Friday, May 18, 2012

Tales of APMHC: Part 1

So I decided to start a running series called "Tales of a Postmodern Hippie Chick".  Mostly because, well, my life isn't super exciting on a day to day basis, but I do have some great stories in my arsenal.  Like Part 1:  How I got the nickname Macguyver:

Back in the Fall of 2004, I participated in a semester long program to earn college credit for doing a full time internship in Washington DC through The Washington Center.  Long story short, TWC provided us with fully furnished apartments and (mostly non-paid) internships that took place in some part of the government process.  Some students were interns for Congressional Members or Senators; some were interns for government agencies like the State Dept.; some were interns for media outlets on the Federal politics coverage teams; and the rest of us worked at either Political Action Committees or lobbyist organizations. 

Now that was probably my favorite semester in college...except that I racked up credit card debt that I didn't get out of until two years after college, but that's not important.  The important thing was spending three and a half months living with 3 other girls (we shared a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment, dorm style) and sightseeing our nations capitol.  Thank God that all Smithsonian things were free to attend (even the Zoo!!).

We flew in right after my 20th birthday, and left the week before Christmas.  The week of Thanksgiving, we had Wednesday and Friday off from our internships, and all of my roommates spent the holiday with family.  The two Texas girls flew home to Houston, and my Midwestern roommate met her aunt and uncle at the last train stop in Virginia where they picked her up and drove her to their house, which was another hour or two away.

I stayed in DC - by myself.  I was broke (and my parents were poor).  I had just enough cash to buy my plane ticket home so I couldn't afford to spend Thanksgiving with the family.  I was terribly homesick, but determined to enjoy the remaining few weeks I had.  So Wednesday I went shopping and spent Thursday morning baking a pan full of cornbread dressing.  Bravo had a Queer Eye marathon on all day, so I was geared up for a wonderful day eating dressing out of the pan and lounging on the couch.

About 3pm the wind blew open our balcony door.  I decided that it was a sign to go outside and enjoy the view.  Also, it was a good time to make a round of holiday phone calls to friends and family (and the boyfriend too).  I called everyone and either spoke with them or left messages and sent out a mass text to everyone else.  I spent just a few moments staring north looking at the beautiful leaves that stretched out into Maryland.  It was a perfect moment.  Well, until I tried to open the balcony door to head back inside.

See, we lived on the 17th floor of a high rise building and had a tiny little balcony adorned with two camping chairs.  The roommate that went to Virginia?  She smoked at the time.  Apparently, before she left to hop on the Metro that morning, she had one quick cigarette and didn't shut the door well...oh, but she made sure it was locked.  So there I was...locked out on my 17th floor balcony on Thanksgiving day. 

First I tried to be smart.  I called all my roommates to see if they had the number for the on call "RA".  (Or program had a Residential Adviser living in every complex and they had a pager for holidays and weekends that rotated in case we had a maintenance issue or emergency - this way the management staff didn't have to deal with a new group of college kids every few months).  None of them did - it was at the apartment. Which is where mine was....on the fridge.

Then I called my best friend back home to log into my email and see if I had something in there with all that information in it.   Nope - after almost an hour of calling and asking and begging I was exactly where I started.  Standing on a balcony on the 17th floor wearing a thin tshirt, jeans, and completely barefoot.  I was starting to get cold...and the sun would be going down in the next few hours.  I tried opening the window behind me into one of the bedrooms....but it was locked.  I ended up pulling a muscle before I gave up though.  I sat down and contemplated my options which were:

** Call 911

** Break open a window with one of the chairs

** Pray that the Roommate in Virginia would get my message and come all the way back to DC to let me in

** Camp out on the balcony

Then I thought about how those would play out:

** Call 911.  Fire trucks have to use their tall ladders to get me down, or the police have to bust open the door.  Then I end up on local, and later national news, as the filler story  because it's a slow news day.  I would forever be "that girl who was trapped on her own balcony on Thanksgiving".

** Break open the window to get inside.  Then have to pay for damages and replace said window...which would cost a few hundred bucks.  Money I didn't have.  There had to be a better way.

** Keep praying, realizing that she probably wouldn't check her phone for hours.  And she may not be able to get her family to drive her back to the train.

** Camp out on the balcony in late November in Washington DC with no blanket or anything to cover my feet and arms.  Develop hypothermnia and go to the hospital.  Then we're back to the whole "news" issue.

Ok, none of those were acceptable options.  At this point, I started to panic.  Majorly panic.  I really thought for a second that I might die out there.  I sat about 30 minutes to an hour contemplating how I was going to save myself from what was a possible death scenario.  I looked at the door, and noticed something....

The lock was not a "key" lock.  See, the door locked at the handle (if that wasn't already obvious) but on my side of the door was just a tiny hole where the key hole usually sits.  I know this type of lock (and how to pick it) very well, since it was the type of lock found on our bathroom and bedroom doors growing up.  And since my siblings and I have no sense of personal space, we quickly learned how to break into them so we could snoop (and prank) undetected.

I realized at that moment that I could get back in....if only I had a coat hanger or bobby pin with which to pick the lock.  I double checked my hair and my jeans pockets' to see if I had a bobby pin somewhere I didn't remember.  But, nope, just the clothes I was wearing and the phone in my pocket.

Then, I had my Eureka/"House" moment - The clothes I was wearing!!  I needed something metal, long, and thin....for example the underwire in my bra!!!

I quickly took off my bra (while my shirt remained a lady of course) then CHEWED a whole into my (*sigh* favorite) bra until I could grasp the underwire.  I used the underwire and picked the door lock.  Within 5 minutes, I was back inside where it was very warm and safe. 

About 15 minutes later, my roommate in Virginia called, LOL.  But I told her not to worry - I wasn't leaving that apartment, even for the balcony, unless there was a fire.  And I promised I'd save the RA's emergency line in my phone before I went to bed that night - which I did.

After I called all my roommates back to let them know I survived, I went to bed.  First thing on Monday they told every other student from my school in that program the hilarious misadventures of my Thanksgiving in DC.  From that point on, I was giving the nickname Macguyver....because I'm the chick who chewed a whole in her bra to use the underwire to pick a lock.

I really did love that was so comfortable.

Moral of the story is this - ladies, don't you ever leave your couch without an underwire on.  You never know when you might need it :o)

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