Premature Panic Room

    It was a beautiful day, a fine Tuesday by anyone’s standards. The sun sparkled, the green grass grew. There might have been a few cartoon birds chirping a Disney song as they darted and fluttered and got us dressed. The boy and I would make the most of this picture perfect time, I decided. Keys and apple juice, three Tonka trucks and a plastic golf club the boy won’t leave home without in hand, we skip gayly through the garage as we anticipate what merriment is in store for us. Feeding ducks at the pond? Swirling down slides at the playground? Simply taking big gulps of this blessed air and seeing who can hold that freshness in the longest? What joys would we encounter?

     The garage door is stuck shut.

The toddler excitedly chants for ducks.

My mind races. We are trapped. Caged. Imprisoned.

The boy claps his hands and squeals “Hooray!!!”, a not-so-subtle and wholly staged expression of happiness he learned from some show on Nick Jr.

He can be so dramatic. I want to tell him that he is a little over the top, but I’m too busy mourning how all the good is gone from this world. I wipe sweat from my brow, give the door one desperate yank to confirm the degree of which we are screwed. I panic.

 The buttons and switches and blinking lights (green to freedom) are cold and dead. Yanking frantically at a small red cord and bobble, I pull perhaps to0 passionately. The string to the emergency latch falls into my hands. Opportunity crumbles with it, and I am weeping, weeping over the sliced cord. I run wild circles around my newfound cell. I pray we have what it takes to survive. Realizing I don’t actually know what it takes to survive, I scan the cement bunker for ideas.

       I dig a blue-and-yellow volleyball from the corner, dip my fingers in the oil leaking from my car and smear a smiley face across it’s noggin. I have to name it Made In China because we are cheap and wouldn’t cough up the extra cents for brand name. I take a moment to regret not buying a Wilson. I hold the thing, stare at its melting grin, and realize that Tom Hanks was just acting like he knew how to survive. Bump, set and spike the ball across the room, hoping that if nothing else it will be strong enough to bust through a wall.

Meet Madeinchina Nelson-Young. She is a volleyball. And she is worthless.

   Taking a cue from The Hunger Games I spend a few minutes convincing the kid to call me Katniss. He only chuckles, hits me in the head, and says “Hats is! Hats is! He he he!”. Perhaps he’s right. The name doesn’t so much matter. I, Katniss Hats Is, begin surveying our terrain for essentials. Spare crackers and fruit gummies are scraped from the floorboards of my car and rationed. At a rate of one-half monkey-shaped, lime-flavored treat per three hours, I estimate we can last a good 3 hours and 5 minutes. I flick a switch on a battery-operated candle for faux flame fire. But it is just a dim orange light bulb covered in artificial wax. Will we freeze before Made In China and I can find another way out? I connect my excessive sweating to a body’s way of yelling for help. I continue to ponder the gruesome details of a death by freezing in the 80 degree garage.

Oh girlfriend. May the odds be all up in your favor.

    I offer my portion of lukewarm apple juice to my fellow captive. He is smaller and weaker and more 2-and-a-half than I am, and I need him to be strong. I can’t make it on my own. Well hydrated, I hoist him onto my shoulders, instructing him to find areas of light, filtering in some far off freedom. Just about the time I am barking up at the boy to mentally calculate coordinates by which we can be spotted and rescued via helicopter or boat, he pees on my neck. I realize he might just be onto something! Bear Grylls did this once on TV, wrapped his piss pants on his head and face to protect from scalding sun in the desert. Or was it polar bears in the Arctic? Jungle lizards? Maybe it’s just a weird British tradition, but I contemplate wetting my drawers just for solidarity.

    Hope has faded with the last surge of my strength. A last-ditch effort to employ my natural talents as a means to escape have failed. I put a hand to my sore mouth and stare down the ragged teeth marks barely denting the perimeter of our cage. Contrary to popular belief, competitive cake eating cannot translate into a successful career in steel door chewing. I sink to my knees, broken and slowly resigned to the idea of taking my last breath among racks of power tools and bicycles. The boy kicks Made In China into an empty trashcan and cheers victoriously before jumping into my lap. Obviously delirium has set in. His poor mind has been driven to madness instead of driven to the park. Guilty that I cannot help him now, I stroke his hair and wait for the inevitable.

    But then! A knight in front-pleated khakis and a plaid button down and those cute leather boots I bought him last Christmas! My husband appears in the doorway. He looks strong and gallant and slightly peeved. I wonder which of my texts spurred his arrival. Was it the “HALPPPPPPPP MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!” or the “911. Emergency. 911. Death. 911. SOS DEATH EMERGENCY!!!!”? He simply shakes his head and goes back inside.

Back inside? Inside? Inside the house? Inside the house? The house that has lots of doors to the outside? Outside!!!

Narrowly escaping death, we spend the rest of the day rejoicing in the sun and air. Like any released prisoner knows, a simple toothbrush can be fashioned to form a lethal weapon. Oh, and it’s the simple things in life that count.

Greg Hartle's Freedom

Having had days to reflect the terrifying experience, the long-lasting lessons of such horror are just beginning to sink in. I learned a lot about the fragility of life and teeth. I learned a lot about love and faith. Mostly I learned this:

When one door blows an electrical circuit and closes, all the other doors in your house another door opens.

Is Wigging Out your go-to emotion?

Do you ever panic before thinking?

40 thoughts on “Premature Panic Room

    1. It’s kind of my go-to thing, unfortunately. You should’ve seen what happened when I ran out of Diet Coke one day. I fretted over the dark future of a world without calorie free soda juice for HOURS before I realized I could go across the street and grab a 2 liter!

  1. ” Contrary to popular belief, competitive cake eating cannot translate into a successful career in steel door chewing.” That’s my new, favorite sentence in all of the blogosphere, and in case you didn’t know, they are lots of sentences out there about competitive cake eating–especially comparing it to garage door chewing– of either the recreational or down right desperate variety. So, you rock my friend. Just don’t chew rocks. Your family dentist may take issue with that.

    LOVE this post, dear Tori!


    1. Aaannndddd, there was a lot of orthodontia paid for in her youth that should have discouraged garage door chewing.

      1. Aw, c’mon Mom. When you’ve had an orthodontist wandering around inside your mouth, hanging more wire than the City of Chicago uses for its’ phone system, it makes you want to use those nice, straight teeth for just about ANYTHING. At least, until you get some 110v wall current through ya – that REALLY leaves a bad taste in your mouth, figuratively AND literally! :D (Gee, can ya tell I speak from experience? ;) )

      2. Listen. That dentist told me to lay off the Milk Duds but mentioned NOTHING, NOTHING! of steel garage doors. I am an idiot, yes, but an idiot who mostly follows instructions :)

  2. I couldn’t believe how long it took Tom Hanks’ character in ‘Cast Away’ to build that garage door opener remote. After a half an hour of watching him bungle the thing up I was just like, “Come-on, already, guy!” :)

    1. Haha. Literally ALL I took away from the movie was Wilson the volleyball and Tom’s gnarly beard. I can’t tell you anything else that happened. Was he playing a gladiator or something?

    1. It did NOT help that I just now read the Hunger Games trilogy. Even I was a little worried when my first concerns centered around 23 teens coming to murder us with arrows and trying to plot a Capitol rebellion with my 2-year-old.

  3. lol!! This reminds me of a time when I was young… it was slightly the opposite problem though. Our garage door worked fine, but the car keys were inside the LOCKED house and it was 30 degrees outside! I was bundled up in my snow suit and my mom was pacing around the neighborhood trying to find any kind soul who would let us inside to warm up. lol. It was an adventure to say the least!

    1. See, that is a legitimate reason to freak out. Freezing cold and stranded! You’d find me huddled in a ditch having a nervous breakdown. I wish we’d known eachother then and I would’ve let you borrow my faux flame candle.

  4. Only if my husband buys a family-sized chocolate bar and saves none for me. Then I scream, cry, rock in the corner mumbling unintelligibles, and then fondly reminisce about our early years when we shared things with each other (I mean, other than life and children). But other than that, no, I don’t panic.

    1. Awww, the honeymoon phase, when a man took your personal wants and needs into consideration. Eating the whole chocolate bar before you can get to it is grounds for divorce in most countries, I hear!

  5. Panic is for the weak. We MEN, we macho males, NEVER panic. We hold the world in our hands, and laugh contemptuously! Haw-haw! :D
    Wait. My DVR isn’t turning on. What? Why won’t it work? I’m missing the World War Two show I’ve only seen 2,000 times before. Work, damn you! Work! AARRGGHH!!! Oh, the humanity! Oh, the horror!!!! OH, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ……
    Um. Oops. Wrong button. Now, what were we talking about? ;)

    1. Hahhahahahaha. Tom does the same thing. He maybe ripped the DVR box from the wall when he realized a recording left out the last 4 minutes of golf tournament. He was like a wild beast searching for that lost footage inside a tiny plastic box.

      1. Actually, I usually don’t panic, and that’s a large part of the problem. I come up with something that SEEMS like a good idea. Like when I locked myself out of our house back in Chicago, and locked the house keys into my car. I came up with an immediate solution – crawl through the basement window that couldn’t lock. Great idea. Perfect idea. The two cops driving by just as I was butt-end-high, halfway through the window thought it was a good idea, too – after some VERY fast talking on my behalf! :D
        Mind you, this was BEFORE our Aussie Cattle Dog ran into one of their cruisers, causing over a grand worth of damage. They were just as friendly, but less willing to approach our house…..

  6. Panic unnecessarily? Absolutely. Often :) This story kind of reminds of the time I shut my keys in my trunk at the store. I had my older son, who was 2 at the time, reach in through the pass through in the back seat to get the keys. When I relayed the story to hubby, all excited that we were able to get the keys, he burst my bubble when he asked, “okay, so why didn’t you just pull the trunk release?” Yeah, good point.

    Glad you ended up safe and didn’t have to ration gummy monkeys and apple juice!

    1. Haha. Glad someone else flips out in a split second, too. It did not ever, ever occur to me that we just came out of a perfectly unlocked door from the house… or that there are two ground-level windows in the garage, or that painting a face on a volleyball wasn’t going to actually help anything. I just immediately go to that place in my head where death seems imminent and all those tricks I picked up from watching MacGyver seem suddenly crucial!

  7. Y’know, there’s a lot to be said for solidarity, especially when the situation calls for some serious pants wetting.

  8. I save my freak-out moments for when wasps fly in through the open window of my car while I’m tooling down the highway. It’s a wonder I haven’t had a rollover accident yet. Or shit my pants.

Ramble on, little rambler...

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