What to do when you’re trapped on a balcony in the rain

So I locked myself out on the balcony… again.

The first time I managed to lock myself out on the 7-foot by 3-foot space was over the winter, and desperate to get back indoors, I busted through a screen with the bird feeder and climbed through the window, which was unlocked.

The windows were locked this time.

But before I elaborate more on the predicament, let’s go back to the beginning. If I’m going to recount this embarrassing tale, I better do it right.

I’d just gotten home from work on Monday. It was a cold spring day here in Hancock County, if you recall. The sky was dark with clouds. Cold rain spit down on occasion. And as I sat on the couch, typing away on my laptop, I took a moment to pause and look out the window, where I saw two big red birds. Scarlet tanagers, to be specific. The first I’d ever seen in person.


Recently turned bird geek, I jumped up to grab my camera, and after taking a few photos of the plump, bright birds, I decided it was high time I refilled the bird feeders. With my dog, Oreo, following at my heels, I headed to the basement, where I keep a giant sack of sunflower seeds. I then filled my special bird seed scoop/funnel thingy (a gift from my husband) and headed to the backyard to fill up the two feeders I have hanging from a post by the forest’s edge.

Then, after refilling my red scoop/funnel, I headed upstairs to fill the bird feeder that I keep on the small balcony off our bedroom. I like keeping a feeder and bowl of water out there because I can see it from the bed. When I wake, I sometimes just lie there and watch birds come and go in the morning light.

(And at night, sometimes I flip on the outdoor light to watch flying squirrels.)

A goldfinch on the balcony

A goldfinch on the balcony

It wasn’t until I tried to open the door to re-enter the house that I realized it was locked.

I had locked it, actually.

About a week before, I’d locked the door to keep my 4-year-old niece off the balcony, which is technically on the second story of the house but is actually much higher due to the daylight basement.

So I was stuck, and I had no one to blame but myself.

Oreo’s black and white face stared at me from the other side of the glass door — the warmer side — and sensing something was wrong, started to bark.

“It’s OK!” I said in a happy voice to Oreo … and perhaps also to myself.

I stood there for a moment, gathering my thoughts. I tried the window (which still didn’t a have a screen), but it was locked.

My husband had told me earlier that he was going to be home 4:30 p.m. It was 5. He’d be home soon. I sat down on the soggy wooden deck, my back to the glass door, and pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt. The daylight was fading.

It started to rain.

Thoughts ran through my head as I watched a small bird called a brown creeper climb the trunk of a nearby tree. Why is my husband late? Maybe he had a meeting he forgot about. Maybe he won’t be home until after dark. Why is it so cold out? It’s May for crying out loud.

I stood up and bent over the side of the balcony to assess the distance to the ground. If I jumped, I’d definitely hurt something — sprain an ankle, bruise a tailbone, knock my noggin on the nearby boulder. Trust me, with me, anything is possible.

With my plastic bird seed scoop, I pried at the bottom edge of the window, hoping it was just being stubborn. But no, it was definitely locked.

Oreo sat on the bed watching me.


With a sigh, I sat back down, then thought better of it. The temperature was dropping, it was raining, and I have bad circulation. I’ve learned in my time spent outdoors that if I don’t move, my body temperature drops fairly quickly. My fingers go numb, then my toes.

I hate being cold.

So I looked around for something to do — something that would keep me moving, which would keep me warm and also help me pass the time. Picking up the bird seed scoop, I used it to clean seed shells off the balcony, then got to work scraping every scrap of moss and lichen off the old wooden floor. (We bought the house about a year ago, and the balcony still needs some major TLC.)

The minutes ticked by. The rain started and stopped and started again. Bits of lichen and moss rained through the air to the ground below as I methodically scrapped and swept and scraped.

Eventually, I heard a car door shut.

“Hello!” I called, still clutching the scoop as I stood up and looked toward the driveway, which the house blocked from sight.


“Hello!” I tried again.

“Hello?” came a reply.

“Get me out of here!” I yelled back with mock urgency.

My husband rounded the corner of the house, looked up and started to laugh. After all, this was the second time this has happened. I really should have learned after the first time to check and see if the balcony door is locked. But — and I think my husband will agree — I’m not a very careful person. I tend to do things, goofy things, without thinking. It may have to do with the fact that I’m often lost in thought, daydreaming even, and not necessarily paying attention to what I’m doing or my immediate surroundings.

(I bought a book on mindfulness the other day. Maybe that’ll help.)

Anyway, Derek came upstairs to save me. But before opening the door, he paused long enough to take a photo of me. But hey, it’s not blackmail if I share it with you first.


“How long have you been out here?” Derek asked.

About an hour.

“What if Derek hadn’t come home?” my co-worker John asked me the next day.

I dunno. Maybe I could have jumped on the nearby maple tree like I’ve so often seen the neighborhood squirrels do. Could I have made a long enough escape rope out of my clothes, counting my wool socks? At what point would I feel justified in breaking the window?

I’m glad it didn’t get to that point.

Now if I could only remember to make sure the door is unlocked before feeding the birds…

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.