It's... Stupid Storyday!
This is a true story. I am a superhero. Don't tell anybody.
I remembered this particular stupid story (in this instance the "stupid" refers to the actions in the story, not the story itself) while taking a walk last night through my beautiful residential neighborhood. Ah, the birds. The lack of interesting restaurants. The large piles of dirty snow. As I returned to my apartment complex and looked at the balconies on the outside of all the buildings, I fondly recalled this story of stupidity.
Once upon a time, when I was in college, I lived in an apartment in Smallcollegetown, Wisconsin.1 The apartment I lived in was a fairly old apartment with some rockin' industrial-style carpet - the kind you normally find on cubicle walls. The apartment building was technically two stories, but there were also apartments in the basement of the building which provided each building with three floors of apartments. I lived on the top floor, roughly two-and-a-half stories above the ground (due to fire codes requiring the basement apartments to include windows).
One evening about this time of year, I was lounging in my apartment debating whether to put up the giant wooden butterflies I'd found at the craft store for $.25 on the wall without asking my roommate's opinion. While hanging one butterfly near the balcony window, I realized that the evening was particularly fine indeed. I decided to go outside on the balcony and enjoy the sunset and ambient sounds of nature (we lived next to a swamp, though I preferred to call it the quagmire, home to several million operatic frogs and a pterodactyl).
I went out on the balcony and pretended I was somewhere tremendously exotic and exciting that just happened to be full of frogs. I think I attempted to say something in French, like, "Oui! Vive le France! Le moulin!"
After enjoying this for several minutes, I decided that I would hang the garish wooden butterflies across from my roommate's door so she could enjoy them as soon as she awoke in the morning and headed back inside. I hung up the garish wooden butterflies, had a very sophisticated bottle of Jones Soda, and waited for my roommate to come home and be surprised and delighted with my decorating ideas.
Oh, wait. No. That is not at all what happened.
I have mentioned that the apartment was not new. This meant that some of its entrances lacked sophisticated security devices, like locks. The sliding balcony door was one of these. In lieu of an actual lock, the landlord had provided us with a broom handle to place in the tracking on the floor, which would stop the door when a would-be burglar tried to slide it open. Brilliant! I laughed at this security device heartily when I moved in, knowing that any moron could get around a simple broom handle. It was just a matter of ingenuity, and most burglars have this. Strangely, it did not deter myself or my roommate from moving in and living in this apartment, the threat of ingenious burglars hanging over our heads.
What actually happened that evening was this: When I slid the balcony door closed behind me, I had accidentally nudged the broom handle into its place in the tracking on the floor. I realized this when I tried to open the sliding glass door and it moved two inches before abruptly stopping... having hit the broom handle.
"How about that, whaddaya know," I said, scratching my head. "Guess I'll need to use some good old fashioned ingenuity to get out of this pickle!"
What was my ingenious solution to this problem? I tried to open the door again, harder.
Shockingly, this was not successful. "Huh, I was pretty sure that was going to work," I said, mildly concerned. "Gee whiz."
My next ingenious solution was to use my cellular phone to call my roommate, who was at work, for help.2 So I took my cellular phone out of my pocket and called my roommate, who came to let me out of the apartment within fifteen minutes. She loved the butterflies.
Except this is not what happened either.
In those days, cellular phones were much bigger than they are today. They did not easily fit into pockets. My cellular phone was sitting on the couch next to some butterflies, unfortunately on the other side of the balcony door.
My next plan was to wait for my roommate to come home and let me out. I decided that this was not a good plan after pressing my face to the door so I could see what time it was on the VCR clock (in those days everyone had VCRs and large cell phones), and realized she would not be off work for at least four more hours.
The next plan was to try to open the door so quickly and forcefully that the broom handle jumped out of the track and onto the carpet, thus allowing me back into the apartment to finish the decorating. Predictably, this did not work at all, being essentially the same thing I had already tried five previous times.
"Well," I said to myself, "What to do, what to do... I wonder what my many fictional heroes would do in this situation."
"Alohamora," suggested Ginny Weasley.
"Unfortunately, I seem to have left my wand next to my cell phone," I explained.
"The chip in my arm would have alerted MI-6 to my predicament at least fifteen minutes ago," said James Bond.
"And my arm-chip seems to be malfunctioning," I said, cross. "Miss Bennett?"
"I'm with Mr. Bond," Elizabeth Bennett said, matter-of-fact.
"What?" I said.
"Why don't you just use your grapple?" asked Batman.
"Because, Bruce," I said, "These are pyjama pants. They do not require a utility belt, and thus I don't have my grappling gun."3
"Bruce? Bruce who?" said Batman, very loudly, before grappling himself away.
"Lame," I said. It was.
"I'd fly, probably," said Superman, "Or just jump."
"Neither of which is really an option for me," said I, "But thank you for your input."
"I'm sure I wouldn't have gotten myself in such a situation in the first place," said Scarlett O'Hara, "Being outside, it's savage."
"Why are you here? I never even liked you very much." Clearly this was not shaping up to be the solution I was hoping it would.
"I would just move the broom with my mind," said Matilda. I sighed loudly. "Well, you asked."
"You forgot your towel, didn't you?" said Ford Prefect, shaking his head. "Shame, that."
"Yes, I forgot my towel. Why aren't any of you normal people?" I was becoming agitated.
"Hey," said Elizabeth Bennett.
"So... you don't want to use the Force, then," said Han Solo, "That's cool, hokey religions... just kick in the door."
"No. That is a stupid idea," I said. "None of you are being very helpful. I'm starting to wonder why I waste my time with you people."
"[I wouldn't mind being stuck on the balcony,]" said Amelie, only in French, "[It's a nice evening.]"
"I didn't understand a word of that," I said, growing very cross. "This is America, Amelie."
"I'd make something out of rope," said Laura Ingalls Wilder, "And I'm not imaginary."
"Neither am I," said John Muir, "Though I suggest you just stay out here and endeavour to better understand the wilderness. That marsh over there, that is."
"AAAGGGHHHHH," I explained. There was no rope on the balcony.
"Why don't you just jump down?" said Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a shrug.
"No!" I exclaimed, "Look, it's very far! It's two-and-a-half stories! And the ground looks particularly hard from up here!"
"So?" said Eowyn, "You'll be fine."
"I. Am. Not. Jumping," I said, with what I believed was an air of finality.
"Think not of what others would do," said Yoda, "Think instead of what you would do."
"Apparently, this is what I would do," I said, "I would try to think of what my many fictional heroes would do in this situation."
"And when this fails?" asked Yoda, all mystical-like.
"You are astoundingly annoying in person," I said. However, I did start thinking about what I would do in this situation when all my fictional heroes failed me. I figured I'd probably do something dumb. I might pretend to be Mrs. Spider-man and swing down to the balcony below mine.
This started to seem like an increasingly great idea. Let's leave aside for a moment that out on the balcony it seemed perfectly logical that being married to Peter Parker would result in Spider-man powers for both of us, and move directly onto this as the new plan. I would Spider-man down my balcony, swing onto the balcony below mine, and then jump the remaining half-story to the ground.
I put a leg over the railing of my balcony and realized that two-and-a-half stories half-over a balcony railing looks quite a bit higher than two-and-a-half stories with both feet on the balcony. However, Mrs. Spider-man would not be daunted by such things, and I swung the other leg over the balcony. From there, I sort of squatted down and inched my hands down the railing's bars until they were as low as I could get them without letting go and falling to my death. Or at least to my extreme discomfort.
Then I swung onto my downstairs neighbors' balcony, like Mrs. Spider-man! I was elated! I was not dead! I was standing on my neighbors' balcony, and they were watching me from inside their living-room! I had interrupted their peaceful Survivor party by Mrs. Spider-man-ing onto their balcony!
"Um." I said, and jumped over the railing onto the ground. "Until next time, true believers!"
I did not realize until I got up the stairs and outside my own apartment door that I had not considered whether my front door was locked or not. But that is a stupid story for another day.
1 I think everyone should have the opportunity to go to college in a small college town, as Smallcollegetown was, because quite a bit of the town goings-on really do revolve around said college. This fosters a sense of pride and school spirit. This is very exciting when you come from a large enough town to have four high schools about which the town cares little. Unfortunately, the small town I live in now can not be considered a college town despite the college, due to the presence of a monstrous professional football team around which everything, including much of the college goings-on, revolves. But I digress.
2 You might be asking why I simply did not shout for one of my neighbors to let me out. There were a few reasons for this. 1) I did not know any of my neighbors on this side of the building, 2) No one seemed to be coming or going on this particularly fine evening as it was Spring Break and most normal people were in Cabo showing their boobies, 3) I was at this time in my life, single, and very self-conscious around boys. Had I called for help and been rescued by a boy, I would have been mortified and we all know that there is absolutely nothing worse than being very embarrassed.
3 Oh yes, did I mention that I was wearing my Curious George pyjama pants? I was.