Unlocking the door on rainy-day tribute

I locked myself in a bathroom last Saturday. At a funeral. Haven’t we all?

My friend, Meredith, held her husband’s service at their charming home. She planned a lovely tribute – the pastor, the catered luncheon, the shuttle service from distant parking. Every detail was considered.

But Mother Nature and The Fates had other plans for her challenging day. It wasn’t bad enough that it rained all morning as mega-dozens of family and friends arrived. She also had to suffer a doofus in her powder room.

It’s one thing to accommodate 50 or 60 people in your home – the seating, the buffet tables, the beverages, with all your china and silver in use. It’s another to deal with wet and muddy footprints plus an entire flock of umbrellas roosting in your front entry. She appeared to take each curve ball in her stride. Graciousness has always been her stock in trade. But I know how challenging it can be. At many functions on my turf, I learned one truth about entertaining on a large scale:

“The hostess is like the swan – calm and serene on the surface – and paddling like hell underneath.” True. Absolutely true. Meredith indeed appeared calm and serene, but it was just crowded enough that I couldn’t see down to her paddling feet.

After the service, I visited the tiny bathroom down the hallway. I closed the antique door and turned the lock. The lock wasn’t part of the door handle mechanism – it was above, a little pewter oval all by itself. It turned a little hard, but I assured myself of privacy. I admired the handsomeness of the heavy solid door.

I finished my business and washed my hands with the lilac-colored soap. Even the soap matched the lilac and blue decor, including the porcelain flowered sink. I stood admiring all the thoughtful details for a minute, then turned to leave. I turned the lock to the left – nuthin’. I put my shoulder and all my strength into it, but it moved only a quarter inch. I needed it to turn vertical. Not happenin’.

My thumbs are now so useless that my children refer to me as Marcy No-Thumbs. And the hand surgeon advised me to do something about the carpal tunnel in both of my wrists. I never thought it could lead to this situation.

I tried two hands locked together. I tried using one of the hand towels, then dampened it for better traction. Nada. That little pewter lock had a mind of its own.

I sat down for a minute to consider my options. I checked the hinges, couldn’t see any, so it was possible to take the door off from the outside. That idea upset me. I didn’t want this to be a kerfuffle. Meredith’s day was already challenging enough.

The window over the sink was tall, but only 12 or 15 inches wide. That totally reduced my escape options. Maybe one of the men could shinny his way through. He’d have to be that rare combination of super skinny and uber strong. I ran a mental inventory of the male guests by size. OK, I guess I’m spending the night.

If someone could pass food through the window, and maybe even a book, I’d be all set. Hey, I wouldn’t have to wonder where the toilet was. What more would a senior citizen need for an overnight?

Then I thought if I had pliers, or better yet a wrench, I could probably free myself. By now, my plight had been discovered. Someone passed me pliers through the window. And just as I was trying to harness a grip on the oval lock, it snapped straight up and the door opened. Phew! A young man had removed the mechanism from the outside. No bedding down for the night.

Meredith was upset that I was inconvenienced. “We just never lock that door, so I had no idea.” And I was upset that I’d tarnished the atmosphere of her family’s important occasion.

When I called to check on her Monday, she shared another chapter of the story. She went to early church on Sunday. As she received the communion bread, the pastor leaned down and quietly whispered, “Did you ever get the lady out of the bathroom?”

Meredith lost it. She was laughing hard, but not aloud. There’s some archaic ecclesiastical rule about guffawing during the holiest part of the service. She was shaking from holding it in and realized the congregation probably thought she was crying. She had to pull herself together to return to her pew.

Years from now, I hope she’ll be proud of bringing Allen’s family and friends together to honor his memory. And that she was able to find some humor the next day – on her way to buy a can of WD-40.

Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com. Meredith gave permission to use her name.


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