Door Locks Can Be A Problem


The electronic posting included a tagline: “Find A Therapist”. You don’t have to watch many movies similar to “What About Bob” before you’d question the value of therapy. Of course, I work in an agency filled with licensed therapist so I have a better understanding of the value and importance of the need for emotional support.  In fact, I needed more than emotional support yesterday. I needed a key.


My Google search was for the word “fear”. It’s not that I don’t know the meaning of the word. Drop me off at the reptile house at the zoo and you’ll find me in a fetal position or catatonic state in a matter of moments if I don’t somehow find a way out. Of course, finding a way out with my eyes closed might be a tough proposition.


The posting included these thoughts about fear: “Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger – if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.”


President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the statement in his first inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…” I’m not buying that concept. Fear is a warning sign that danger lurks. Consequently the perception can put us on guard that we need to precede cautiously. Immobilizing fear is bad. Cautionary fear is good.


My experience yesterday felt a lot like fear. Maybe it was simply an anxiety attack, but I kept reminding myself: “Don’t forget to breathe and stay calm.”   I certainly had an urgency to escape. That was the problem, I feared I had no way out and time waits for no man. I couldn’t escape.


The dress code in my office is casual on Fridays. The General would tell you that she perceives that we all show up at work looking like we’re dressed to do yard work. She’s not a fan. Initially, I wasn’t either, but I’ve turned the corner. The problem with yesterday is that I had a memorial service to attend at 2:00 p.m. So I opted to take a change of clothes with me rather than wear a coat and tie to the office. I’d have felt like a fish out of water surrounded by folks who looked like they were on spring break.


About 1:00 I went out to my car to get my suit so I could change clothes. Our offices are mostly vacated on Friday afternoons. Most folks opt for the 40-hour-4 ½ day work week, so the office is generally closed. So I shut the door to my office and changed clothes. Realizing that I needed to take a document home with me to review over the weekend, I pulled it up on my computer and hit the print button. I had not yet put my shoes on, but I walked across the hall to retrieve what I’d printed. Actually, I had the thought that I kind of liked the sensation of walking around the building without shoes. I should try that more often. Actually, I do that all the time at home and subsequently get lecture #1781 from the General telling me that I’m going to ruin my socks.


So when I returned to my office, I discovered that the door had locked behind me. I had failed to transfer my keys from my other trousers to the ones I was now wearing. There was no denying it. Fear was the sensation I was experiencing. It would more than a little awkward to show up at a memorial service wearing socks without shoes. Why worry about that, I also didn’t have the keys to my car. They too were locked inside the office along with notes I had prepared for sharing at the memorial service. That’s the other thing. I was the speaker at the scheduled memorial service. My cell phone with the telephone numbers I needed to call for assistance were also locked inside my office.


I was “fit to be tied”. Actually, I was terrified that I was going to be very late for the memorial service. At best, I had ten minutes logistically before I had to leave the office to ensure I’d arrive in a timely fashion. Without a key, I was between a rock and a hard place.


As luck would have it, the foster care supervisor was still in her office. “No problem she said, there is a lock box for keys in the administrative assistants office”. I practiced taking deep breaths while she fumbled with the combination lock on the key box. Would you believe it? Out of fifteen-to-twenty keys in the locked box, none of them included a master key to my office.


Everything but me was going south quickly and that was the direction I needed to be heading. The memorial service was on the south side of Austin. I borrowed the fob from the foster care supervisor to get into the offices down stairs. Maybe someone would have access to a key. By this time, I was feeling an accelerated heart rate and a sick sensation that this wasn’t going to end well.


Gratefully, one of the people downstairs called and got the combination for the lock box of keys located on that floor. Master key #1 was included in the box. Thankfully my sense of calm had returned before I got to the memorial service. Actually, that’s not true. I wasn’t calm at all. I’m never calm before a funeral or memorial service or any other speaking engagement. Until the butterflies are flying in formation, I stay on red alert.


What carried with it the potential for disaster turned out well. I am grateful. Going forward, I plan to leave my office permanently unlocked.


All My Best!



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