how to survive being trapped on a deck


Every good survival story starts with locking yourself outside on your own deck. Which is what happened to me yesterday when I went outside to set up and photograph some product shots. Without thinking, I set up my shot, grabbed my camera, and then shut the sliding door behind me without realizing it had clicked shut…and locked.

I think I went through the full range of emotions from saying f@&! about a million times. Then denial (there’s NO WAY that’s locked), to rage (THIS STUPID DOOR BETTER OPEN!) to whimpering, to finally acceptance (crap, I’m really going to be stuck on this deck for hours).

Hours 1-3 were spent considering my options. First I tried to pick the lock with a bobby pin I had, you know, like on tv. Because obviously tv shows everything accurately. I have an understanding of locks and theoretically understand how to pick them, but in practice, not so much. After that failed, I tried to lure my kitties to the door thinking that either a)they could somehow call for help or b)I could quickly train them to open the door for me. Obviously neither worked.

Plan C was to get off the balcony which is on our second story and I estimate to be about 15 feet or so off the ground. Unfortunately, the area below is pavement and air conditioner on one side and lower fenced off deck and tree on the other side. My options were to dangle from the edge of the balcony, swing my body, then drop into the tiny spot of grass and roll to deflect the impact, dangle and drop and try to hit the fence juuuuust right so that I could balance on the ledge, or dangle, drop, and grab onto the supporting post on my way down and slide to safety. In addition to these ideas, I also made several versions of a rope to dangle from the edge using various bits of twine string I had and some clothes I was wearing. It didn’t come close to reaching the bottom.

I spent another hour trying to think in reverse: oh I know, what if I went UP instead of down? So I assembled a leaning tower of patio furniture and climbed to the top hoping that I could reach the 3rd level balcony in hopes that the door was left open. My tower didn’t even come close to reaching.

Plan E was to break the glass of our sliding doors — but they are top of the line triple-paned weather-proofed doors newly installed by the previous owners prior to selling. I wasn’t going to touch those windows.

Finally I just accepted my fate and tried to make the best of it. Did I mention that it was a sunless 40 degrees and that I was wearing PJs and house slippers? Using our random assortment of deck furniture, I created a little wind blocking shelter and huddled underneath it. I found some old twine and using that and the leaves that had blown onto our deck, I made ‘shoes.’ And then I just laid still, huddling, shivering, watching the kitties taunt me from the other side of the triple-paned windows in the warmth of my own home.

Seven hours passed. SEVEN. Do you know how long seven hours is without the aid of a phone, a computer, a tablet, a kindle, a book, NOTHING? Seven hours in a tiny warm room is one thing, but seven hours in the cold, peering into a house you can’t get into is another. Time passed so very slowly that the only way I could endure myself was by coming up with stupid games in my head, trying to remember lyrics to songs (which I’m terrible at), thinking of anything and everything but how cold I was. Finally, I just went into my happy place, listened to the birds and tried to pretend I was lying in the woods by choice, not by stupidity. I have no idea how people do it in real survival situations. Seven hours on a deck in the ‘burbs was about as much as I could take.

At least it didn’t rain.

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  • funnelcloud rachel
    February 8, 2013 at 8:55 am

    OMG, Veronika! That is terrible! As I was reading the beginning of your story, I was thinking “I’m sure most other people aren’t lazy slobs like me, but if this had happened to me, I would’ve been wearing pajamas, slippers, and had no coat”…

    So yeah…glad I’m not the only one! Do you work entirely from home? I live in fear of locking myself out when letting the dogs out during the day…me and my pajamas facing the school behind us would not be a good scene!

  • veronika
    February 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    I know, I didn’t even have the decency to be wearing a cute matching yoga outfit of some sort. I do work mostly from home on week days, so when I do, I like to lounge around in the morning with coffee and the kitties and read a bit to ease into the day. Before finishing my cup of coffee I decided to photograph some stuff I’ve been putting off and since the lighting was even (foggy) I took everything outside for a “quick” shoot.

    The “funny” part is that the past couple of weeks I have been really careful to lock the door before closing it because sometimes if the lever is not fully down, the doors won’t lock. So like a trained animal, I automatically pushed the lever in lock position…then closed it on myself.

    I love how my first thought was, “Oh, the kitties are inside, maybe I can get them to open the door for me.” They can open doors, windows even, but not locked ones. You should start training your pups, just in case…

  • Funnelcloud Rachel
    May 27, 2016 at 6:06 am

    Blogged a similar story today, and had to come back and re-read this post since I remembered you doing the same thing! Dang – I’m glad I wasn’t in 40 degree weather in my pajamas (though the t-shirts and shorts I was wearing were equally unacceptable for public viewing!)

  • veronika
    May 27, 2016 at 10:48 am

    You know what’s awesome though? After all that we locked ourselves out again. This time we had the kitties outside and were grooming them one by one. When it was Pandora’s turn (Pandora being sometimes hilariously psychotic) she went absolutely ballistic. We separated the boys and put them back inside and then slam…we were locked outside on our deck again, this time with a screaming cat. Luckily we had our phones and were able to call Sly’s brother to come rescue us. Dumb × 2.