When I was going to school in England, there was a janitor in our dorm building who we nicknamed Squirrely Dude. He was nice enough, but I think legitimately simple, and always seemed terrified when we came upon him doing his job. He also had the incredibly annoying habit of coming around for our garbage cans first thing in the morning when we were either sleeping off hangovers, or frantically jamming on clothes to try to get to class on time.
He would do what I call the “dad knock,” where the person knocks two sharp raps in quick succession, then opens the door before a person inside would even have a chance to say “Don’t come in!” or, more likely, “I’m not dressed!” Squirrely Dude would put his key in first (wrong!), rap twice, then fling open the door.
We girls discussed this at length, realizing that it was only a matter of time before he saw one of us in a state of undress. My friend, Cricker (who is freakishly sensible when it comes to some things), said that she had started keeping her garbage can out in the hallway the day before he came around. That way he got his garbage, and she was left alone. This was an incredibly logical and obvious solution to a problem, so we all adopted this philosophy and relaxed.
The new apartment (well, 100+years old, but new to me!) that Gentleman Caller and I now live in has no locks on the TWO bathroom doors. We’ve already discussed at length options for dealing with this problem–always turn on the fan when you’re in the bathroom, and then if the door is closed, listen for the fan before attempting the door, was my suggestion. We quickly discovered that that is not enough of a solution, so I’ve been knocking as well.
Problem is, I’ve started doing the dad knock now–assuming that there is no one in there and giving it two sharp raps. As soon as I realized that that is the logic behind the dad knock, my mind was a bit blown. I’m still getting over it.
Even if we get little hook locks, that seems like a lot of work and we’ll probably only remember to undo the one on the door used to exit; the fan trick doesn’t work because we (probably mostly me) leave it running after showering and then forget about it; and the knocking makes me feel stupid because if I heard a knock while I was in there, I probably would spend too much time thinking about what to say and the knock would be wasted.
Back in England it only took two weeks after we had the discussion about putting our garbage cans in the hallway on trash day before I forgot to set mine out. I was frantically trying to jam on some clothes when I heard the tell-tale knock, and though my torso was covered, I was pantsless. Knowing Squirrely Dude’s system, I had just enough time to sit down on the bed, and as he entered the room, pull a blanket over my legs.
He saw me and visibly started. I gave him what I can only imagine is the dirtiest look I’m capable of. After a pregnant pause where we just gaped at each other, he managed to stammer out, “Rubbish?”
I didn’t like it when that happened, even though my friends found it hilarious, and I’m certainly not looking to repeat it. I know the solution is quite simple, but for some reason, I just can’t see it. Until that time, I will live in fear.