Thursday, March 18, 2004

Long Live the Queen

I was awakened this morning at 6:30 by the sound of rattling from the front door; someone was trying to get into my condo. I live on the 16th floor of a fairly safe building, so it was unlikely someone was trying to break in. Security might need to come in for some reason, but they would always call first or certainly knock, even in an emergency.

I got out of bed, opened the door, and there stood a woman who looked to be about 140 years old. My first thought was that she was having a heart attack and needed someone to call 911. My second thought was "Oh please, please, PLEASE don't die in my condo!" As it turns out, she wasn't sick, merely "confused".

She swaggered into my condo and I helped her sit down on the couch. She mumbled incoherently quite a bit, but I did hear her say "where am I?" This actually seemed like a reasonable question to me; many of the units in my building have identical floorplans, so it could be disorienting to see an identical condo with different furnishings. I told her "I think you got lost and came to the wrong door. Do you know where you live?" I realized she was more lost than I thought when she then asked me "Is this London?"

She was non-responsive when I tried to find out her name or where she lived, and eventually she just told me "you go back to sleep." Right. I'm going to go to bed while Betsy Ross wanders around my home. I don't think so. My hope was that if she wandered out of one the other units on my floor (there are only 5) maybe the door would still be open. I took her back into the hallway, and first asked if she rode the elevator. She said no, but I had no idea whether or not she understood the question. We then walked down the hall, trying to find an unlocked door than might be where she came from. She even tried to open the door to the electrical closet.

All of the doors were locked, but our attempt at one of them got a dog barking inside. I then heard voices so I figured it was safe to knock. (It was still before 7:00 am and I didn't want to wake up people if I didn't have to.) A much younger woman, around 80, answered the door. Apparently this woman (the 140-year-old) was visiting from England and had wandered off.

As I returned to my home, I could hear the younger woman yelling at her guest "This door should stay locked! Do you hear me?! You can't go outside by yourself!" Growing old is no fun. But I guess it's better than the alternative.

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