Locked Out on the New Year

It happened at the worse time of the year. Cathy, and I left our house early in the morning to do our last minute groceries for New Year’s Eve dinner. And since it was New Year’s Day, our “stay in” house helper, Lizel, was also on her day-off. The day went well. Cath and I even watched a movie and then we got the groceries we wanted. We were headed home, excited to cook dinner, drink some wine, do Facebook, watch tv and then witness the fireworks display in our neighborhood. We arrived home around 4 pm.

When I was about to unload the boxes of groceries, Cathy asked me: “do you have the keys to the house?” Now, those are the words that translate to “Houston, we have a problem.” There are three sets of keys to the house, and Cathy, I and Lizel had a set each. I did not bring my keys that day. I presumed Cathy would be bringing her keys as she always did. Cathy rummaged through her bag once more and looked at me. “My keys are not here.” She said. “I might have left them on the side table in our room.” So there is that problem on the eve of the New Year: we were locked out of our house. We tried calling Lizel, but there was no response. It turned out that she was navigating her way through the maze called Divisoria at that time. Eventually, she texted us to say that she would hurry back home to open the door. But that would be around 8:00 p.m. What should we do in the meantime?

We think. We took on the hat of being burglars of our house. We went around and looked for the weak points. The goal is clear: to get inside the house without Lizel coming back. Part of my mind was watching the past: “I should have brought my keys.” But then another part was saying: “This is a situation where thinking is needed. You are trained for this. Go figure it out.” For the next three hours, I focused on the job that needed to be done: to get into the house without the keys. I tried several ways. The focus at first was to look for some opening in the windows. There was one. Eventually, we had to concentrate on the door. We need to open the door without the keys.

We tried around 15 “open-the-door” strategies. We used hangers, wires, strings, water pipes, broken eyeglass frames, paper, credit cards, a wrench, a bicycle basket, power cords, and almost anything that our hands can work on. We even tried pulling the door back and forth. A condition, of course, is that we should not break down the door or destroy the lock system or break windows. We failed in each of those attempts, and each failure builds frustration. But whenever I sensed frustration, I simply told myself: “This is what you are teaching the kids, that they should use their minds, to think laterally, to experiment unceasingly.” Shame was a big motivator. Besides, Lizel was just 4 hours away, if we fail, we will still get into the house by 8:00 pm.

Eventually, a strategy worked, and we were able to enter the house. It was a success! We immediately texted Lizel not to proceed home and to enjoy her New Year with her sister. I will never forget this experience as it challenged me to use everything that I know and have learned on thinking and getting the job done. Happy new year everyone! Here’s to more thinking and not giving up in the face of failures (be it large or small like being locked out of your home on New Year Eve.)