door a push. It remained locked. He twisted the bolt to the left and pushed again. The door remained stubbornly locked.
With my superior woman fortitude, I gave it a try. First turning it to the right as instructed and then to the left. The lock would not budge. I noted there were three distinct clicks when the bolt was turned so I tried each position. The door obstinately remained locked.
At this point I suggested that Bruce go back up to the accountant’s office to ask for more specific instructions or some physical assistance. I heard his footfalls fade and then the I heard the elevator door slide shut with a faint ding followed by a whir as it made its way up to the second story. I continued to fruitlessly turn the blot left, then right, then left, and then right again.
From somewhere on the opposite side of the building I thought I heard the soft whoosh of a door closing followed by a very distinct “click.” Joy oh happy joy, someone else was on the first floor. I dashed though the maze of plants, fountains and rounded the waterfall just in time to see our accountant exiting though another door. That’s right, another exterior door. Let me make this clear… there was another exterior door. Who knew?
I called out his name and ran toward that door. I reached it just in time to see his red tail lights fading out of the back parking lot… there was a back parking lot? who knew?
I tried pushing on the door. It was locked. I tried turning the bolt to the right then to the left. Sadly, It like the main front door, remained securely in place. From somewhere above me I faintly heard Bruce pounding on a door and yelling “Mike..Mike..are you in there?”
Well, I knew Mike wasn’t up there because he had just pulled out of the parking lot. The question was how he got past Bruce. Then I turned around and saw a set of stair that led up to the second floor. Apparently Mike was descending the stairs while Bruce was going up in the elevator. This building was a maze! No one told us about the stairs or the second exterior door. Reluctantly and with an ominous feeling I trudged up the stairs.
When I reached the second floor It was obvious that no one was left up there except Bruce. All the offices were dark. Only a couple of dim overhead lights remained on in the corridor.
I frantically told Bruce that Mike had just left through a back door that he locked behind him and that we appeared to be the only two people left inside.
I’m telling you that it is a rather odd feeling to be locked inside a two story building on a Friday night with a full weekend ahead. If ever I wanted to own a cell phone this was the time. The thought of spending three nights inside a locked building sent a rush of total panic through me.
We were hungry, stressed, and we both had to use the rest room. Regrettably we had walked past a restroom in the accountant’s office, but neither of us could remember seeing a public one anywhere in the building, but then we had missed the back door and back parking lot as well.
We checked every door on the second floor. All locked, dark, or dimly lit inside and no sign of a public restroom anywhere. We took the elevator back down to the lobby and checked every office door on the first floor as well. They were all locked as well and no public restroom.
Suddenly a flash of cars headlights flooded in though the large glass front of the building’s lobby. We ran to the door and pounded on it as the car turned around and parked with its tail toward us. We pounded on the door and yelled to no avail. We could see the dim green LED glow of a cell phone in use inside the car. Someone was apparently sitting there texting. From their angle and distance they couldn’t see or hear us. After about ten minutes the car pulled away and drove down the street.
Nearly an hour had passed since I saw the accountant drive away, and we were getting desperate. We wandered aimlessly throughout the building looking for security cameras or some sort of alarm device that we could activate. We did find a fire alarm, but we thought we should reserve that for a last ditch effort to save ourselves. The thought of all the paper work with fire officials was intimidating. We would do it though, if all else failed. All else did seem to be failing at the moment.
We considered breaking a window, but there was nothing to break it with. The benches were anchored in cement and the waterfalls rocks were mortared in place. The potted plants were in containers that were about the size of a refrigerator. There was absolutely nothing we could use.
In the end we sulked on a bench for a bit and tried to analyze our unbelievable predicament. Then it happened… I caught sight of a person walking toward the building. We jumped up and rushed to the door and tried to get the attention of an elderly man walking somewhat in our general direction, then not in our general direction, then again in our general direction. He was carrying several large trash bags.
As he drew closer then turned and walked away, then turned back again in our direction it became obvious he was a homeless person. He appeared to be totally disoriented, possibly drunk and talking or singing to himself. It was like watching a ball roll around in a pinball machine. Off in one direction then back in another Every time he turned toward us our hopes soared.
He finally got close enough that we could see him fairly clearly. We banged on the door and shouted for him to get help.
For what seemed to be an eternity, he remained oblivious then something we were doing seemed to catch his eye. He looked at us from about eight feet away, grinned then turned in tight circles dancing and singing. The plastic bags extended from his arms and flew around him like fluttering wings of a bird as he turned.
From time to time he would stop and look at us seeming seeing but not seeing then he would start his silly twisting dance again. Finally he set the bags down and walked toward the door. I told Bruce to grab a piece of our tax papers and “Call 911” on it.
The man came a bit closer and appeared to read the note. Maybe he thought we were going to call 911 if he didn’t leave because he put up his hands in the universal sign of resignation and backed away. He picked up his bags and walked out of sight as we frantically pounded on the door and yelled “Come back. Call 911”
For a while we had hope that he understood and would tell someone about the two crazy people inside a dark building, but as time passed we resigned ourselves to the fact that he most likely moved down to the next alcove and was fast asleep in a drunken stupor thinking he had imagined it all.
Isn’t it silly what we do in desperation? As time passed we took the elevator to the second floor again to double check the already triple checked locked office doors. We rattled each one hoping to maybe set off an alarm or by some miracle we would alert a poor secretary still salving away somewhere in a back office. It helped pass the time, and made us feel like we were doing something useful.
Returning the main lobby we sat down on the bench again. We tried to make light of our situation, but after a while the jovial bantering began to wear on us and we sat in silence.
When a large van pulled up in front of the building and the headlights shown directly on us we just turned and stared numbly into the blinding light. When we heard the slide doors open then close we jumped to our feet and ran toward the front door. We were completely blinded by the glare of the lights, but we waved our hands and yelled “We are locked in…Help”
As silhouettes moved back and forth in front of the headlights were able to discern the images of what appeared to be two women and a man. The man was on his cell phone and the women were headed back to the van.
I am sure they thought that two people were ransacking the medical offices in the building looking for drugs. That is the first thing that would have come to my mind if I were on the outside looking in.
The man returned to the van and backed it up about twenty or so feet. At that point we were able to see the logo on the side of the vehicle indicating it was a cleaning service.
Before long additional help arrived …in the form of flashing red and blue lights on two vehicles. From the cautionary actions of the police our relief of being freed soon turned to thoughts of spending the night, or maybe the rest of our lives, locked in jail. If you ever want to feel like a criminal without really being one, I suggest you get locked in a building after closing hours.
In time it all turned out alright. Our appointment with the accountant was verified and so was our ability to stupidly get ourselves locked in a building. No fire alarms were pulled, no medical offices broken into. Plain and simple it was obvious we were Just two people caught like mice in a trap.
I’m wondering if any of this could be written off as a tax deduction.