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Getting locked out is not fun - Kathy Jefcoats

I got locked out of my house Thursday night. When my husband and I moved into our apartment, we didn't like the doorknob situation so we replaced it. We always just use the lock on the door handle, although there is a bolt that requires the use of a key still located above it.

I never use that except to lock it from the inside when we are both home so I quit carrying the key to it. Well, Thursday, my husband left the door handle part unlocked but locked the top lock because the management was doing semi-annual inspections to check the smoke alarms and stuff like that. They don't have a key to the new door handle, see. He even called me and told me he locked the top lock and it didn't occur to me that that might be a problem for me later that night.

He's started working nights and would not be there when I got home. He always works inside a quarry in Lithonia so sometimes his cell phone gets receptions, other times, it doesn't. I have never been there so I didn't quite know exactly where it was.

Thursday was a long day for me. I came in around 8:30 a.m., which I do anyway, but I had to stay for the 7 p.m. ceremony for crime victims held at the courthouse. I also had to be back the next morning for court at 8:30. I worked until around 4:30 p.m., and then went shopping and to dinner in McDonough before going back to the office around 6 p.m. to wait for the ceremony to start. I live too far away to go home for just an hour or so.

The ceremony was nice and I was thinking how glad I was that I didn't have to go back and write up the story that night, that I could just go home and relax. I drove the 18 miles home, parked the car and walked up the steps to our apartment, keys in hand. At the top of the steps, it began dawning on me that my husband locked the top lock. I turned the handle and it was unlocked. But the top lock was still locked. I looked at my keys, willing the key to the top lock to materialize on my ring. It did not. The ironic part was that the key was hanging on a hook less than a foot just inside that locked door. My attempts to get inside my home failed but assured me that I have nothing to fear from a burglar.

The house, as my friend Sarah, used to say, is locked up "tighter than Dick's hatband." I couldn't have gotten in unless I broke a window and I just wasn't ready to do that. It was 8:45 p.m. when I got home. I tried to call my husband but got his voice mail for more than an hour. In the meantime, I was getting more tired by the minute. And I really had to use the bathroom. Something about knowing you can't really makes you want to go, you know? I didn't know what to do. We haven't lived here very long and know none of our neighbors.

I went to the office, which was closed, to get the emergency number off the door. The first time I called it was busy. The second time it just rang and rang. Gee, glad it wasn't a real emergency. Any other contact information I might have had was locked up in the apartment. We don't know anyone in Fayetteville so there was nowhere I could go to crash or hang out until I could reach my husband. We have family and friends about an hour away in different directions but what good would that do? I had no clothes, no toiletry items, no makeup, nothing that would help me get ready for the next day's work.

I kept trying my husband. Every time his voice mail answered I wanted to scream. I ended up killing about an hour driving around Fayetteville, thinking, buying gas. My husband wouldn't be coming in until 5 or so in the morning, the time varies depending upon his workload. I had to be in jail court at 8:30 a.m. I really needed sleep and a shower – and clean clothes. I cashed in my Moe's cards that day for lunch and got a free Art Vandelay burrito, which I highly recommend. I bit into it and pico sauce and bean juice went everywhere on my white blouse. Luckily, I was wearing a jacket and kept it hidden pretty well but I knew I couldn't wear it another day.

I finally decided to drive back to McDonough and get a hotel room as close to the jail as I could so I could get some sleep and a shower. The hotel clerk was so kind and took pity on me, giving a really good room rate after hearing my pathetic story. I took the key and a handful of toiletries she gave me so I wouldn't have to buy much and drove to Wal-Mart to buy a blouse. As I circled the health and beauty aisle, realizing how much I didn't have, such as deodorant and a brush, my husband finally called.

I was surprised because the voice messages I left him were pretty nasty but so happy because now I could go home. He was nicer to me than I would have been to him if the situation were reversed and he gave me directions to the quarry. After living in a motel for three weeks in January, the last thing I wanted to do was sleep in one even for one night. I went back and turned in the key and the understanding clerk tore up the receipt. If I ever have to stay in a motel in McDonough again, that's where I will go.

I drove up and got the key and went home. I finally crawled into bed around 1 a.m. I was exhausted but so happy to be home. The next morning I put the other key back on my ring, having learned a valuable lesson. The experience also gave me something to write about this week.

Kathy Jefcoats is the public safety reporter for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at kjefcoats@henryherald.com.