7 OLD LADIES
LOCKED IN THE LAVATORY
12 September 2002
Oh dear, what can the matter be?
Seven old ladies locked in the lavat'ry
They were there from Sunday to Saturday
Nobody knew they were there
The lyrics are to a song that we used to sing at drunken parties in
college. Subsequent verses tell the specific details of each woman. The one I remember
The next old lady was Old Mrs. Bickle
Who found herself caught in a desperate pickle
Stuck in a pay booth and hadn't a nickle
And nobody knew she was there.
My biking buddy, Cindy, is also my dentist. She was my friend before
she was my dentist and then, after twenty years of hiding my dental misdeeds from her, I
finally made an appointment and she literally changed my life.
She's also more of a workaholic than I am. Her day starts at 2 a.m.
when she goes to her office to begin work on chart notes. She comes to my house at 5, for
her break time and we ride bikes at top speed for an hour, then she goes back to the
office to work until time to start seeing patients.
This morning she arrived, saying she'd had a terrible fright. Her
office is part of a complex of offices built around a central "core," where the
restrooms are. It is the ideal situation, she says, because it makes the restrooms
accessible only by patients or staff, but they are not accessible to the outside, so they
don't have to worry about unknown people coming in to use the facilities.
Shortly before she was leaving to meet me for our ride, she went
into the restroom. The room has an automatic light which goes on when it detects motion
and she thought it odd that it didn't come on when she opened the door, so she turned it
on manually. She then went to the stall she normally uses but it was locked, so she
started to pry it open and when she went inside, found an elderly woman sitting on the
toilet, scared out of her mind, worried that Cindy was some sort of an attacker.
It turns out this woman was a patient of one of the other providers
in the complex, had gone to the bathroom, was forgotten by the staff of the provider's
office and ended up locked in the bathroom area. Without a key, you can't get into the
doctors' offices again, if they have locked from the inside, and with no access to
outside, you can't get out either. She had left her purse in the provider's office, so
even if she had a cell phone with her, she had no access to it--and, of course, there is
no phone in the bathroom area, so she'd just spent the night there. (She lives a good 2-3
hours from here and one has to wonder if anybody missed her!) Cindy took her into
her own office and gave her a blanket, but couldn't do much more until it got later, as
the woman didn't want Cindy to disturb the provider whose office she'd been visiting.
The incident made me remember years ago when I was working at a
different ob/gyn office. One of the providers is a wonderful woman--in fact she was my own
provider--the sweetest, most gentle person you'd ever want to meet. But she was a
tad scatterbrained at times.
This one afternoon I was working at the front desk, answering the
telephone when it rang and it was the provider on the phone. She was very apologetic and
asked if I'd go into her exam room and apologize to her patient, whom she had left sitting
on the table when she (the provider) left to pick her child up from school. (It was, alas,
not the last time she went off and forgot a patient.)
I don't think I've ever been locked in any place, but I've
been locked out a number of times. Going off and forgetting the house keys is a
biggie. When the kids were little, it was easy to send them through the tiny dog door and
into the house. This past year, I came home from Lake Tahoe a day early and realized I
didn't have my house keys and the house was locked up tight as a drum, with Walt not due
home for another day or two. Ned got a ladder and climbed up to the second story, removed
the screen from the window, and climbed into the bathroom. (I never realized that my son
was such a good burglar!)
But I think that Cindy's experience this morning has made me realize
that I should always be sure to have my cell phone with me--you never know when it might
come in handy!