Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Art of Locking Yourself Out of a Hotel Room, or How Not to Impress Your In-Laws

Locks really only have one job to do: they keep people out, and they usually do it well. On a normal day, I don't have problems with locks, but on the rare occasion they cause me endless headaches.

Whenever I enter my home, I engage the deadbolt; when I travel, it's no different. As soon as I enter my room, I snap the deadbolt shut and engage the bar-style lock or security chain if one is present. This habit had served me well until I inadvertently locked my wife and myself out of our hotel room for a very embarrassing half hour. On the plus side, I did learn quite a bit about hotel room doors.

We were on a short skiing trip to Mt. Hood with my wife's parents and her sister. We were staying in a hotel, and our room had an adjoining door to my wife's family's room. After we entered our room, I flipped the bar-style lock on our main door. When we left to go out for dinner, we passed through to the adjoining room, closed the door and left for the evening. Upon returning we discovered that our room keys would no longer work. After trying several times, we headed downstairs because the door just wasn't opening.

I've before because the electronic key cards can, from time to time, become decoded and no longer work.

Upon reporting malfunction to the front desk, the attendant reprogrammed our key cards, and we returned to find that we were still unable to open the door. The slightly annoyed hotel attendant, who was really only there because of the proximity the mountain, rolled his eyes, put down his bowl of yogurt and proclaimed that the battery in the door was probably dead. I hadn't thought about the doors having batteries before, but it did make sense; all those card readers in the doors run on batteries so eventually they need to be replaced.

The attendant gathered a small case and we went up to the room. After unscrewing something on the bottom of the door handle, a small panel came loose revealing a battery and some electronics. He plugged in a small device and was able to unlock the door. Surely enough, the latch was in place and the door would only open about two inches. The attendant was unimpressed.

"Ah, well there you have it," the attendant proclaimed. "We have an opener, but it's a little tricky. We may have to wait for Phil to get back from his break." Phil was the other hotel attendant who was on duty that night.

Another trip to the front desk produced a spring steel device that looked a lot like a slim crowbar. In the right hands, this device could be used to pop open the bar-style latches. This device is handy for when guests try to exercise squatter's rights or when they just manage to lock themselves out thanks to their overzealous safety habits.

The attendant opened the door slightly using his electronic device, slipped the tool into the gap as far as it could go while still connecting with the lock, closed the door. Next he opened the door while simultaneously pushing inward with the tool. This did absolutely nothing. The idea is that the tool will be able to push the latch out of the way just before it engaged, thus allowing entry. Like most things, the use of this device is more easily described conceptually than it is to actually do; the attendant was having a hard time of it.

After 10 minutes of repeating the above process without success, Phil came by to open the door. He looked at the tool, bent it slightly, held it up to the light and smiled. Within 3 tries, he had that door open like it was nothing at all. The first attendant went back to his bowl of yogurt knowing that he should spend more time honing his skills of the hotel arts, but he was probably thinking about the slopes again before he made it to the stairs.

We thanked Phil, and we were happy to be in our room again. I learned a valuable lesson: when using adjoining rooms, always go out your own door!

Have you ever locked yourself out of your hotel room? I'd be glad to know that I'm not alone on this one.

If you've enjoyed this post please consider subscribing to the RSS feed.


Post a Comment