Sunday, August 10, 2008


On Thursday I went to the mountains to visit my two kitties left in the casita.

I was worried and not able to sleep untill the small hours of the morning when I could not find one of the kitties, Fortuno, and was then told that he actually has not been seen by the pet sitter for the last two weeks. The other one, Sweetie was there, but whining, complaining about something. So I was worried that something might have happened to Fortuno.... but he came home before dawn.... and all became well.

I woke up happy, made myself a cup of tea, which I was planning to drink on the terrace... but no matter how hard I tried, I could not open the door. It was an old container door, locked with a padlock on the outside, usually after leaving. But this time Goyo, the pet sitter who came to the casita with me, carrying food and water for me and the kitties (I left the casita when it became uninhabitable due to lack of water), must have left the latch from the padlock in an upright position, when he opened the door, and when I closed it in the evening, before going to sleep, the latch must have fallen down, locking me inside.

Oops, I thought. What do i do now?

The casita is a cheapo Puertorican construction, pittoresque, yes, but potentially a death trap.
With only one - metal - door, lockable from the outside and all eight windows with those typical Puertorican aluminum contraptions instead of normal glass windows which could easily be broken if one needed to leave the house in a hurry, say, in a fire, it had a potential of a death trap. My kittens could enter and leave through those windows at will, without effort, but, alas, not me.

I was in trouble. My cell phone did not work there (actually, no ones cell phone does), not even in an emergency mode, so I could not summon any help. My three nearest neighbors in a barrio about half a mile down the mountain were ansent since June, their houses empty. If Cruz, in front of which house I park my car, were home, she would have noticed that the car was not moved and would have come to check on me (as she did before - at that time I was fine, just writing a long report and enjoying the mountains) in a day, two at most. I leave alone so nobody would raise any alarm that I did not get back home. Nobody knew that I left, nobody knew for how long. If my daughter called she would just assume (correctly) that I was in the mountains, where my cell did not work, so not even she would be alarmed.

Without Cruz all I could count on was Goyo, but he would not be coming to feed the cats and play with them until Monday evening. Three and a half days!

And I had no meds - I left them in Aguada forgetting that none were left at the casita. So I was already missing an insulin shot and two Metformin pills. Could I live 3,5 more days without them, without getting into a diabetic coma and dying?

Well, I had to assume I could. But I inspected my food supplies. Not bad: 6 tea biscuits with some leftover peanut butter and sugarfree jelly could serve as three breakfasts. A bag of 3 frozen tilapia filets and a bag of frozen peas could serve as three lunches. For dinners I found one portion of frozen pumpkin soup, 2 pastellitos, one can of ravioli and one of garbanzo beans. That was all, but it was enough.

Water situation was worse. I found 4 small (half a liter) bottles and about one quarter of a gallon in a larger container. About a litre a day - not enough for the heat of the tropics, but, perhaps, if I had not exerted myself too much, that would do. I found another half gallon of an uncertain quality water, which has been used for washing the dishes. I decided to forget about washing any dishes and use the water - after boiling it long and hard - for tea and coffee, or even drinking as such, if I were forced to do it.

I made another cup of tea, administered myself my daily ratio of buiscuits with peanut butter and jelly and started thinking what I could possibly do to get myself out from that (death?) trap.

The light on cassita's terrace is visible from the lower part of the barrio, near the popular picknick place, from the bridge over the stream, that all bikers had to take to reach the neighborhood bar, very popular among them. It could also be seen from some parts of rt 184.
So at dusk, I decided, I would start sending morse s o s light signals: three short, three long, three short ... surely someone would have spotted them and recognized as a distress signal?
That was a plan!

But I also inspected the screws on the windows. Uff, plenty of them, all covered by layers and layers of paint... and not a tool in sight. Not even the smallest hammer, the tiniest screwdriver - they were all locked in a shed, outside. I had two kitchen knifes I could try to use instead of a screwdriver, though, and cans of cat food I could use as a hammer. I'd try that!

After I worked on a single screw for two hours straight without any progress, I took a break, drank a glass of my precious water.... and got an attack of blinding fury after being calm and composed so far. I went to the door and started banging on it - in the place where the padlock and the latch were - first with the cat food cans, later with just my hip and my butt... I don't know for how long... but finally the door opened with a bang and I tumbled out on the terrace. Free !!! Oh, what a feeling!

(I inspected the door after that: the latch was still in locked position but I managed somehow to make two screws in a padlock to losen enough to yield. A miracle of sorts).

Boy, was I grateful to mother nature that it did not make me a waiflike, weak and helpless "mamsell" in distress. I was grateful for my strong and well padded butt.... which most likely saved my life!

But now I hate even more brainlessness of Puertorican housing construction and feel very uneasy now in my Aguada apartment. It has two normal doors instead of one, true, but the windows have three layers to entrap you in a case of fire: those aluminum blinds, nets and iron bars on top of everything! Houdini would be defenceless!


Anonymous said...

What an ordeal! Glad to hear there was a happy ending.

Minerva said...

Thanks, Miri. And I know, I shoukd not have been there without meds, but the casita (and all the other PR houses)needs at least one normal window - without metal bars or slats bolted into concrete - for an emergency like that...or worse.

Petra H said...

I am so happy to hear that you managed to get out, and that you didn't need to drink that old water for the dishes. I am impressed though that you kept your calm!

Minerva said...

Thanks Petra. I do not take any credit, however, for staying calm. I must have been born with that ability. In a crisis of any kind my emotions are immediately cut off and I act like a machine: a thinking and acting machine. People often think I am an Ice Queen completely devoid of emotions: greef, fear, even pain. But I do get a powerful reaction later on: sort of a posttraumatic stress syndrome i guess. That time, too. I got about 17 miles out of the casita, when on the highway I suddenly started shaking so bad, I could not drive. Found a McDonald, drank something, snacked on something, returned to my car... and cried.