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Friday, August 31, 2007

My Life as Lucy Ricardo - The Apartment

A golden oldie re-run that always makes me laugh.

I should be embarrassed to tell this story, but apparently I have no shame and no reluctance to laugh at myself.

This “Lucy” episode took place in the fall before Mike and I married in mid-December, '66 (based, of course, on winter break at MSU and the date of the Liberty Bowl). We were apartment hunting and pulled up in the parking lot of a small complex near school that had potential.

We were disappointed to find that there was no resident manager, but there was clearly an empty first-floor unit. We peeked through the living room and kitchen windows. You remember the starter apartments where the front door and kitchen door were practically next to each other? That was the set-up. By chance, one of us tried the kitchen doorknob – and it was open.

It's not breaking and entering if the door's unlocked, right? So, in we went. The first strike against the apartment was the incredibly small size of the kitchen. The best example is that if the oven door was open, you couldn't fully open or close the back door. That's small.

They’d already painted and cleaned up the apartment and, except for the kitchen, it looked really good. But before we left to check out the next apartment on the list, I decided to use the bathroom there. Mike determined that everything was operable, so in I went. I suppose it was because I felt a bit like a trespasser that I flipped the doorknob lock as I closed the bathroom door behind me. I also suppose that the events that followed were the price for our criminal behavior.

As I started to exit the restroom moments later, I unfortunately found that the doorknob was faulty. It had no traction. Just turned aimlessly. Naturally, that somehow affected the lock and I couldn’t unlock the door. So now we’re trespassing AND I’m locked in the bathroom. I did everything I could to get the doorknob to catch, but was having no luck. Finally, I just knocked on the door as if asking permission to leave would release me from the unfriendly room.

Mike followed the sound and initially thought I was playing a game with him. Nope. So he started struggling with the knob on his side of the door and giving me instructions about what to do on my side in hopes that, together, we could get something to happen. No surprise – that didn’t work either. The door opened into the bathroom so the hinges were on my side. In hopes that they might be loose, Mike told me what to do to attempt pulling that watchamacallit out of that round thingamajig. And that didn’t work either. No use to look for tools in an empty bathroom either. We obviously couldn’t break down the door. That would add vandalism to our illegal entry, and rememberthat there was no resident manager who might begrudgingly provide help.

Mike recalled seeing a window in the bathroom, so he told me to have a look, see if it would open and then describe to him what I’d found. Yes, there was a window on the wall next to the bathtub. It was small. It was high. It was one horizontal, rectangular piece of glass.

I stepped up on the side of the bathtub and then crossed to the small side of the tub’s rim against the wall. I had to stand on tiptoe because there wasn’t enough room for the whole foot. In that position, I could see out the window. Its lower ledge was about at my shoulder level. I yelled to Mike that it would open. He said he’d go outside to check it out and that I should stay put. I thought to myself, “isn’t that the problem?”

Around the building and to the back, which was fortunately sheltered from view from the street, Mike came to my aid and somehow popped off the screen. I peered out and saw that it was farther to the ground than I would have liked. And because of the window’s size and position above the tub, there was no way that I was going to sit in the window and jump down.

In case any of you have a doubt, I might point out that I was never a tomboy. Hadn’t climbed trees. Hadn’t dived headfirst from anything except a swimming pool. I got off the tub and prayerfully checked the doorknob again only to learn that it was still broken. I could hear Mike outside telling me that the window was the only way and that he’d catch me. Yes, but would my broken neck heal in time for the wedding?

I t helped that I was only 20 and fairly small. It also helped that I’d had a lot of dance and stuff in high school so I was pretty limber. Back over to the tub’s small edge, I started pulling myself up to push out of the window. I used the built-in soap dish as a foothold and was grateful that I didn’t break it. First good news of the last hour or so. I got head and shoulders through the window and started scooting my body forward.

Remember playing on a see-saw? There’s a balance point in the middle and, depending on the weight that’s placed on both ends, the horizontal board will tip backward or forward. There was a period of time in going out the window when I became a human see-saw. I was pretty sure that there could be no good outcome. Mike was standing there, arms outstretched, encouraging me to keep pushing forward. And so I did.

I finally got enough of me out the window that he could grab my arms, then my shoulders and basically drag me through the window and to safety. He gave me a big hug, told me I was brave -- -- and then we ran like hell.

We rented a different apartment.

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