Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Night I Got Locked in the Art Building

Talk about zoning out when you're working!

When I was a freshman in college, I was working in a third floor classroom one night in the Fine Arts Building, so engrossed in a project, I suddenly 'woke up' and realized it was already midnight. The building was awfully quiet. I walked out into the hall and looked at the clock. Sure enough, it was midnight--the building closed at ten.

I quickly put my stuff away and ran downstairs to see if the ground floor door push-bar would work. It was locked up tight. I went to the clay studio and tried the door. Maybe someone was in there still working or sitting with the kiln. Deserted. The fire lever door was chained and padlocked on the outside.

It was a Friday night, a three-day weekend. No one would be back to the building unless a custodian maybe or a faculty member returning to their office perhaps, but that was really a longshot. There were comfortable couches in the lounge/stairwell area. Bathrooms that worked. Yes, I could survive in the building. No food, but water was plentiful. There was a phone there too, but who would I call? I had NO MONEY in my billfold anyway.

I could break one of the glass doors.......maybe. I might find a hammer in one of the art rooms. I hadn't checked the doors there yet, but they were probably all locked. An alarm would probably go off anyway. I'd get accused of breaking in, even though I was breaking out. Would they believe me? Couldn't go out one of the windows--they were the tilt-in type and there was no room to fit through them. Even if I broke one of them, it wouldn't work.

What was my Mom thinking? I was supposed to be home. She must have gone to sleep. Would she call the police if I wasn't in the house the next morning? If she came looking for me at the school, my car would be in the parking place in front. She would be sure there had been foul play.

I rifled my purse. A single coin rattled in the bottom. I could make one phone call. Who would I call? The police? Who were the janitorial staff of the building? I hadn't a clue where to locate that number. Maybe the Fire Department? I flipped through the phone book. It was a tattered mess.

I decided to call my Mom. The phone rang and rang. "Hello?" a fuzzy voice answered. "Mom! Listen! I'm locked in the Fine Art Building on campus. All the doors are locked. I was on the top floor and didn't hear everyone leave. Look up Dean Bane's (the Dean of Students) phone number and call him. He will know who to contact to get me out. Look up his number. I'll wait." She located his home number. "If you can't get him, call the police."

In about an hour and nearing 2 a.m., I heard the rattling of keys and a dark figure was at the door behind the glare of a flash light. I waited. The door swung open and I heard Dean Bane's voice call, "Jeanette? Are you in there?"

"YES!" I said. " I've been locked in!" Big Laugh from Dean Bane.

"How in the world did that happen?" he says.

I explain through more of his laughter. I'm so embarrassed.
I swear him to secrecy fearing four years of teasing from my classmates.

"That's okay, I won't tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me" he says.

Evermore, whenever I would run across Dean Bane on campus or inside buildings, I would be greeted with a broad smile, a twinkle in the eye and a soft chuckle. "Hi, Jeanette" he'd say.

At my graduation Dean Bane handed me my diploma, shook my hand and whispered, "Don't get locked in any buildings."

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