Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sneaky Thrills

How often does one get locked inside a building?

Sure, we've all been, at one time or another, locked outside of a building for some reason. Sometimes we can't get into somewhere because it is locked, and we are stuck outside.

Seldom does it happen that we are seriously locked indoors. Of course, it does happen every now and again. Besides jail, there are those who accidentally lock themselves in their upstairs bathroom and need their father to rescue them from the window (courtesy of 3-year old M. Glen), there are those who nail the windows and doors shut to lock their sister in their house (courtesy of I. Bols), and there are those who have an uncanny ability to get into government buildings, especially the high security parts.

A few days ago, I was dropped off at Les Terrasses de la Chaudière building in Hull. It appears to be a government building that has various offices for different services, such as transportation, public works, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the like. Anyway, it didn't matter to me what kind of building it was at the time because all I wanted to do was go inside and use the telephone. I pulled on the door, but to no avail; all of the doors were locked. Darn. I looked around for other pay phones, but I couldn't see any. I was just about to trek a block further when a man was coming out of the building. I caught the swing of the door and made it inside. He didn't seemed fazed by that at all; in fact, he made sure I had the door as I walked in.

At first, I couldn't find a telephone anywhere. This building was huge, and there were gates and special doors everywhere, that you could only open with a card or keypad number. There were even small see-through gates there that looked somewhat like customs. Many of the doors were automatic.


Following signs eventually led me to the telephone. After making my call, I leisurely made my way back to the doors, not extremely keen to step back into the freezing wind. So, I got to the door and pushed. Nothing happened. It was locked. I went to the other door; it was locked too. What! I went to the handicapped door, tried pushing it, and it let out a piercing screech that scared the bejeezus out of me.

I jumped back, breathing quickly. I am locked inside. All of the doors are locked! Oh, come on, there must be a way out!
I turned around and ran back the way I came. I remembered seeing doors on the other side of the building; they must be not locked from the inside.

How very wrong I was! All of the doors were exactly the same as the others and would not let this panic-ridden girl out of this securitized government building. Oh yes, the panic was quickly settling in.

I started moaning on how on earth I would get out of this building, and why on earth was this building made to keep people in! I ran frantically around the building, looking for doors. Nothing was unlocked. I realized my search was fruitless; I would have to set-up camp here and pretend I knew what I was doing there in the morning when everyone would discover me there, huddled under a meeting table, snorting some of the powdered hot chocolate found in the lunch room.

I was resigning myself to my fate when I heard some commotion at the bottom of the stairs, where the front doors were. I made a mad dash to the entrance and saw a security guard there. My intial thought was that he had been summoned because of the piercing sound I had repeatedly made with the doors. I told him that I needed to get out and I couldn't. He asked me if I had a card, and I said no. Yeesh, who does he think I am... I mean, come on, a card to get out of a building?

Fortunately, he didn't seem mad or annoyed; using his card, he opened the door for me and let me out. Finally, outside and not caged in! I breathed a sigh of relief. Never again would I go into that stupid building at night. Actually, I doubt I would actually be able to.

Two years ago, I was dropping off a Canada World Youth portfolio for a woman who worked at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa. Alanna and Andrea drove up to the door and let me out, and I assured the I would only be a minute. I went up to the front desk and asked if I could get in contact with the woman (who I have now forgotten the name of). They called her office, but to no avail; she wasn't in. I didn't want to wait around forever, so after standing around for a bit, I decided to find the mail room. She had told me that should she not be in her office, I should get my portfolio to the mail room. Realizing later, she probably meant to give the portfolio to someone to bring it there rather than bring it there myself.

So, I went on a search for the mail room. I saw various signs with arrows that read "mail room", so I followed them. The first door that I opened did say something like "Employees only", but I figured I'd be quick. Besides, no one noticed. The door led me into a long corridor. I sped walked the hallway, keeping my eyes peeled for any other signs. Ahead of me, I could see a heavy security door that you needed a number code and a card to open. As I got closer to it, I was thinking of what to do, when the heavy door swung open. Two guys came out into the hallway. I grabbed the door before it closed, and again, they seemed completely unfazed. I let myself in. I kept walking and eventually got to the mail room. The woman there looked at me funny.

"This portfolio is for Mrs. So-and-So," I told the lady behind the counter.

She looked at me strangely, "how did you get in here?"

"Well, uh", I stammered, "I just walked in."

She squinted her eyes at me. She looked worried.

"You can't go back the way you came," she told me.

"Oh..." She seemed seriously worried.

"You'll have to go through the back door," she said, pointing at the large delivery doors section.

"Oh okay," I agreed, not wanting to cause more of a disturbance. "But I can get this portfolio to Mrs. So-and-So?"

"Yes, yes," replied the lady, "I'll put it in her mailbox.

"Alright, thank you," I said. I quickly scurried out of there and found the doors that led outside. These doors brought me to the very back of this huge building, so I had to make my way around the building to get back to the car. As I was jogging back, I was thinking as to how easy it was for me to get into the parts of the building that was strictly off-limits. No wonder everyone can figure out secrets and get into buildings and steal stuff all the time; it's dead easy.

Being short, female, and having cute red hair probably helps too.

1 comment:

Tex Texerson said...

I've actually been in one of the buildings at Les Terrasses de la Chaudiere, back in 1998 or so. I was tasked with going there and fixing some government client's internet connection or some such nonsense. The only information I had, or that I had not forgotten, was which floor to go to.

Upon arrival at said floor, I found myself right in the middle of a sea of cubicles. There was no reception area or any sort of indication as to where to go. In retrospect, I am amazed I found the right place, because the right place ended up being a random unonccupied room with a computer buried amongst papers and boxes. I may have asked someone where the internet connection was, but who really knows. What matters is I strolled over to it, sat down and started plugging away. After a while someone asked me what I was doing and I said I was fixing the internet connection and after that they left me alone. I could have walked out of there with all sorts of great or useless or greatly useless stuff.

Mind you, this was before people cared about little things like security and privacy.

Ah, to be young and innocent again..