Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How I Survived My Weekend

{In which I lock myself out of the apartment for 20+ hours but managed to get back, with minimal hysterics and plenty of good luck}

(Oops, I didn't expect typing this out to take so long. Sorry about the lateness on email and blog comments and general MIA-ness.  This post explains why on two fronts: 1) I got locked out and 2) I was writing this beast of a post. So yes, this account is kind of wordy. If you want, feel free to skip to the TL;DR version.)

I was planning to have a nice, quiet, relaxing weekend. Work had been more burdensome than usual lately — I stayed past 9pm several nights last week — so I was very much looking forward to recuperating with some alone time during the weekend.

I wouldn't be entirely anti-social for the weekend, though, since Mom's friend had planned a get-together dinner on Sunday night. I checked with Grandpa on Thursday to make sure he was free, since he'd mentioned that he'd be gone on a business trip from Friday to Sunday. Grandpa decided to return to Taipei earlier than planned on Sunday night so he could talk business with Auntie Wenny's husband, and I told him we were meeting at the department store across from Taipei Main Station, sixth floor, the restaurant named Shin Yeh. 5:30pm.

On Saturday I slept in (as usual), then set out for the library in the afternoon. It's kind of embarrassing to admit I'd been in Taiwan for more than a year without checking out the Taipei public library system, especially since the main library was in my district. But I'm pleased to say that I only messed up the Google Maps directions a little bit, and managed to find the library without having to stop and ask for help. And now I'm the proud owner of a library card! :D I had fun browsing the shelves of English literature, though I'd arrived too late to check out many of the YA books I'd wanted since the children's section closes earlier than the rest of the library. Ah well, next time. (Also, it turns out you're only allowed to check out five books at a time! It was kind of shocking. I guess I'm spoiled by the 50-book limit at my public library in SoCal.)

After that I went to Macho Tacos (recommended by the awesome Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei) for a carne asada burrito. Library books and Mexican food in Taipei? Bliss. It's been months since I'd had either, so I was highly anticipating a lovely evening with my burrito and books. I bought some drinks and snacks at 7-Eleven on my way home, walked up to the door of my apartment building, reached in for my keys... and came up empty.

It was the worst time possible to forget my keys. Usually it wouldn't be a problem since Grandpa would be home, and I could just call him and sheepishly ask him to open the door for me. But he was gone on a business trip... and I realized I didn't have my cell phone anyway. A veritable disaster. I tried to stay calm while I checked my bag several times, vainly hoping my keys or phone would magically appear. I mentally kicked myself for forgetting such important objects — how could you be so stupid, Linda? — then resigned myself to the situation and began considering my options.

There was no way I could get in to the apartment unless I called a locksmith, and I had no idea where I could find one. Grandpa would be home by tomorrow evening at the latest, so things would've been okish as long as I met up with him for dinner, but in the meantime I needed to find somewhere to spend the night. And I couldn't call anyone since I had no phone.

I'd accidentally locked my grandpa out once, and he told me he'd spent the night on a park bench (I was horrified and apologized profusely). I didn't think I could do that myself. A motel, maybe? There were a lot around where I lived, but I didn't really want to spend that much money. Or how about camping out at one of those 24-hour fast food places or tea shops? At least I wouldn't be bored, thanks to my library books.

At any rate, I refused to let myself panic. Things will work out, I told myself. The worst-case scenario isn't all that bad; you do have options, you just need to approach the situation rationally and calmly.

In the end, I'm not sure how rational my decision was. I decided to hang out at the door of my apartment building until someone came in or out, and then beg for assistance. (Ha. Great plan, right?) Eventually, a middle-aged woman arrived. I approached, smiled my brightest, and said, "Hi, do you live here?" (Uh, duh, of course she did.) "I live on the seventh floor and forgot my keys, do you have any idea how I can get someone to get the door open for me?" She didn't smile back and wasn't overly friendly, but I didn't fault her, since my question came out of nowhere and had nothing to do with her. I managed to ask about finding a locksmith while failing to recall what the word for it was in Mandarin; fortunately she understood me. Less fortunately, she informed me that as it was 10pm, they were all closed.

I was dismayed by the news. There went my hope of getting into the apartment that night. I frowned and bit my lips, not sure where to go from there.
"Why don't you talk to the manager? I just passed by her on the street," she suggested.
"Oh, cool! But I have no idea what she looks like," I admitted.
The woman brought me out on the street and pointed down the lane. "They're still over there, chatting at the intersection. They're a couple. The wife's name is Ah Zhen."
I squinted but had no idea who she was talking about. I wasn't sure I'd be able to find the manager on my own, but the woman seemed disinclined to walk down there with me and make an introduction.
"Just go ask for Ah Zhen," she said.
I looked down the lane, and then at the woman, and decided I'd imposed upon her long enough. "Ok, thank you very much," I said, and made my way down the lane, keeping an eye out for any couples.

I soon encountered a man and a woman speaking to each other in Taiwanese, and, hoping I wasn't wrong, I approached and asked the woman, "Excuse me, are you Ah Zhen?"
"Yes, I am," she said. "How can I help you?"
I was incredibly relieved, and explained my predicament.
Ah Zhen and her husband exchanged glances. "All the locksmiths are closed now," she told me. "There was one guy who opened 24 hours a day, but he quit the business."
"Oh," I said.
"What will you do? Where will you stay?"
I shrugged helplessly. "I don't know."
They discussed for a bit. "Maybe she can stay in the basement," her husband suggested.
"Would that be ok?" Ah Zhen asked me.
Better than the streets of Taipei. "Sure," I said. "Thank you."
They conferred a bit more. "The basement is a bit hot, isn't it?" "What about if she stays in our house?"
Ah Zhen turned to me. "The basement is hot and there are mosquitoes, so maybe it's better if you stay at my house. We don't have an extra room, but you can sleep in our living room if that's ok with you. Why don't you come with me?"
"I don't want to impose," I said cautiously.
"Not at all!" she assured me. "I'm hardly there anyway. My kids live there but we usually stay at this building."
Sleeping in her living room did sound a lot better than sleeping in the basement. "Oh, ok, then. Thank you so much! And I'm so sorry to be a bother."
And that's how I came to crash in the living room of my manager's apartment.

It was empty when we arrived, and I ate my dinner while she did some cleaning. After she made sure I was settled in, she left, and I took out one of my library books and began to read. I was slightly surprised that no one arrived for quite a while, although she had mentioned that her kids tended to stay up pretty late. Around midnight (I'm guessing) someone rang the doorbell and I figured out how to buzz that person in (I was so proud of myself!). A boy in a raincoat walked in, saw me, and then did a double take.
My ability to speak Mandarin suddenly left me, so I told him, in English, "Hi, your mom called you about me, right? I got locked out and she said I could stay here for the night."
He looked bewildered. "Can you understand English?" I asked in Mandarin. Eyes wide, he shook his head wildly. I considered how to translate myself. Before I had it figured out, his cell phone rang.
"Wait," he said in Mandarin, then spoke to his friends. "Where are you? I thought you guys would be here. Oh. Ok, I'm coming now." He hung up and turned to me. "I came here to look for my friend but he's not here. So... yeah. Bye!" He waved, flashed a bright smile, and walked out the door.
"Bye," I said. I laughed a little to myself — I must have scared the poor boy quite a bit, spouting English at him like that.

Fortunately, he was successful in finding his friends. The three boys trooped in quite a bit later, only to leave again for McDonald's. They're college freshman, I think, and they were cute and funny and Ah Zhen's son was kind. While they were gone, Ah Zhen's oldest son came in with his girlfriend. They hung out in his room for a bit, then left again. By then it must have been well past midnight, and people kept coming in and out while I sat calmly reading my book. It was interesting.

The three boys came back with food for their movie night. Ah Zhen's son offered to let me sleep in his room, but I thanked him and declined. It would've felt too weird for me, and I didn't mind staying up to read while they watched the movie. They shared their fries with me, which was super nice of them, then popped in Black Swan. I half watched the movie and half read my book, which worked out well because I missed most of the really disturbing parts that way. We finished the movie around 4am, and then the boys left again to go who knows where, while I went to sleep on the couch.

The sun woke me the next morning, as did the boys' return around 9 or 10am. It was too bright to sleep, so I sat up and pulled out another book. The older son woke up around 11ish, saw me reading, and asked, "Did you stay up all night?!" I smiled and assured him that I did sleep. Not much, though.

Slightly before noon, Ah Zhen arrived with friends to play mahjong in the living room. I suppose I could have gone shopping or something, but I was feeling lazy and didn't want to lug my books everywhere. I was rather annoyed at myself for locking myself out of the apartment, and there was no way to get back in — apparently, locksmiths are closed on Sundays — so I decided to just stay and read and watch them play mahjong, and escape my frustration by diving into fiction. (Later, I counted: while I stayed at Ah Zhen's house, I read over 1400 pages.)

I borrowed Ah Zhen's cell phone a couple times to call home in the unlikely event Grandpa went home before going to the restaurant, but no one picked up. The second time I called I noticed it was 5:30pm. Crap! I was going to be late. I hurriedly said thank you and goodbye to Ah Zhen and took the bus to Taipei Main, then went to the department store across the street. I desperately hoped Grandpa would be there already since I had no idea what Auntie Wenny looked like. I wondered if she'd be able to recognize me on her own.

I distinctly remembered the name of the restaurant, and that Auntie Wenny had said it was on the sixth floor, but the directory next to the elevator stated that the sixth floor was menswear and that the restaurants were on the twelfth floor. I tried to stay calm and went up to the twelfth floor, hoping that I'd merely gotten the floor number wrong, but I didn't see the restaurant I expected to see, either. I made a few rounds of the floor, then went down to the sixth floor, just in case. Nope, no restaurant there. Maybe I'd gotten the building wrong? I went back to the first floor and made a circle around the building, but didn't see any signs for the restaurant. By then it must have been past 6pm, and I was getting anxious. What if I couldn't find them at all? Had I gotten the directions wrong? They were probably calling my cell like crazy and I had no way to reach them, explain my predicament, or ask for directions.

I went back to the twelfth floor of the department store, where the restaurants were, and paced back and forth several times while running through my options in my head. Maybe I could ask someone where the restaurant was? Still, there was a chance I wouldn't be able to find them at all, in which case I would have to wait until nighttime, when Grandpa got home. It wasn't the end of the world, but by then I was so tired of feeling lost and hungry and confused and anxious that I allowed myself a moment of melodrama and dropped my face into my hands.

When I looked up again — wait, is that...? Oh, yes! Oh, happy day! (Well, not really, but you know what I mean.)
"Grandpa!" I called out joyfully. "Hi!"
He seemed rather surprised to see me, too. "What are you doing here?" It was a reasonable question, as I was wondering the same. After all, I was at the wrong place.
"I thought it was here, but I don't see the restaurant," I said.
"There's a Shin Yeh on the sixth floor of another building nearby, but I didn't see them. I came here to double check since you told me it was in this department store. I called your cell phone six or seven times but it was off," he said.
"I left my phone at home and locked myself out so I couldn't get it. I spent last night in the manager's living room," I explained. "What should we do now? I can't reach Auntie Wenny either since I have no phone."

We went back to the restaurant and walked through it, looking for Auntie Wenny — or at least Grandpa did, since I wouldn't have recognized her anyway — but he didn't see her. :( At least I was with my Grandpa so I could actually go home! He said we were super lucky to have both been there at the same time; otherwise we might never have found each other. We grabbed dinner elsewhere and then went home. It felt so nice to be back! I immediately turned on my phone, but no one picked up when I called Auntie Wenny's house phone, the only number I had.

She called around 8:30pm; they had been at the restaurant, under her husband's name (we'd asked for hers) and somehow Grandpa hadn't seen them in all three of his passes through the restaurant. She said she'd called me several times the entire day but my phone had been off, and I felt awful for messing everything up with my own stupidity. I explained to her what happened the day before and apologized again and again. I felt terrible that they waited in vain and couldn't reach me by cell, and that Grandpa cut his business trip short without getting to meet up with them. I think that was the worst part of my weekend, knowing that everything got screwed up because of me, and that there was nothing I could do to fix it. Sigh.

Anyway, that's what happened this past weekend. I got nothing productive done and have tons of stuff to catch up on, but I'm mostly just grateful to be back in my room! I meant to make this account more entertaining and funny but just typing it all out took way more effort than I expected. Oh well.

TL;DR version:

On Saturday night I discovered that I'd locked myself out of my apartment and left my cell phone in my room. And my grandpa was on a business trip until Sunday evening. All the locksmiths were closed by then and I had nowhere to stay. Somehow I found the manager, who I'd never met before that night, and she let me sleep in her living room. I spent most of my time reading library books I'd checked out on Saturday until it was time to meet up with Grandpa and my mom's friend for dinner. I went to the wrong place about half an hour late, but somehow my grandpa found me anyway, thank goodness. Unfortunately, we couldn't find my mom's friend or tell her what happened since I didn't have a cell. But at least I found my way home! And that's how I spent my weekend.

So yeah, hope your weekend was better than mine!

with love,


  1. Lol wow, what an adventure. My fave part was the boys walking in on you in their living room and going, WTF? :P

    Glad you're safe!

  2. Wow, I'm so impressed you read the whole thing! I kind of thought everyone would just read the summary, haha.

    Yeah, poor boys. They were super nice though! And they even tried to speak English with me. It was pretty hilarious since this one guy (the one I scared) said "Don't smile me!" and I thought he said "Don't smell me!" but what he actually meant to say was "Don't laugh at me!" LOL yeah that didn't really work. :P

    I'm very glad I made it back safely, too. :) Thanks, Kristan!

  3. If I'm being honest, I read the summary, then went back up and skimmed the whole thing, hehe.

    LOL at his mixup. In good company, language mistakes can be cute. :)

  4.  I don't know how you managed to stay so calm! I would've freaked! But that's so nice of your manager to let you stay at her place, and it's funny that her kids were just like "Alright, random girl in the living room!" Haha. It's weird that managers don't have spare keys to apartments, but on the other hand, everyone in Taipei lives in an apartment so I guess that'd be weird. I'm just thinking about this one time at Cal my roommate and I both forgot our keys & we didn't realize until after we'd gotten back to the apartment from Safeway with a ton of groceries. We ended up buzzing the manager (who was home thankfully), and he let us in with the master key. :P Glad it all mostly worked out though!

  5. It's really a "long" story haha
    I'm impressed of your ability to solve the EMERGENCY XD
    and in chinese wow!

    The most interesting part: the boy walking in and seeing a strange girl in his house speaking super-fast English. He must be frightened very much XD

  6. Haha yeah. I appreciated that he wanted to speak English with me. :)

  7. haha i guess i tend to have the mindset of "things will work out somehow" and i try to be rational when possible. i'm good at staying calm in most situations, but i do freak out when the person in charge seems incompetent, unconcerned, or clueless and refuses to tell me what's going on or what the plan is. i guess i'm ok as long as i have some semblance of control or faith in how things are being handled, but if i have no viable options or information or don't trust the decision maker, then yeah, i'd freak, lol.
    the manager's children knew i'd be there. i think she called them? but that guy who came to find his friend was certainly surprised :P

    yeah i remember that my manager at berkeley also had master keys. saved me a couple times, too. :)

  8. @.@ You read the whole thing?? Wow. I'm super impressed! :D I don't think I can get through such a long article in Chinese, haha.

    Thanks, I think I just got really lucky! I'm glad things worked out but what happened was pretty unexpected.

    HAHAHA you're so right about the super fast English. Poor boy. :P

    Hope you're doing well, Willie! :)

  9. oh gosh! that's crazy. I'm glad the manager lady was so nice!

  10. woah i have no idea what i would do if i was locked out of my house overnight. at least you didn't have to stay on the park bench!!

  11. OH MY GOODNESS BEST POST EVER! i can't believe all that happened! i'm sooo relieved you didnt have to sleep outside on a park bench or something... taiwanese people can be so kind. i can't believe she let you into her house like that... it must've been cool being in a house and seeing people come in and out. and 1400 pages, i'm not even surprised. 

    reminds me of that one time we got locked out at like 3am, haha

  12. haha yeah! i was so lucky to have somewhere to stay :) i think i should definitely get her some mooncakes for the mid-autumn festival..

  13. haha yeah i'm really glad i didn't have to stay on a bench either! i told my grandpa i was worried i'd have to do that, and he told me not to choose the benches in the park because it's too dark. it's better to choose the benches in front of the nearby department stores XD

  14. hahahah you think THIS is the best post ever? wow. but yeah, crazy how things happened right? sooo nice of her. dude the strangest thing is that i never saw her daughter! she said she had two sons and one daughter but i only ever saw the sons coming in and out o.0 strange. and omg yeah i remember that time. i thought we would have to sleep in the stairwell lol. good thing we had cell phones then!

  15. woooow! haha you pretty much just lived out my worst fears. way to keep your calm, linda XD

  16. haha yeah i'm lucky i didn't forget my keys when my grandpa was in california! that would've sucked.

  17. Dang, what an adventure! While I was reading the conversations you were having, I was trying in my head to translate it into Chinese, just to see if I could survive a similar situation in Taiwan. And... I couldn't! Impressive that you did, though, and I'm glad you were so resourceful! :)

  18. haha yeah i was kind of in denial about my situation for a bit when it was happening, but i'm glad it all worked out :)

  19. omg linda!!! can you make a copy of your key and give it to a neighbor?? o__O do they have payphones in taiwan? you could write down all your phone numbers on a piece of paper and stick it in your wallet! =D

  20. haha yeah i was thinking that i probably need duplicate keys or something. there actually are payphones and i do have some numbers written out but somehow that didn't really occur to me. ah well, everything worked out. thanks for the suggestions! :)