Monday, May 11, 2009

Where nothing can go wrong...

… something will. Or so says a variation of Murphy’s Law.

This weekend I was tied down with an exam. The exam had been provided to the students in the form of a Word document, and we had two days to complete it and upload our solutions. It is really no use explaining to the uninitiated the agony of applying a 5x5 median filter manually on an 8x8 image matrix. To complicate matters, after a while, you realize you made a mistake and go backtracking again. And this was only one of ten problems.

Anyway, after working furiously throughout Saturday morning, evening and night, I finally managed to tackle nine out of the ten problems by lunch time yesterday. When I called home and told my parents that I was nearly done and I had until midnight to submit the answers, my father had a note of caution in his voice.

“Don’t wait till midnight to submit it.” He said, “You never know what happens. Maybe there will be a power grid failure tonight, or an Internet shutdown. Better finish it up early.”

“Don’t worry.” I assured him, “If there’s a power failure I have my 9-cell laptop battery fully charged. I can even go to a friend’s house or to the university in the worst case. And if there is a power or Internet failure in the university as well, they will surely revise the due date, so don’t you worry.”

I had a late lunch, and then seeing the fine weather, decided to go out in the garden to take a few pictures. It had been raining everyday for a week and that, combined with the predicament of sitting with an exam over the weekend had depressed me. I had brought my camera and cell phone with me down to the kitchen, but my keys were still in my room. First I thought I would run upstairs and get them. Then I remembered there was a bunch of spare keys lying in the kitchen that we always use to open the kitchen door from the inside. I just picked up the bunch of keys and walked out of the kitchen door, slamming it behind me.

Immediately, something inside me asked me to try the keys. You may call it sixth sense. I prefer to say I am psychic in hindsight. The trial proved what I always knew in my heart: the key wouldn’t open the kitchen door from the outside. I was locked outside my house.

I was locked outside without my wallet which contains my money, my ID and my train ticket, without any warm clothing which I would probably need in the evening, and the only person who had a duplicate key, my landlord, was away in Boston for the weekend. But all these were no problems at all – I still had my friend’s house half a mile away where I could spend the night in the worst case. My biggest problem was that my laptop with the nine solved problems was lying on my kitchen table, and I had to get in somehow to retrieve them and upload them before midnight.

I looked at the keys in my hand again, cursing myself for assuming that a key which opens the door from the inside will open it from the outside as well. There were four keys, nearly similar. I tried them on the kitchen door, front door, the living room door, the hall door and even the garage door (what good that would have done is beyond me). Nothing worked. I tried forcing one of the doors to see if the lock would give, but in vain. I wonder if someone saw me doing all this. Then I methodically tried the windows; all were closed. Maybe a month earlier opening a window from the outside and entering would have been a breeze, but now new double-paned windows with new latches have been installed all over the house and they wouldn’t budge.

I had almost run out of ideas when I remembered that I was still to try a small door in the back of the house. I had skipped it earlier because there was a bumble-bee sitting beside the keyhole and it had chased me away as soon as I got close. So I went to this back door which opens into the entrance to the basement next to our kitchen. Thankfully one of the keys in my bunch opened that door and I heaved a sigh of relief as I found myself in familiar territory once more. I can’t remember the last time when I have been so scared in my life.

The moral of the story: Never assume that if a key opens a door from the inside it will work from the outside as well. This is the USA and anything can happen here (on an unrelated note, I bought two light bulbs last week to find that the holders in the US were of different sizes – another assumption gone wrong). And also, never underestimate Murphy’s Law. Even where nothing can go wrong, something most definitely will.


  1. HIlarious...mostly this bit: "Never assume that if a key opens a door from the inside it will work from the outside as well."

    came across ur blog on crystal's blog.

  2. That was really interesting ... n the "Murphy's law" - i definitely agree with.

    Another thing - u r a real good writer. It's beautiful the way u narrate the whole incident.

    So what's the result?

    P.S. By the way thanks for ur comment!!!

  3. @Sharmila Ray: The result of the exam? I got an A. :) Thanks for visiting and commenting!