8:30 AM, 24th December
Jingle bells, Jingle bells jingle all the way I sing while I pack my bag for office. My eyes fall on the fortune cookie which I have opened yesterday night. Something exciting is on your way it said. Wow!! Exciting!! I am ready bring it on!! I say out loud and continue packing my documents. While everybody is in holiday mood, I am stuck away from home in another country for my work commitments. Being a day before Christmas, my client office is open for only half day after which it will be closed for Christmas holidays.
I have to get a couple of documents signed off by the client and leave to catch a flight to my home town at 6:00pm. I have to take this flight at any cost as my visa also expires on next day, which is the Christmas day. So it is very critical for me that I get documents signed off and leave today to my country. As this was a short visit, I choose to stay in a friend’s house. She has already left to Paris for her holiday. I am supposed to hand over the keys to her colleague before I leave for the airport.
9:00 AM, 24th December
I am almost ready to start for office and I see that my phone is ringing. This must be from office reminding me about my meeting. I take the call but cannot hear anything as signal is low. In order to take the call, I rush to the front door and accidentally pull the door shut. The door gets locked automatically. After a second, to my utter shock, I realise that I have just come out with my phone leaving all my things inside the apartment including the apartment keys. There is no way for me to get into the apartment or no way to get out of the building common door. I am standing in bare foot outside the apartment shivering with cold as it snows outside unable to comprehend what just happened.
The building in which the apartment is located has three floors with two apartments in each floor and a common entrance door to the building. My friend’s apartment is on middle floor right hand side. As I am here for only for short term I do not know any of her neighbors.
10:00 AM, 24th December
I am dead scared as none of my efforts to open the door have worked. I tried to push the door hard even kicked it (yeah tried how they show in movies!!!) but the door is not opened. I tried calling my friend but her phone is not reachable. I remember the letting agency name through whom my friend got this house. Luckily I have that agency number in my phone so I try calling them. Every time the line gets connected, some automated record plays with a spooky female voice singing some Christmas carol. I try for 5th time now but still that spooky voice plays (I swear to god one more time I hear this lady singing, I will break my phone!!!) and it looks like the agency is closed for Christmas holidays. Looks like my phone sensed the danger, it announces that battery is low and the phone switches off.
I have 8 hours before my flight takes off. My Coat, Shoes, laptop, suite cases, passport, ticket and money is inside the house. I shiver as the cold passes through my body and it occurs to me that even my visa expires by next day.
I knock on the door of the opposite apartment. After knocking for long time, the door opens slowly. Behind the door, a man is standing in his white bath robe. There is something very scary about this guy. He looks extremely fair, dark brown hair and cracked lips. He looks like vampire that was about to go to bed. “What is it, my love?” He asks me his voice sounding extremely calm. “Err!!” I say lost for words and deeply scared by his appearance. “Come inside my dear we can talk,” he says looking still at me not even battling his eyes for a moment. I remember the gypsy women who lure teenage girls and say “come inside the caravan darling, I will tell you about the man of your dreams.”
“I am sorry to disturb you, actually I knocked on wrong apartment door,” I say to him trying to act as if I am going downstairs. “That’s alright, please come inside,” he says to me. Utterly scared, I blabber something and rush downstairs and act as if talking on my phone. He looks after me for few seconds and locks his door. Thank god!! I don’t want to become a Christmas present for vampire!!
10:45 AM, 24th December
I knock the left hand side apartment door in ground floor for long time but nobody opens the door so I knock on the right hand side apartment. A cheerful looking young man opens the door. Before I could say hello, I hear a voice in background and a young lady appears behind him. “Hi, I stay in apartment number 24. I have locked myself out of the apartment. Can you please help?’ I ask him. He looks at me skeptically and says “we are going out now for a doctor’s appointment. Not sure we can be of any help. ” “Please help me!! I have my flight in few hours and all my things are inside,” I tell them. She whispers something in his ear and goes inside. She comes out with a bunch of keys in her hand and says “You can try to open with our set of keys, but we cannot be sure if it works. Just give it a try.” I hurry upstairs and try hoping for a miracle to happen but it does not work. “It does not work,” I tell them and hand over the keys. “We are really late for the appointment we might be back soon so if you can wait then we will see what to do,” he says to me and they lock their apartment and leave. I just stand there not knowing what to do and how to proceed. Times just seem to tick away. As it is very cold and I am standing bare foot and no coat, my fingers starts to hurt terribly. Who ever said white Christmas is beautiful!!! Sigh!!
11:30 AM, 24th December
Time has passed and the couple has not returned. I am really running out of time now. I just go to top floor of the apartment and knock on the door. After a while a very beautiful lady who appears to be in her mid-forties opens the door. “Hi I stay in apartment number 24 and I have locked myself out. All my things are inside the apartment and I have a flight to catch. Please help me,” I say to her. “Actually I am in hurry, I am running late to catch my flight for my holiday,” she says. “Please help me as my visa expires tomorrow, I have to leave now. My friend is not back until after New Year’s Eve, “I plead to her. “ Come inside let me see what I can do,” she invites me inside her house. “Father, she has locked herself out of the apartment can you check if you can help her?” she says to the old man in the hall. He mumbles something to her in angry tone but eventually gets his tool box and follows me to my apartment. He tries to open the automatic lock but fails after multiple attempts. We both go back to their apartment. “I think we have to call the landlord, maybe he will have another set of keys,” she says. “I do not know who the land lord is,” I say to her. “Let me check apartment community emails, maybe I can find his contact,” she says hopefully and goes inside the room to check on her computer. “Are we not getting late for our flight? Why are you so concerned about this stranger? She will figure out what to do,” her father says to her following her inside the room. “Father, let me do whatever to help her. Can’t you see she is in trouble?” she hushes her father right away.
12:30 PM, 24th December
I am almost in tears now. “I think we have to call lock smith. That is the only option I can see,” she says. Apparently, she found out from the emails and couple of calls to other association members that the landlord stays in an island and does not visit here very often. His phone number is also not reachable. “What if the lock has to be broken, if the lock has to change then we have to get the land lord permission for it else it is illegal to break the lock,” says the father. “If we have to break the lock, then we have to go ahead and do it as all her things are there inside,” says the lady. “We have to get association permission and also landlord is not reachable who will take the responsibility? How sure you are that she is telling the truth? What if she does not stay here at all?” shouts her father ignoring the fact that I am standing there and listening to them. “Father, please let me handle this. I will take the responsibility and any blame. I am ready to face it but let me help her now” she says to him and cuts him off.
She calls a number of locksmiths but many of them are either on holiday or far away from my location and due to snow they cannot arrive on time. I am just standing in their hall and looking at her while she tries number after number.
01:00 PM, 24th December
“At last one locksmith agreed to come. You are lucky he is driving towards this town and can stop by how ever as it is on holiday, he wishes to charge more,” she says. When she mentions how much he wishes to charge, my jaw drops open but I do not have any choice now. “I have no money with me as all my things are inside and I am not carrying so much cash even in my bag,” I tell her. She thinks for a moment goes inside and come with cash in her hand. She gives me the cash and says “I have saved this money to buy something special for my daughter for Christmas on our holiday. But you can use this money and give me back later when you can withdraw,” she says to me. “This is the limit!! How can you give this money to her when you don’t even know her? Being a single parent, I know how hard you have worked to save this lot so that your daughter does not feel left out this Christmas. How can you just drop it off for this stranger?” her father shouts angrily at her. “Father, if we cannot help a fellow person in need then I do not think any gift I buy will give happiness to us. If I can teach my daughter to be compassionate and helpful, then that will be the biggest gift she can get,” she says and hands over the cash to me.
“We have to leave now as we got late. You wait in front of your apartment for the lock smith,” she says locking her apartment door. “What about the money?” I ask her. “You can return it back to me when you can,” she says and the family leaves.
01:30 PM, 24th December
The locksmith comes and examines the lock. He just uses a string and does something with the lock, within seconds the door opens. I feel so happy and there are no words to describe my relief. I pay him and thank him for helping me. I go inside the apartment and check my personal phone and there are lot of miss calls from office. “Where have you been? Are you alright? Client is still waiting for you” says my colleague.” I will tell you later please, can you take sign off instead off me, I will email you the documents,” I tell him and send him the documents. I realise that in my tension I have not thanked the lady who helped me
02:30 PM, 24th December
I take a cab and go to town center. I buy flowers, Thank you card and withdraw cash. I write Thank you on the card and realise I have not even asked her name due to the situation. “Thank you Savior”, I write on the card and sign “Yours, Stranger”. I keep the cash in an envelope and push the card and cash inside through their door. I decorate their apartment door with flowers. I am overwhelmed by the whole experience today and my faith in humanity has risen. Today, I learn a lesson that giving back to the society and doing our bit for the people in need is the true essence of any festival. I take an oath myself to learn to be compassionate and helpful from now on and not to turn blind eye on people who need my help.
04:00 PM, 24th December
I take my suitcase out and check all my documents. I pull the door to lock and the door locks automatically. For a moment I stand still, have I taken the keys? I search my coat pockets frantically, relief passes over me when my hand touches the key bunch.