An experience to share …….

Memories from the last convention. Manchester 2014

Lots can happen at a convention. Fun can be had by all and often does.

But when I heard about this little adventure I thought I had to share it.

For those that attended the last UK con was held in a huge, rambling edifice that had once been the headquarters of a insurance company or some such. It was majestic and leaning so far towards the Gothic it was over the other side and positively Uberwaldian.

Almost two years have passed so its time enough for me to be able to share this without the person involved needing more counselling!

So here it is, verbatim, and let it be a lesson to us all…….

When I got to the hotel in Manchester I was tired, not really exhausted but definitely tired. I’d flown from the US overnight and hadn’t slept in about 24hrs.

I had arranged to have dinner with my friend Pete and was just looking forward to a shower, change of clothes and something to eat.

On the way to my room I noticed the other rooms were quiet, I’d arrived a day early to get over the jetlag so the other guests weren’t due until the next day.

When I got into the room I put the “do not disturb” on the door, got my mobile on charge, grabbed the essentials from my suitcase and went for a shower. I spent longer in the shower than I usually would, but felt better for it.

After I finished in the shower when I tried to open the bathroom door, the lever style handle just spun round and round.

There was a moment of “oh bugger”, well truth be told, it was a lot ruder.

I knew that shouting for help would be useless, there was no one to hear me, but tried a few times anyway. No, pure silence all around…

I guessed that the bar joining the handles on the inside and outside of the door wasn’t long enough and had slipped so it no longer reached the inside handle. If anyone tells you that size doesn’t matter, believe me, I would’ve appreciated an extra ½” on that bar…..

I gathered together everything that was loose in the room. Towels, tissue dispenser, bin, toilet roll holder, toiletry bottles. Not a lot to work with. The towel rail that I really wanted was firmly screwed to the wall.

The most promising item was the small metal pedal bin.Cistern lid

The bin had a pedal that used two small metal bars to open the lid. I took off the pedal and removed the two bars that were hooked together.

I thought I might stand a chance of flexing the door frame away from the door, using the bars from the bin, if the frame was flimsy enough.

I used the pedal from the bin as a knife to remove the sealant from the door frame where it mated with the wall. It let me see that the frame was a solid piece of wood that had no movement in it.

Double bugger. What now?

I tried a few more unconvinced shouts for help. Still useless. At least it passed a few moments.

If I was right about the door handle bar then the handle should still work from the outside of the bathroom. I just needed to get my hand outside of the room.

I looked around the room again for anything else that might help and noticed the toilet cistern lid.

I’d overlooked it initially because it was recessed in the marble work surface that ran down one wall of the bathroom.

After a bit of finagling, I got one of the bars from the bin down between the lid and its surround. It was a very snug fit and heavy. While I was trying to prise it out I was worried about trapping my fingers. Finally using the two bars I managed to get the lid free.

I knew I couldn’t risk hurting myself. That would be the end of any attempts at escaping by myself.

I didn’t know how long I’d been in the bathroom but I was definitely ready for out. Breaking through the wall really wasn’t my first choice, but now it seemed to be my only option – other than a few more sarcastic cries for help.

I chose the most likely looking place on the wall as being the best point to break through so I could reach the handle outside. When you’re only 5 feet tall judging distance to reach things is a way of life..

I fastened my towel around as firmly as I could, covered my feet with the floor towel, draped the hand towel over my head to cover my eyes and gripped the lid as tight as I could at one end for maximum impact.

Bloody hell…that was some recoil.

I uncovered my eyes and there wasn’t even a mark on the tile.

This was going to be harder than I imagined.

I tried a few more hefty blows to the tile. Nothing.

Triple bugger with a cherry on top.

After giving the wall a good coat of staring at, I thought I could try breaking the tile at what should be its’ weakest point – the cut edge exposed when I removed the mastic from the door frame.

After a few smacks the tile at the edge began to break. Now we’re cooking. It was just going to be a much bigger job. All the more tile to smash though!

With every impact there was a sharp smell of smoke and I could see sparks from under the towel covering my eyes. The slivers of ceramic where razor sharp so I had to keep replacing my bath towel which only stayed on for a few smacks at the wall.

As I inched my way across the wall, my spirits began to lift. There was light at the end of the tunnel.

You know it was going too well.

bathroom sideAfter getting past the double studded door frame, I hit another piece of wood in the wall. After a little investigation, I realised it was there to protect the power to the light switch on the outside of the wall.

Bugger doesn’t cover this one. Time to upgrade to bollocks. Bloody, bloody bollocks.

My mother always stressed the importance of self-control. In fact, she expressed how proud she was when none of us cried at my fathers’ funeral. I was just proud I wasn’t hit by lightning while in the pulpit doing the readings…..

Never was I more grateful to my Mother for all that training.

Then I had to start working my way down the wall, one sliver, one spark at a time.

It was so frustrating, but at least I didn’t have to start from the beginning again. I could see the other wall through the hole I has already made.

My hands hurt, I was tired and the heat and humidity in the bathroom was getting unbearable.

Finally I felt I’d made a hole big enough that I could start to work on the plasterboard wall that stood between me and hopefully freedom. I was worried about hurting my hands or arms on the sharp tile edges so made myself some gloves from the plastic bags the hotel had kindly provided for the disposal of feminine hygiene products. How thoughtful of them.

I used the pedal from the bin as a knife to score the paper on the inside of the plasterboard and the bars to poke some holes through in an attempt to weaken the wall.

After using the pedal to score between the holes, I hoped I weakened the plasterboard enough to break through. The only issue was going to be applying enough force across a 4”gap between the inner and outer wall.

I settled on using my shampoo bottle as a hammer.

Holding it at the top and hitting the wall where I had scored it there was finally movement. One piece after another came loose and fell to the floor in the bedroom. When there was a hold big enough for my hand, I reached through (still wearing the plastic bag) and snapped off pieces to make the hole bigger.

wall from outsideI was so apprehensive when I put my arm through the hole and reached out to the handle. If the door didn’t open when I turned the handle I hadn’t a clue what was next.

I put my arm through up to my shoulder and reached the handle just enough to turn it.

The door opened.

Relief, disbelief and most importantly, fresh air.

All the self-control, logic and composure had been worth it. Now it was time to devolve into a rabid squirrel – small, vicious and gunning for somebody’s nuts!

I was drenched in sweat and shaking from an overdose of adrenaline.

I made an attempt to get dry, but the sweating just wouldn’t stop. After getting dressed I checked my mobile and noticed a few missed calls. One was from my husband back home in America and one was from Pete whom I supposed to be meeting for dinner.

I called my husband who tried to call me back in the room. Reception was useless and kept disconnecting him. Since they weren’t able to transfer a call on the fourth try he sent them up to the room to check on me.

There was a knock on the door and it was the German receptionist who spoke nearly no English. She certainly didn’t know enough English to explain the situation to her manager on the phone and could only say “come now”.

When the manager arrived, he was a young man – oh god, I was feeling my age – and looked shocked.

He didn’t ask if I was alright, but did express that he was “gobsmacked”. I must admit that wasn’t what I needed to hear. His offer to get a cleaner to tidy the debris for me wasn’t especially helpful either. His idea of reassurance was to tell me I wouldn’t be charged for the damage…

At this point he must have noticed the barely controlled squirrel in my eyes and thought there might be another room available. I suspect he was going to hide in it.

I told him I was going out and expected my luggage to be transferred to the new room when I returned.

He made a hasty retreat.

DebrisI grabbed my camera and took a few photos. Capturing the moment can make for some happy memories later.

I called Pete. He had not only tried calling my mobile but came to the hotel to ask for me. He was told I hadn’t checked in. Hmmm.

I left my temporary dungeon without looking back and went to meet Pete.

He was listened to my tale with great patience and, at times, incredulity. It had been a stressful day without the bathroom drama, but right now, I was glad to eat and try to decompress.

When I returned to the hotel, a new room awaited me with my luggage therein. It was very similar to the original room and I immediately investigated the bathroom. Buggered if I was going to risk closing that door. There was also no way I could get the toilet lid out. It was too tight a fit!

I slept deeply that night, exhaustion had got the better of me, but it was a restless sleep. I can’t remember my dreams even though I woke feeling fretful.

The next morning included an apprehensive and swift shower with the door wide open and a suitcase sat in the doorway, you know, just in case.

When I got to the Convention I shared the story with a few people I knew and the Committee found out shortly afterwards. They set about getting me moved to a different hotel and had the doctor look at my hands.

By now, my hands were quite swollen from wielding the marble lid for so long. I couldn’t wear my wedding ring and even worse couldn’t make a full fist. The doctor suggested soaking them in iced water several times a day and maybe some painkillers. That didn’t sound too hard.

Later that day the angels from the Hotel Committee found me and let me know there was a room available in the other hotel. They had been to my original hotel and had quite a heated discussion with the management and explained they wouldn’t let me stay there another night.

They then helped me move my luggage to the new hotel. I couldn’t believe the beautiful room they’d managed to get for me. I checked out the bathroom. Victorian built hotels have brick walls. That door really was staying open!

Everyone at the Convention was so kind to me. I was never on my own for which I was thankful. I’ve heard people refer to the “family” at these events and that really came to the fore. I’m eternally grateful to my Convention family.

After the Convention I spent a couple of weeks with my family. There were a few get togethers and the story of “Carmel and the Bathroom” became an instant favourite. It surprising managed to replace the old favourite of “Carmel and the Dress”.

When I was 3yrs old I got a new dress. Within minutes of being dressed up all pretty I escaped to play in the back yard. I got into the outside loo, where unused paint was stored, and chose a nice tin of fire engine red gloss paint. I spent quite some time carefully painting the new dress the colour I really wanted in the first place.

To this day no-one really knows how a 3yr old got into the loo never mind how I opened a tin of paint.

I obviously set the bar high too early in life because someone said “of course you went through the wall, you’re you.” Sometimes there’s nothing more demoralizing than living up to what everyone expects of you!

After a few weeks I returned to the US. That’s when I found that the hotel was trying to charge for all the days that I had originally booked in for but didn’t stay. It didn’t happen.

My fingers were still sore so I went to my doctor. Apparently I had some ligament damaged which healed after taping my fingers together for a few weeks.

To this day I’m still careful about shutting doors when I’m on my own, especially in unfamiliar places.

What did I learn from my adventure?

Always keep your mobile with you.

Getting angry is ok, depending on what you use it for.

Never shut the bloody door!

One thought on “An experience to share …….

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