Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Alcalá de Henares: That time I got locked in a bathroom

Every now and then I find myself in awkward situations.  When these situations occur in my non-native country and language, they're even more entertaining.

My last spring in Spain, Gregorio and I took an afternoon trip to Alcalá de Henares to get more information about the Franklin master's program.

Chilling with Don Quijote and Sancho in Alcalá de Henares

After the university meeting was done, we got some lunch in town.

We were late for lunch, even by Spain's standards, so we could no longer order the menu of the day.  We stayed anyways and were seated outside on the patio, since it was a gorgeous day out.  After ordering, I ran inside to use the bathroom quick.  Didn't need anything from my purse, so I left it at the table.

It was quite dark inside the bar/restaurant, and empty too -- just a bartender standing behind the bar.  It wasn't quiet though, since music blared in the background.  I really had to pee and wanted to wash my hands before eating too, so I found the women's bathroom in the back of the restaurant and went in.  There was only one stall, and since no one else was in there I could go right in.

As soon as I closed the stall door, I realize there wasn't a door handle on the inside of the stall door.  It looked broken, not how a handle is supposed to be.

This is what the handle should have looked like:

Image source
But the door roughly looked like this on the inside (it wasn't the same type of door/stall, though):

Image source

My mind flashed for a split second to the worst that could happen - that I would be locked in here - but I knew that wasn't probable. Of course I could get out, it was a bathroom stall. So the thought left just as quickly as it had come, until it was time to actually exit said stall.

I tried moving whatever was in the circle on the door. The door did not open, and the inner door handle pieces did not budge. Oh gosh.

I looked below the door, but the stall door was too low for me to fit underneath.

Okay, what to do, what to do. I tried again with my hands to move the inner workings of the door to release its latch. Didn't work. If only I'd had a credit card, or a screwdriver or something!

I looked around and sized up the materials I had with me in the stall. It was pretty bare, but I did notice an empty toilet paper tube on the upper roll holder. And then I had an idea: I was going to MacGyver my way out of this stall!

I ripped the toilet paper tube from the holder, and proceeded to bend it into a flat rectangle. Perhaps this would work in place of a credit card. I tried opening the door with the new tool, but it wasn't sturdy enough. The tube material kept bending whenever I applied pressure.

I couldn't call Gregorio because I didn't have my phone with me. "How long have I been in here?," I wondered. Over five minutes for sure.

Maybe it was time to attempt to get someone to hear me. Why was that music in the bar so loud?! I could hear it - and nothing else - from my stall. But I had few other options, so I decided to try making some noise.

But then I got all caught up in what to say. What does one say in Spanish when they're in this situation? Should I say hola, hola (hello! hello!)? Should I shout for help (ayuda, ayúdame!), or is that too severe? What's the word for lock? How do I say I'm locked in? If you lock a door, you say "cerrar con llave" (literally: close with key), so do I use that term? Or is it encerrado? Wait, encerrada because I'm a female? Ah!

So, I'm not exactly sure what I shouted in the end, probably a combination of all of the above. I've tried to erase that from my memory because I was really embarrassed and felt silly during the whole thing.

"How could I make more noise?," I thought. Could anyone even hear me above the music? How long have I been in here now? How long before Gregorio comes looking for me?

So then I started to knock on the stall door - from the inside. While trying to shout things in Spanish to get someone's attention. I felt so ridiculous.

Sooo ridiculous.

As soon as I would hear footsteps or one of the bartender's voices, I'd be my loudest.

But no one came in.

I knew I wouldn't be in there forever - Gregorio would inquire about my well-being after an abnormal amount of time spent in the bathroom. (Though hadn't it already been an abnormal amount of time?!) I wanted out now! I didn't want to wait any longer in this tiny stall!

These new desperate thoughts made my knocking and random shouts even louder. Now that I'd been doing it for so long, I didn't feel nearly as foolish as at the start.

Finally, around 15 minutes since I'd first entered the restroom, some lady came in to use the bathroom. I got her to open the stall door from the outside and let me out.

After washing my hands I rushed back out to our table on the street and saw that both of our plates had been brought out ~10 minutes ago, based on what Gregorio had eaten already.

I immediately began recounting my tale to Gregorio, and also asked why he hadn't come looking for me.

He knew that I'd been struggling with IBS for a few years, and said that he thought I just needed extra time in the bathroom... Whoops!

Relieved to be out at last, my lunch tasted extra deliciosa that afternoon.

And that incident, my friends, is the memory that always comes to mind when I think of Alcalá de Henares. Not the neat Cathedral-turned-bar that we visited afterwards, nor the first time I visited with my study abroad friends and drank wine by the river.

Nope, I now associate Alcalá de Henares with that time I got locked in the bathroom.

Have you ever gotten locked in a bathroom stall? What other embarrassing situations have you found yourself in while living/traveling abroad?