Musings

The locked door

We were in Hong Kong. On a two day trip. We were travelling with another couple who had kids. We had booked an apartment through AirBnB. It was a risk we were taking as this particular one had no previous reviews. We were among the first ones to book it and it came with a discount for that reason. But the price was tempting, as were the descriptive photographs.

Hong Kong is expensive, but even more confusing is the difficulty in communication. The signs are in Chinese and not many understand English. Our initial apprehensions about the apartment were swept away as we received a detailed courteous document from the host in Chinese with clear pictures telling us how to reach the place. Google Translate came to the rescue and we found that the place was a stone’s throw away from Mongkok MTR. So far all good.

Things weren’t that straightforward. Along the way we used our abyssmal skills in Chinese and figured out how to use the MTR. All of us bought Octopus cards to travel easily. At one point, my friend got stuck outside the MTR gate, while his huge suitcase got in, as it got counted as a person. After a few frantic moments, we decided to avoid the trying experience of communicating with customer service again. He bought a one way ticket at a kiosk and finally got in with us.

We trundled our bulky suitcases and reached the apartment, went through the detailed 20-point instructions and managed to get in safely. The risk taken on AirBnB was worth it. It was a small tastefully decorated apartment, with three bedrooms, a kitchen, a hall and a shared bathroom. The greatest thrill was to get a working wi-fi. The kids needed their comfort foods and the kitchen came in handy.

Day one went off eventfully. After an leisurely lunch where we enjoyed our first experience of eating Chinese hot pot, we were exhausted and spent the afternoon sleeping. In the evening we went off to see Hong Kong lit up from Victoria Peak.

We had hectic plans on Day two and everyone was in a rush to get ready and leave for sightseeing to Lantau Island. With one bathroom, we took our turns to shower and get dressed. All went well till I got ready. Then suddenly I heard a mini-commotion. My friend was struggling to open the bathroom door. Apparently I had pulled the door shut, and since the latch was not in a completely vertical position, it got shut automatically. It was a door with no keys.

After twenty minutes of using all Indian forms of jugaad failed we panicked. How could we manage without a loo? Could we use the toilets in the MTR instead? How could we get a lock smith in this new country where no one even understood numbers in English? If we broke open this door, how much would we be charged in Hong Kong dollars? Would hell break loose once the kids awoke? I called the host on Whatsapp and he answered groggily. It was too early to call on a weekend. ‘But it is isn’t an automatic door”, he sounded exasperated. “And I’m not anywhere close to Hong Kong. Give me some time.”

While we were still fiddling with the door latch, one of my friends had a brainwave. Let’s look at the internet for solutions. I googled and in a moment I had a solution. But would it work? Did anyone have a plastic card, which they didn’t mind ruining? Yes. My friend had that one way MTR ticket in his wallet. Going by instructions from the net, the door was pushed until the card could be slipped near the latch. Simultaneous pressure on the latch and a few quick wiggles with the card did the trick. Viola! The door was now open. And our bladders relaxed.

My Whatsapp beeped. “My Dad will reach in 30 minutes.” It was our host. We called him to tell him that all was well. And wondered how everything has a reason. If my friend hadn’t been stuck outside the MTR gates the previous day, we wouldn’t have found a stiff plastic card so easily. But it was a memorable trip thanks to the door which locked on its own.

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