The Balcony Scene / by Courtney Mehlhaff

Many of you probably watched Michael Phelps make history last week. But little did you know that a certain friend of yours was also capable of a feat that, while not exactly historic, was also ridiculous and required enormous talent. That friend? Me. That talent? Stupidity.

Last Sunday afternoon, after working out on my treadmill, I decided to sit on my balcony and read for awhile. After all, I figured, if I had to power through another chapter on web design, I might as well get a little sun in the process. I grabbed my textbook and stepped outside, but just as I went to slide the door shut (air conditioning is expensive you know), an enormous spider jumped out by the handle. I jerked back, and in the process slammed the door harder than I intended. That's when I heard it. The indoor security bar fell shut behind me.

I can't quite explain how ominous that "click" was, but I knew at that moment that my day would be sharply divided between before-click and after-click. So let's begin the ordeal at 4:00 a.c. There I was, stranded two floors up, with about an inch of glass separating me from my lovely, cool apartment. The first thought that went through my mind was, "That didn't just happen." Actually, no. The first thought that went through my mind and came out my mouth was a four-letter word that started with F and ended with K, and if you're still confused it rhymes with "Fuck."

After scaring away the spider and tugging at the door like a maniac, I tried to calm down. Slowly, disbelief turned to despair. I spent the next 20 minutes standing forlorn at my railing, scanning the neighborhood for passersby. Unfortunately, all I saw was a happy-looking squirrel frolicking in the grass and, I think, taunting me a little. "Oooh! Look at me! I have a home in that tree and can come and go as I please!" At 4:30 a.c. I decided that if I didn't see anyone by 6:00, I would have to resort to shouting "HELP!" randomly into the evening air. Of course this conjured horrible images of a gathering (and snickering) crowd and possibly a fire truck, at which point I would be forced to crawl into a hole and die.

Did I mention that I was wearing only skin-tight biker shorts and a tiny tank top? You thought the treadmill reference was a set-up for physical injury, but nay. It was merely to justify my skimpy outfit and thus my increased embarrassment.

I was just leaning over the railing to decide whether I could dangle off it to the ground below without slipping and crushing either my neighbor's flower bed or my pelvis ... when I noticed two little feet propped on a patio chair. I hung my head as far over as I could and said, "Excuse me! Hi!" My neighbor, an elderly woman whom I now know as Irene, couldn't see me and therefore thought the Lord had chosen to strike up a conversation while she read the daily paper. Until I said, "I'm on the balcony above you and I'm stuck! I accidentally locked myself out."

To which she replied, and I quote, "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" I asked her very politely, if it wasn't too much trouble, could she possibly pick up her telephone and dial the apartment complex emergency maintenance number? She could.

I wished many things during the next hour, as I was forced inch by inch into the remaining shady corner of my balcony. I wished I had brought my water bottle with me. I wished I had thrown on a t-shirt b.c. I wished I owned a little monkey who could somehow understand my frantic gestures and flip up the security bar. And I wished I knew whether that spider had intentionally lured me outside to confuse and dehydrate me before rallying his buddies to strike.

Just after 5:00 a.c., the next best thing to a knight in shining armor or, rather, the Romeo to my sweaty, desperate Juliet, drove up in an enormous truck -- Josh, the on-site maintenance guy. I then had to tell him that I had forgotten to remove the bar I jam beneath my front door every night, and I didn't know how he was going to get inside even with a key. After he vowed to return with more tools, I began to formulate a last-ditch contingency plan of borrowing a wrench and smashing my patio door. While I cringed at the thought of paying for a replacement, I was secretly curious about how it would feel to shatter it.

But then ... half an hour later ... Josh magically appeared on the other side of the glass. He'd had to unscrew my chain lock and bend the bar, but he finally rescued me (with minimal damage to the apartment). I never thought I'd be so happy to see a strange man in my living room! Ironically, he was the guy who had installed the patio security bar about four months earlier. When I pointed this out, he replied, "Well, at least we know it works." And it did. REALLY well.

So I was left with my few remaining scraps of dignity to reflect on the afternoon. It could have been worse, really. There could have been more spiders. I could have had to use the bathroom. It could have been nighttime. I could have been naked. And sure, I felt foolish, but at least I didn't make the 11 o'clock news.