The first time I got locked in a bathroom was at my grandparent’s house. We were having a reunion that day, so all the family was there.
I’m guessing that I was 4 or 5 years old at the time, and I remember my Grandma telling us kids not to lock the bathroom door because the lock was broken.
At the time I needed to use the bathroom, I was being chased by my brother.
He planned to get to the bathroom first, and this was a big deal because my brothers would take extra long in the bathroom if they knew I had to go. I was pretty quick, though, so I flew into the bathroom first, slammed the door and locked it so he couldn’t get in.
Grandma’s warning about the lock lingered in the back of my mind, but I felt sure I could lock the door and still get back out if I just turned the lock one time. I just needed to turn it back one time the other direction to get out. No problem!
After my brother quit pounding on the door, I did my business making sure to take my time in the bathroom by washing my hands, and drying them… forever… before I tried unlocking the door.
I turned it back the opposite way I had locked it, but it didn’t unlock.
“Did I turn it the wrong direction?” I thought, turning it back the other way two turns this time so I could get it right.
Still, it wouldn’t unlock.
I can remember the feel of that old brass doorknob with the lock switch across the whole face spinning freely at the tips of my fingers, and the panic rising up in my chest.
Indeed, the lock was broken. Now what?
Hoping that my brother was still out there waiting to use the bathroom, I banged on the door, calling out his name to help, but he didn’t answer.
Next, I started screaming.
I screamed and screamed until my throat was raw, but still nobody heard me because they were all outside enjoying the party.
The longer I was locked inside, the more hysterical I got… sobbing and crying for help. It was a big bathroom, but I felt as if the walls were closing in on me.
There was a bathroom window overlooking the backyard where everyone was at, and I could hear them all so close to the window, but I was too little to reach it. The only thing in the bathroom that I could stand on was the fixtures, and they were all too far from the window to do me any good.
I tried though…
I jumped off the toilet seat trying to smack the window with my hands, but I couldn’t reach it.
I jumped off the edge of the bathtub next, waving my hands in the air and screaming, hoping someone would see me, but they didn’t.
If I could find something high enough to stand on, I could climb out the window, so I rummaged through the cupboards for anything I could stack up.
Nothing but clean towels, there was no way I could stack up enough of them to reach the window. Even though I knew Grandma would be upset at me for soiling them all, the towels were still my only hope at getting someone’s attention.
I started whipping the towels at the window while yelling, but they only thudded softly against the curtain. It was of no use.
Next I listened for who I could hear.
Grandpa was speaking with one of my uncles the loudest, so I started yelling for them as I continued rifling towels at the window. Even though the towels weren’t making much noise against the glass, they were definitely flipping the curtain around, and that gave me another idea.
I held the longest towel that I could find by one corner and started whacking the window with it so it would snap a little harder against the glass, hoping that it looked like a flag waving.
“Help, Grandpa! HELP!”
Finally, my dear grandpa responded.
“Who’s in there?” Grandpa’s voice sounded through the thick walls.
“It’s me… Marianne! I’m locked in the bathroom and I can’t get out!” I cried.
“I’ll be right there!” he said.
Grandpa was so clever… if anyone could save me, it would be him!
In that moment, even though I was still crying, my hysteria started to calm. That is… until he couldn’t get the lock undone.
I started panicking again, thinking I would be trapped in that bathroom forever. Banging on the door and pulling at the knob as he worked on it, Grandpa said, “Marianne, calm down. I promise I will get you out.”
I remember seeing his fingers poking through the hole where the knob had been, and if I could’ve latched onto his hand so he could drag me through that tiny hole, I would have. The urge to grab the lifeline that was inches away from me is still such a strong memory that it feels like it happened yesterday.
After another couple of minutes, I was finally free!
He had to take the whole doorknob apart to get the door open.
After he got the door opened, I hugged my grandpa, feeling as though he had saved my life!
I think I clung to him for the rest of the day.
I assume getting locked in the bathroom segwayed into having issues with outhouses. It was like after getting locked in the bathroom, I didn’t trust myself or anyone else not to let me fall in.
We were on our way to Grandma’s for a visit and I had to go to the bathroom. It was still another 15-20 minutes before we would get to her house, so Dad stopped at this roadside park so I could go.
I remember being a bit worried as we walked over to this little, white house. To the right had the word WOMEN written in red letters.
Holding Mom’s hand, she walked me to the door, and I hit the brakes. All I saw was a dark room filled with cobwebs and spiders… which I’m scared to death of… and the stink was unbelievable.
Being I was a teeny-tiny sized little girl - I wore size 3T when I started kindergarten - the hole you had to sit on seemed five times bigger than me!
I likened it to sitting on the edge of a cliff and if I fell in… well… I would surely drown in poop and never be seen again.
I recall my mother trying every argument she could think of to drag me in there, but there was NO WAY I was going to do it.
I know she was frustrated with me, but if I fell in, there was no way she could reach to pull me out. It wasn’t like we had a rope in the car, and I couldn’t swim at all, so I would definitely sink to the bottom of that cesspool of bodily fluids, choking to death on human waste...
That place scared me more than getting locked in my grandparent’s bathroom, and that experience was scary enough!
It wasn’t until she led me around the back of the outhouse to go pee that finally calmed down.
The next time I got locked in a bathroom was at a campground with my family and my other grandparents. I was probably around the same age, so it may have been the same year.
During the summer months, it seemed we were always going camping, and I loved it! We didn’t have a fancy house on wheels, but that was okay because we a tent. AND the coolest thing was we each had our own, special blow up mattress to sleep on.
Mine was pale yellow with big, pink and orange daisies on it, and I remember having to blow it up by myself. Well… I blew it up until I couldn’t blow anymore, and then my Mom helped me. Anyway, we got the beds all lined up inside the tent, and everything was wonderful until I had to go to the bathroom.
Knowing that I could not, WOULD NOT, use an outhouse, I was saved from the trauma of the stink house because my grandparents were there with their big, fancy motorhome, and it had a bathroom in it.
It was a short walk across the parking lot from our camping site, and Pop walked me there to show me where the bathroom was.
He trusted I could do the rest on my own, so off he went, back to the campsite while I was left to do my business with instructions to make sure the camper door was closed before walking back all by myself.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been inside a motorhome bathroom, but if you haven’t, they are usually very small. Especially back in the day when I was a child because I don’t think there was any such thing as a luxury motorhome back then.
Besides being small, even for a small person like me, if it’s a hot summer day, it’s also very hot inside. Like stifling hot… no breeze to be felt at all!
Now I don’t know why I was thinking I had to lock this bathroom door when I got inside... maybe because I was a little bit scared being there all by myself... but I locked the door.
Unlike my other grandparent’s bathroom, this door’s lock was not broke. In fact, it worked just fine. Different than any lock I had ever seen at this point in my life, but definitely not broken.
After taking care of my business, I washed my hands, and then tried to get out. The little metal slider that was the lock didn’t want to move. It seemed I pushed and pulled it every which way and yanking on the knob did no good at all.
Quickly, the terror of being trapped in this hot cubicle escalated, and I started screaming and banging on the door. Then I realized that making a bunch of noise was useless knowing how far away I was from the campsite. I was pretty much a sitting duck until somebody noticed that I had never made it back.
As hot as it was in that bathroom, I started to wonder if I would soon run out of air.
I looked up and saw a ventilation fan, but the fan was off, and the vent cover was closed. To open it, I needed to reach the little crank on the ceiling, but I was way too little to for that.
Just to be sure, I closed the toilet seat and tried reaching the crank. And when that didn’t work, I stepped over on the edge of the sink and tried to reach it.
It was still too far, even if I jumped at it. So I got back down and continued screaming and crying.
I don’t know how long it took, but the fight was just about out of me when Pop finally came back to check on me. I was sooooo tired, and still so upset that I just whimpered when he asked if I was still in there.
“Yes…” I said. “I can’t get the door unlocked.”
Pop was another one of those figures in my life that made me feel safe and loved beyond reason, and when he chuckled at my dilemma, I felt certain that I would be just fine because he was there.
“You locked it didn’t you?” he asked.
“Yes…” I said.
“Then you can unlock it,” he said.
Thoughts of the broken lock at my other grandparents place seemed to have paralyzed my rationale to the point of defeat. “I tried! It won’t unlock,” I argued.
“Yes it will,” he calmly stated. “Come on, Nanny,” he said. “You can do it.”
When he called me Nanny, I knew he was there for me no matter what. He wouldn’t let me die in that tiny bathroom.
“You see that little slider switch?” he asked. “Just slide it back the other way.”
And just like that, I slid the switch to the unlock position and opened the door. I don’t know why it wouldn’t slide open before.
I flung the door open and jumped into Pop’s arms, still trembling from the stress of it all, and as my young mind worked out what had happened, I asked, “What if I ran out of air!”
Pop laughed at my wild imaginings. “Why would you think that?” he asked.
“Because the air vent is closed and I couldn’t reach it to open it!” I told him, “it was so hot in there!”
“You wouldn’t have run out of air,” he said… and I believed him.
After all of the overwhelming, bathroom experiences I had as a little girl, I much preferred the bathroom door to be wide open at all times from then on. But due to standards dictated by society, that was not acceptable… so I started out with baby steps and little by little, I was finally able to get the door closed all the way. As I neared my teenage years, I was able to lock the door again.
I did really good about not being scared of bathrooms for a very long time.
Imagine my surprise when I got locked in a bathroom again at age 45!
My husband and I had finally gotten a chance to take a vacation together, and we were staying in the Florida Keys. The month of May in Florida is quite warm, even first thing in the morning, so this element played a very important part of the event.
We had just had breakfast at my favorite breakfast place, Denny’s! Yeah, I know… I’m easy to please! And we had stopped at the first gas station we saw to fuel up for the ride down to Key West.
As my husband gassed up the truck and paid, I went in and asked where the bathroom was.
“It’s around the north side of the building,” the attendant said.
Outside and around the building, it was a unisex bathroom made out of an old storefront. The plate glass windows were painted a thick, opaque orange so you couldn’t see through them, and the glass door was just like a store’s door with a big metal handle and deadbolt lock.
Being a unisex bathroom meant I HAD to lock the door for sure, so I sent the deadbolt home – which seemed kind of stiff - did my business, and then tried to get out.
With the temperature rising, it seemed that the door swelled and pulled on the hinges just enough that I couldn’t get the deadbolt to turn back.
At first, I laughed at the childhood fear that suddenly rose up in my chest.
“Calm down,” I told myself. “You aren’t a little girl anymore.”
Trying again at the lock, it was like trying to open the lid of a stuck pickle jar. It wasn’t budging even the tiniest bit!
Suddenly, I felt the familiar heat in my face threatening to smother the last bit of air from my lungs and I began to freak out. Back in those little girl shoes, I started pounding on the plate glass door as hard as I could, hoping there was somebody out there that would hear me.
”Help!” I yelled, but just like when I was little, there was nobody there.
After banging on the glass to the point of hurting myself, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to break it, and looking around the room for something to break the glass proved useless unless I could somehow tear one of the fixtures off the wall.
I began to wonder how long I would have to be missing for my husband to look for me, and that thought seemed to snap me out of my panic.
Thinking back to Pop’s words when I was a little girl, it suddenly was clear. If I locked the door, I could certainly unlock it!
I tried pulling on the door to unlock it, but that made the lock tighter. Pushing on the lock seemed to be the trick, but I couldn’t push on the door hard enough. It was like the heat swelled the door inward and put a ton of stress on the deadbolt.
Determined to get myself out of that bathroom, even as the walls started closing in on me and the heat of the room threatened to steal every bit of air from my lungs, I leaned into the door as hard as I could, grabbed hold of the deadbolt, and tried again to turn it. Though it left imprints on my fingers from the effort, it had moved a teeny-tiny bit.
Taking another cleansing breath and bolstering my resolve, I tried again, pushing as hard as I could into the door to the point that my flip flops were sliding across the tile floor from the effort.
”Come on!” I groaned, attempting to shake the lock while turning it. Little by little, it finally started to move, but super slow like it was coated in rust.
Finally, the lock clicked free and I flung that door open and bolted from the room so fast that I was barely able to get ahold of the panic I felt by the time I made it back to the truck.
Regaining control of my racing heart, my husband asked, “What took you so long?”
Laughing, and hoping I wouldn’t break down in tears, I said, “I got locked in the bathroom again!”
Ever since, I’d much rather have the bathroom door wide open.
Everyone has fears. What’s yours?
Thanks so much for reading!
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