Just yesterday, Vipul and I were talking about all the things we didn’t get to experience in US – visiting New Orleans, enjoying southern style BBQ, hiking up Mt. Rainier, driving down the East Coast to Florida, going fishing etc.
What we didn’t want on that list was calling 911.
This morning, while Vipul and I were meeting a few contractors; Varun was getting antsy. He was whining and constantly kept saying ‘out-out-out’. Our nanny was out as well due to car troubles and it was difficult to pay attention to him and talk to the contractors.To top it, we both were meeting our old team members for lunch and we were running late. The plan was to wrap up the meetings, drop Varun at day care , drop Vipul to his lunch meetup and then drive and meet my ex-team mates for lunch.
To speed up things, I asked Vipul to change Varun clothes, put on his jacket and strap him in the car seat; while I packed his day care bag and put together snacks for the ride home.
Vipul put Varun in the car and came upstairs to get a co-sleeper that I was returning to my colleague. When I went back into the garage, I saw all the doors locked with keys in Varun’s hands. I quickly realised what had happened. I tried to open each door in a hope that maybe somehow one of the doors was unlocked.
Varun was oblivious to what was happening and continued playing with the keys. I tried telling him to press the unlock button on the car but he thought its a game and kept on smiling. I ran upstairs to warn Vipul who surprisingly in such situations can panic easily.
Vipul came running down and tried to talk to Varun into pressing the unlock button. A couple of times Varun did move his finger to unlock button but he couldn’t press hard enough to unlock the door. Now the key in these situations is to keep calm and pretend that it’s a game and continue making silly faces/noises, jump up and down etc to entertain the kid while you figure out what to do.
Vipul called the rental car agency to ask for backup keys while I called 911. They asked us basic information about the car, age of the child, state of the child ( agitated, crying, calm etc) address and sent out a Sheriff. They also asked us to call a locksmith simultaneously.
I looked up a locksmith in Redmond and called them – their response: they are not liable if anything happened to the child while we wait for them to come. I couldn’t really say much other than to ask then come nevertheless and accept the responsibility if anything should happen.
By this time probably 10 mins had passed and Varun was crying. He probably was cold inside the car and was tired of being inside while we were outside. His incessant ‘mamma-mamma’ chants were heartbreaking. And then he dropped the key to the floor. He tried to reach out to the door handle to open it, but since he was strapped in the car seat, he could barely move. I have never felt so helpless.
Luckily, the sheriff car pulled up at around 12 min mark. He came around to look at the car and asked us few questions on how the car handle opened ( does it open from inside when it is locked from inside, does it auto lock, etc). Varun was intrigued by the new face and the flashlight as he examined the car door and its handle to figure the best way to open the door. He saw that Varun was doing ok and not hysterical, so he wanted to try to open the lock and not break the window. Though he did warn that he would do that if necessary and that we would have to pay to get the glass fixed on the rental car.Then he got a screw driver, a few wooden triangular pieces and a wire to pry the door and loop the wire in to unlock the door.
I have never seen a car door being unlocked – it’s not easy, you have to get the angle right and in those tight quarters its difficult to do it in first attempt. Vipul assisted in pointing the flashlight on the handle as the cop attempted to open the door. After what seemed like a long time, the cop could move the handle partially, the door lock ‘popped’. The door was still locked and wouldn’t open. With some brute force, Vipul opened the door while the cop tried to move the handle even more. A minute later, Vipul searched for the dropped keys and unlocked the car.
I quickly opened the door and removed Varun from the carseat.He was simply happy to be out and be in my arms. He didn’t cry much once he was out. Vipul and I were relieved.As he seemed to be doing fine, we dropped Varun at the daycare. He slept on the way – no doubt due to the stress of being trapped – but he was fine the rest of the day. I am actually proud that Varun handled this pretty well and was not hysterical.
For about 20 mins Varun was locked in the car. It seemed forever. Luckily it wasnt too hot or too cold, so we didn’t have to worry about that. I don’t know what I would do in India if such a thing happened there short of breaking the glass.Hopefully this is the last time we ever experience such an ordeal.
P.S. I learnt later about a service called pop a lock for such emergencies. Insist on a second key for rental cars. Also, keep a spare key in your wallet for your cars to prevent this from happening. Lastly, pay attention to how you open the handles – is there space from above or below; does it open from inside when locked etc – it will help a cop trying to open the door for you in an emergency.