My Chilean Miner Moment
My Chilean Miner Moment
October 18, 2010
This weekend, I went with my wife and another couple to an early dinner at a new restaurant in our area. At the end of dinner, I excused myself to use the restroom, which was down a hallway and around the corner.
The Men’s room door was wedged open with a folded bit of cardboard on the floor. The Ladies room was just outside the Men’s room, and I wasn’t in a mood to put on a show. So I kicked the little cardboard wedge free. As the door slowly closed, I started doing my business, and noticed the reason that the door had been propped open. The door handle on the inside had been removed, or maybe it fell off. There was no way out. I was trapped like a Chilean coal miner.
As I washed my hands, I considered all of my MacGyver options for escape. The door had no grabby parts whatsoever on the inside, and it was snug in its frame, so I couldn’t fit anything between the frame and the door.
And no, the door wasn’t the type you push. It was a pull situation. Thanks for asking.
Yelling wouldn’t have worked because the restrooms were too far from the main restaurant. There were only a few other people eating at that early time, and I worried that it could be a long wait before anyone came down the hallway.
I scanned my environment to see what tools, mechanisms, or explosive devices I could fashion to win my freedom. I had paper towels and soap. I also had a mirror that I could shatter if I needed shards. I had a wallet with some credit cards in my back pocket and an iPhone in my front pocket. In other words, I had nothing that could signal the outside world.
I wondered how long I could pound on the door with my iPhone before breaking through, but it was a substantial door, and I don’t have that kind of upper body strength.
My only other path to the outside world was through the plumbing. I knew it was crazy to think about flushing my way to freedom, but if a pilot can land a passenger plane on the Hudson River, and 33 Chilean miners can each have a wife, a mistress, a baby mama, and a movie deal, anything is possible. I figured I would lose weight if I stayed in there long enough, and once I was turd-sized I could go all David Blaine, flush, dive, and hold my breath until I reached Lake Merritt in Oakland.
But that was more of a last resort sort of thing. For now, my best idea was to fashion a suction device to grab onto the door and create a temporary handle. But I didn’t know how to form a suction device from paper towels, soap, and mirror shards. I considered wetting my lips, going all pouty, and doing a remora move on the door. But I decided that the Lake Merritt option had a higher chance of survival than touching a restroom door with my lips.
As fate would have it, desperation led to inspiration. I remembered that our dinner friends have iPhones too. That means they speak the special iPhone language. I dialed Matt and said something that sounded like “I…uck…th…oom…" . He responded, ”…ou…cking…iot …ha ha!“ I won’t translate that for you Droid users, but the bottom line is that he came and opened the door. I was happy to be reunited with my wife, but somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get a movie deal out of it.