Pre-flight ordeal

KeysI was scheduled to travel back to South Africa: my country of birth. A place I hadn’t been to since I was 18 years old, about 13 years ago.

Everything was planned (in as much as I ever plan anything) down very finely. I arrived in Auckland from Brisbane at 7pm on Sunday, did a bunch of church finances, got the information to the auditor the next morning, handed over a bunch of work and prepared for the day-long meeting at work on Tuesday. The day-long meeting itself lasted from 9am to 2pm, thereafter I quickly whipped up the minutes, sent my final emails to those who needed input from me and raced to the university to give a guest lecture from 5pm to 7pm. Dinner and a shower later and I was off visiting a special someone up on the North Shore before the great trek.

As you can imagine it was a situation of mild panic packing my bags once I got home at around midnight. All I needed to do was get to the bus stop by 3am and I’d make my 6:15am flight in plenty of time. As I packed my toiletries I noticed I was out of razor blades. Hmm, I should buy more of those, I’ll just pop out to the store.

I ran up the stairs unlocked the door and stepped out. In one fluid unthinking movement, I locked and closed the door behind me.

Oh… bugger.

Locked. The door was locked and my house keys were all nicely packed in my carry-on luggage. No matter, I’ll call my flat-mate Sarah. No answer. Hmmm. I called 4 times then rapped tentatively on the door. The rapping degenerated into a pounding with my fist which in turn became kicking with my steel toed shoes. No response. I called again. No response.

Maybe the landline. I called what I thought was our landline and got a coffee shop.


I looked Sarah and/or myself up in the white pages. Not listed. I called directory services and they couldn’t find a number either.

The precariousness of my situation suddenly dawned on me: if I couldn’t get inside, I could very well miss my flight. At this point I would have expected an adrenal response but I was quite calm. “I am clever and resourceful.” The mantra came unbidden into my subconscious.

I looked up 24 hour “emergency” locksmiths in the Auckland region and called one.

“Eastern Bay Mobile Locksmiths, you’re speaking with Penny, how may I help?”

“Hello? Oh, hi, Penny, thank you for answering. Um, you see I’ve locked myself out of my apartment and I need to get in because I have a long flight scheduled in a few hours”

“Ok, give me your details and I’ll get someone to call you back as soon as they can”.

“Uh, you wouldn’t happen to know how soon that might be, would you?”

“I’m afraid not, sorry.”

 I waited about 15 minutes before I decided to take further action.

I ran downstairs and got the number for the building manger. Oh, I was in for a tongue lashing about this, or at least a harrowing scowl, but I had no other option. Ring, ring, answer-phone. Bugger.

I walked to the supermarket, calling another locksmith to leave a message on his phone. I don’t know what it is about me in a seriously threatening situation, but I suddenly become extremely gregarious and polite. I guess it’s a coping mechanism.

I bought the accursed razor blades that started the whole fiasco and made my way back. It was about 1:30am now, uncomfortably close to leaving time for my liking. “I am clever and resourceful”. The police, they always know what to do.

I marched off down the road towards the police station and was partially waylaid by two guys who had obviously had a very fine evening. “How’s your night been?” one slurred at me. “Pretty good” I retorted automatically, looking up more locksmiths on my phone. “Oh, where have you been?”

“I just came from home.” I responded cryptically and crossed the street.

Now, the police station closest to me is in Fort Street, the red light district. I rushed past a rather unsavoury looking fellow outside a notorious knock-shop and found the police station. Closed. Bugger again.

I called a few more locksmiths: Mr Tradie resulted in fax machine noise, Gatehouse security, despite proudly advertising 24/7 service robotically chastised me for calling outside business hours.

I was starting to get frantic. I called my good friend Sam, leaving a garbled message about how it would be great if he knew how to pick locks. I made my way back home. Once there I called back the only person who had thus far answered their phone: the 24 hour phone support for the emergency locksmith (well, the only one of three who answered).

“Hi, Penny, I called before…”

“Yes you did” she replied accusingly

“Well, I was just wondering if you knew, I mean, whether or not someone will be able to help me out tonight, you see, I have a flight and I am getting quite frantic.

“Well, I sent them a text, has no one called you?”

“Not to my knowledge, no, I wonder if you could maybe call them or something? I really am quite stuck and money is not an issue.”

“Ok, I will try for you”

“Thank you so much, Penny, I really appreciate this”

 A few minutes later “well, I sent them another text and there’s no response”

“Oh. Well, I don’t suppose you have any suggestions about what I could do now, I mean, shall I try break down the door?”

The idea of breaking down the door or perhaps throwing things at my flatmates window was starting to make a lot more sense the closer it got to 3am.

“I try not to get involved in these kinds of things, I’m just on the phones”

“Ok, ok, I understand, thank you, Penny”


I sat down in the corridor and kicked the door, just a little harder than one would dare. I idly wondered how much force it would take to break the wood in the doorframe, I pressed the door experimentally with my foot. Maybe I could leverage it open?

I called Sarah a few more times then looked at my phone. There was one number that immediately came to mind. One number guaranteed to get a response. One number I really didn’t want to call.

I sighed with shame and entered in “111”.

“111 Emergency, do you require fire, police or ambulance?”

“Police, I guess”

“Putting you through to police”

“Hello, Police, what is the nature of your emergency?”

“Uh, I am really sorry about this, I don’t know if this is an emergency but…” I explained my sob story to the lovely lady on the other end of the phone.

We established that the police didn’t pick locks and they wouldn’t kick my door down for me, nor did they have any locksmiths on hand to help me out.

“I’m surprised the building manager didn’t respond, could you give me their number”

I ran downstairs and recited this off the notice outside.

Moments later, the operator got back to me triumphantly. “I got her on the line, she’s coming down now.”

“Oh, thank you!” I breathed a sigh of relief, simultaneously realising the wrath that the building manager would turn in my direction when she arose.

A groggy, very annoyed looking lady eventually turned up downstairs and let me into my apartment.

A harrowing start to my little journey back to South Africa, here’s hoping for plain sailing from now on!