Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why good fences make good neighbors, but bad neighbors make you jump fences

Filled with a sudden burst of nostalgia (and an insatiable urge to procrastinate), I was inspired to do a Google street view search of my old house in France. And I found it! When I lived at 4 avenue J√©han de Chelles, this was my entrance gate: 

My house was further back, down a path, and not visible from the street. Which is probably for the best, as the yard was always filled with children's toys, and not very well maintained.

But oh, the memories I have of that gate. Locking it and unlocking it with a delightfully unwieldy skeleton key, and then the time that I got locked inside my own yard, and had to break out. 

That's right, I got locked inside. You see, though the gate did lock with the aforementioned skeleton key, the neighbor in the apartment downstairs, after an incident with a stolen bicycle, insisted on wrapping a thick chain and a padlock around it for an extra layer of protection, and thus ensuring that at least 45 seconds to one minute would be spent every time one wished to go in or out--fumbling for two different keys, unwrapping the chain, unlocking the gate, re-locking the gate, re-wrapping the chain. My attempts at short-cutting the system were met with disapproval from downstairs. I was not fond of the neighbor.

One day, the system broke down. After several days of it becoming increasingly difficult to turn the key in the padlock, it stopped working altogether. Though I tried again and again, the lock would not open. I was trapped. Trapped in my own yard. And it wasn't as if I didn't have places to be. It happened to be my birthday, and I was on my way to my birthday dinner, along with my sister, who happened to be visiting, and thus was able to document the event. The only way out was over, we determined, and so after sussing out the situation, we took a deep breath, and made a break for it. My sister, more appropriately dressed for scaling fences, got out first. I, wearing an inappropriately short dress (as is my habit), and highly rippable tights, was a bit slower about it.

Do you see the spikes? The sharp, metal, criminal-deterring and quite possibly internal organ-impaling spikes?
(I decided to demonstrate my displeasure by mooning the neighbors.)

I hovered there on the top of that fence for quite a few minutes, gone too far to turn back, but too frightened to make my next move. The ground seemed so far away, and the metal spikes so ominous. One false move and I was toast. But I did have a birthday dinner to get to, after all, and I didn't want to spend the night on that fence. And so, I carefully heaved and oofed my way down, and with only one small stocking snag to show for it. 

My sister, continuing her tradition of taking only the most flattering pictures of me, snapped this one milliseconds after I made my final leap to freedom. Here I am windblown, disgruntled, and badly in need of a trim:

When we got home, the chain had been cut open, and lay in a heap next to the gate.  After that, we never had to double-lock the gate again, and lo, there was much rejoicing in all the land. 

But I still hated that neighbor. 


  1. What a great story! Cute pics. The French do love their locks. Do you keep in touch with your old roommates?

  2. That is a hilarious story! And honestly, I rather like that last pic of you.

  3. I laughed at the censored pic!
    I had a similar experience in university and had to break into my own house. But it was winter and -20° and my damn winter attire made squeezing through a tiny basement window all that more difficult.

  4. I have never worn an inappropriately short skirt for fear of this EXACT SAME THING. "What if I need to climb a fence?" I would think to myself. Same thing with wearing heels. "What if I need to make a quick getaway? From know. Hooligans."

  5. I think i dig the hair like that and had i been in France i believe i would have tried to get you in bed or something like that.