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Locked Out of the Bathroom!

Last week one of my nightmares came true: I was locked out of my own bathroom.

My door has a faulty lock–one of those push button locks on the door handle. A few times I had noticed that the lock would engage on its own–that is, even when the button wasn’t pushed down–if I jiggled the handle a certain way from the outside. Yet, only jiggling it again from the inside would unlock the door. This didn’t didn’t concern me too much at the time since as I live alone, I rarely close the door anyway, unless my boyfriend or someone else is visiting me at my apartment and I can always unlock it from the inside. I also hardly ever lock the door because I have no need in my private apartment.

Yet, the other day the lock must have engaged when I jiggled the handle and then the door closed on its own. When I went back I found it locked and began to panic. After all, I have both IBS and Interstitial Cystitis (IC), two medical conditions that require frequent and often immediate (unrestricted) access to a bathroom. Fortunately, I had just used the bathroom a few minutes before the lockout mishap, but I knew I would need it again relatively soon before leaving for work in an hour. I could already feel an urge in my bladder. To top it all off, my medication was also in my bathroom, that I needed to take before leaving for work.

Trying to stay calm

I went downstairs to speak to my building manager, who coolly told me the maintenance man was on another property nearby waiting for a contractor and he’d try to be there soon but likely might not before I had to leave. I tried to keep calm and returned to my apartment. My boyfriend (who lives across the street from me and was luckily working from home that day) came over and attempted to unlock the door.

I thought he’d be able to do it, but he couldn’t and then my panic started in earnest as the clock was ticking and my bathroom urges were becoming stronger. He went down to speak to the owner of the complex, who was not understanding at all, attempting to ask prying and intimate questions about my medical conditions after he mentioned I needed the bathroom for health reasons. She was dismissive to him, saying all I needed to do was use their bathroom (to be clear their office was in a basement in another building in the complex across the parking lot, while I was on the top floor. Needless to say, it wouldn’t be practical for me to make that excursion if I need to use the bathroom ASAP and repeatedly…nor would it help me in attaining my medication). But my boyfriend was firm with them, mentioning accessibility issues under the law, and the handy guy was there in minutes. It took him seconds to open the door.

Needed accommodations

I showed him how the door handle sticks, which he agreed with. Right now, I am looking into putting in a formal request to my building manager to have the handle replaced with one without a lock so this cannot happen again under any circumstances. Under the Fair Housing Act, those with confirmed medical conditions can make requests for reasonable modifications and accommodations as long as they do not pose a financial burden on the landlords and have a doctor’s letter attesting to the need. This is a reasonable small modification that should be relatively cheap and easy to implement but could ensure I am not put in such a situation again and my need unmitigated access to my own bathroom not threatened or impeded.

Have you ever had a bathroom lockout? How have you dealt with it?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • JudyVan
    6 months ago

    I visit a couple of nursing homes as a Hospice volunteer, and one day the 2nd floor bathroom was out of order so I had to use the elevator and go downstairs. I didn’t make it in time, but this bathroom was one with a sink in it. I proceeded to take my extra slacks out of my purse and clean up right there in the bathroom. Not too big a problem, except the patient wondered why I was gone so long.

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