I got stuck in a garage last week.


I was inside a friend’s garage. I wanted to leave. I couldn’t figure out how. I flicked on and off every switch I could find. I located a button pad with ‘light’ and ‘lock’ icons and figured out that they turned the door mechanism’s lights on, but didn’t see an ‘open’ button. I inspected the doors looking for a manual lever or switch but found nada. I tried the buttons again.  Zilch.

I can light a perfect cook fire with 1 match while stranded in the woods, ride a galloping horse in a tight figure-eight in the middle of a dirt ring, and analyze Shakespearean sonnets in minutes, but a garage door?  Yeah, that was beyond me.

I stood in the middle of the room befuddled, foot tapping, arms akimbo, and fumed. I didn’t want to wake my friends up just to let me out of the house. I scratched my head and then…light bulb!

The cars were there. They must have remote controls. I could use those!

Car 1- remote on the visor and…nothing. Not a whir. Not a jiggle in that door.  Uh-huh…weird.  Car 2- remote on the visor and…yay!  There was the early morning world outside. Awesome!

Now how do I get out and close the door behind me?

Solution: click the remote, slam the car door, and dive.  Scoot under the rapidly closing garage gate before I’m stuck in again.

Successfully out, I made it to my appointment feeling a little silly, but accomplished.  It was a surprise to me, but when I thought about it it made sense.  I’ve never had a garage. I’ve never lived in a house with one. The family members I have who own automatic garage doors just leave them open all day. When would I have had a chance to learn what to do?

Evidently, never. And I didn’t get out clean, either. My friend texted me later to say the other door- the one I didn’t open- was off the track and ask if I’d opened it.  I have no idea what I did or how; maybe I pushed too many buttons all at once or pulled on something that came loose but wasn’t apparent to me, maybe Murphy’s stupid laws were simply working against me. Who knows.

Chagrined, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, I’m never getting invited back there again!” That’s probably not true, but I was embarrassed enough to think it.

As educated adults, we tend to think of ourselves as (at least somewhat) worldly, capable people. We rarely think about the things we don’t know how to or can not do. We run our lives and navigate our familiar worlds just fine, thanks. But suddenly we are caught by surprise by something we simply haven’t experienced. And we’re flummoxed (what an awesome word).

I was 26 before I ever set foot in an airplane, even though I’d driven across the country before.  I knew I’d love to fly, I just hadn’t ever done it.

When I got to Costa Rica I’d never ridden in a taxi or on a city bus.  I’d never had a reason to.

And then, one day last week, I discovered something new I’d never done: I’d never- not once- opened an electric garage door. I guess it just goes to show you, no matter how able we may be, how knowledgeable, traveled, or grown-up, none of us have it all down pat. And we have stupid, silly moments that leave us on unfamiliar ground. Life’s just like that.