What do you do if you are locked IN? Yes, I mean physically locked or trapped inside.

Outside view of my interconnected entry lock

I was, and it’s a scary sensation.

What if there had been a fire?

I live on the second floor of a four unit condominium building. I could have escaped a fire by stepping out onto my deck. Then what? Jump? Be rescued by someone with a ladder?

What if I needed to get to the hospital where my friend had been taken the day before?

What if I just wanted to go somewhere?


Side view after the latch was removed

The morning I was locked in, I was hurrying to get to a meeting at work. There are 50 stoplights between where I live and where I work, and it is a 45 minute drive when I get mostly green lights. I had easily flipped open the deadbolt on my condo’s entry lock, yet when I turned the ball-shaped brass knob on the 50-year-old interconnected lockset, nothing happened.

I called Cortney. “The knob spins,” I said, “but it doesn’t retract the latch. I need a locksmith!” She noted the distress in my voice and calmly said she would have the service manager send a tech, then asked if I could join the meeting remotely.

Yes! Technology to the rescue for the meeting…that relieved some of my stress…but I could be locked in for hours! I quickly called the condominium management office to report my predicament.

Lucille answered. She listened attentively then assured me that she could send Oscar over with a ladder and he could take the lock off the door. I was put on hold. The “what-ifs” began in my head again. I visualized a ladder tall enough to reach my deck from my downstairs neighbor’s patio, then tried to visualize watching the nearing-retirement maintenance man climbing up, crawling over the railing, and then removing that old lock from my door.

What if he couldn’t remove it?

I’ve worked at Anderson Lock for over 30 years so I know a little bit about how worn out pins and springs can make an old lock malfunction. Then I remembered that sometimes the correct key can be jiggled enough to retract the latch, especially if it is an old cylinder with worn out pins. So, when Lucille came back on the line, I told her that Oscar should try my key from the hallway side of the lock before climbing a ladder.

I watched for him from my deck. It was a sunny, warm morning.

What if I was locked in during the winter?

What if it was a weekend?

Or at night?

No fear. Within minutes, Oscar arrived. He caught the key, slowly walked around the building, and ambled upstairs.

He persistently rattled my lock. And my nerves. Eventually, he was able to get the latch to move, and get the door open. Hooray. Except that if I closed the door, I would get locked in again.

His solution was to put a credit card between the latch and the strike to prevent the latch from relocking until the locksmith arrived. He even gave me a Home Depot gift card with $1.98 credit marked on it. I regret to confess that after he left, I tried the credit card hack. It failed. Of course. But this time I called my 80-something downstairs neighbor and asked if she would fetch my key from her flower bed, where I planned to toss it so I wouldn’t erroneously hit her on her head, then come up and re-open my door.

It took many more minutes (It felt like many more minutes. Maybe it was many more seconds…) but she eventually opened the door, which I left propped open, like I should have the first time, until the skilled Anderson Lock tech arrived. Fortunately, he had just finished a job in a nearby community when he got the call that I needed him.

With some effort, he removed the aged lock from the door, then removed the faulty latch from the lock. Interconnected locks like mine have long been discontinued, but Anderson Lock does have replacement parts still in stock. If a replacement latch is found, the tech will return and repair the lock. If not, he will replace the deadbolt and the knob lock. Meanwhile, I can lock the door using just the existing deadbolt.

Benjamin Franklin famously flew a kite with a key attached to the string on a dark stormy night, waiting in anticipation for lightning to strike. He also famously wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

I should have had a lock tech check out my antique lock when I first noted that it was sometimes hard to open. That “ounce of prevention” could have prevented my being locked in!

What if I was locked in on a dark stormy night?

What if the storm had caused the electricity to go out?

What if I was locked in in the dark and my phone wasn’t charged and I couldn’t call anyone?

Yikes! So much of my morning was spent not only inside my condo, but also inside my head! The stress, frustration and fear was all in my mind. I was torturing myself with “what ifs”.

Now, because Anderson Lock is primarily a commercial locksmith company, residential work is usually limited to neighborhoods near the main office in Des Plaines. But, an ALC tech was working in an adjacent town, thus  able to help me within an hour or so.

Ben Franklin’s maxim also applies to Anderson Lock’s advice to “Get an extra key BEFORE you need one!” “Lubricate your locks if they are sticking.” “Make sure your lock is properly aligned with the strike within the frame.”

But I digress. I didn’t need an extra key, I needed to take a deep breath. I need to see a setback for what it is, seek a solution, and practice patience! I didn’t need to wait in anticipation for lightning to strike!

I need to lock out the “what ifs” !