I got locked in the bathroom last night.

I bet I also just got your attention.

Why am I writing about this experience on a blog about stage fright? Here are some details of my misadventure. I think you will understand.

Last night, we were about to sit down for a family dinner at our daughter’s home. Deciding to wash up before the meal, I went into her powder room on the first floor. Without thinking I closed the door behind me, as I do automatically. To my surprise, when I went to leave the bathroom, the door would not open. My instinctive response was to think it was jammed shut, so I tried to turn the handle and pull it open again. It did not budge. After a third try, I realized I was locked in.

My family had gathered at the dinner table which was not near where I was – and I was stuck on the other side of the house. How long would it take for them to realize I did not show up? Not wanting to wait to see, I started jiggling the handle – loudly and vigorously. I do not think they heard it. Then I began to bang on the door. I would have texted or called someone on my cell phone, but who takes that into the bathroom?

It did not take long for 4 people to come to my rescue outside the door. “Did you push in the lock?” someone asked. “No” I replied, “I never do that here.” “Can you try to lock and unlock the door now?” Me: “I tried that and the lock does not move.”

“Wait a minute” someone yelled. I thought did I have a choice but to wait? Clearly, the person was going to get something to pry the door open. Someone else yelled, “Open the window.” I told them I had tried, but it was also stuck.

My rescuers returned with several household instruments intended to unjam the lock. None worked. They also tried a credit card wedged between the door and the wall. It did not budge the door. Finally, the decision was made to call a neighbor since my can-fix-anything son in law was out of town.

By this time, I had figured out how to open the small window, but I could not climb out because it was too high off the ground. The fresh air felt good.

Very shortly, Tom arrived. Tom lives next door. He gave me some instructions from the other side of the door (“get out of the way”) and tried vigorously – and unsuccessfully – to push it in (like they do on TV and in the movies when someone is breaking into a room). After that, Tom went outside and slithered in through the window after first climbing up the ladder. He wanted to work on unlocking the door from inside. Now there were two of us locked in the bathroom.

Then Mike arrived. Mike lives across the street. I was expecting the fire department to show up next. Tools in hand, Mike stood outside the bathroom door (inside the house) and the two of them strategized about what to do next.

Finally, the decision was made to use some pliers and try to remove the small piece on the lock that seemed to be stuck. Mike handed the pliers to Tom from outside the window. Tom, inside the bathroom, pulled on the lock with all his might. The lock finally came off. The door opened. We all breathed a sigh of relief and had a good laugh. Problem solved. New lock is to be installed ASAP.

Dinner was delicious.

Why am I telling you this? I do so mainly because being locked in the bathroom (or anywhere) is an unnerving experience where one could freak out when things did not go as planned and there was no exit. It felt a little like performing on stage when sometimes best preparation cannot prevent the unexpected or unusual from happening. It reminded me of a memory slip or a technique malfunction or some other unplanned accident where things occur that never happened before. It was a time to be resilient – emotionally and and cognitively. It was NOT the time to feel stuck emotionally even when I was stuck literally.

I did not panic – I did not anticipate disaster. I did not catastrophize what “might” happen (i.e., locked in forever, no one would hear me yelling – worse, no one would remember I was missing!!!) I knew someone would help me and find a solution to my innocent incarceration. I knew I had fresh air to breathe through a window and a bathroom to use – if I needed one.

In my mind, I did not feel locked in. Eventually someone would figure out how to help me resolve my predicament – and sure enough, six people came through. I realized that I could depend on others for assistance and upon my self to stay calm in the midst of something potentially frightening, clearly unanticipated, and progressively frustrating.

There is a lesson to be learned in every experience both off and on stage – even getting locked in the bathroom (which I do not recommend as a test of your ability to cope with the unexpected. I also realize that performers use a “Green Room” back stage, so my experience may not be as far-fetched as it first appears!!)

I share with you the idea that we can get ourselves out of jams on stage and in life – and that we can depend on others to help us when we are unable to do this solo. This thought gives me a sense of comfort and lowers my anxiety.

Thank you to my creative family and particularly to wonderful neighbors and friends, Tom and Mike!!

However, from now on, when I go in the bathroom, I think I will take my cell phone with me.

Photo: Google Images