Real Life

Locked in a Beer Cooler

By | Real Life

Typically I find it’s a good idea to be prepared. But that’s a vast statement, I mean the world is a complex place. How can I prepare for all of the possible things that could happen to me in one day?

But I’m a creative guy, and those of you suffering from similar ailments understand that your mind sometimes just thinks about things, regardless of time or place. Many of these thoughts are fostered by Hollywood; fantastical “what if” scenarios that typically remind me just how “daily” the “drudgery” really is.

As I’ve said before, I’ve done my time on the kitchen line. I played the part of “mostly untalented hack”. I worked at a place called Cheers, believe it or not. It was as far away from Boston and Sam Malone as you could imagine. Although it had it’s share of characters. The food business at Cheers, by the time I started working there, was nearly non existent. So working in the kitchen I was usually by myself, and I was expected to do other jobs beside the cooking. Running liquor to the bar was one of those extra jobs.

One typically quiet Sunday, as I was calmly prepping some brushcetta mix, the bar manager (who was the only other employee there) burst into the kitchen, and announced she had all these thirsty patrons at the bar (like six or something). For that reason, I was requested to drop what I was doing, and run down stairs to the beer cooler and change the empty keg of Canadian. And no they weren’t ordering food.

Cheers was part of a large crappy hotel, and the building was old seemingly haphazard. The way to the beer cooler from the kitchen was either through the bar, or the dining room, to the front entrance, down a set of stairs into the basement, and near the far end of a long hallway. Once there, you were a good distance from the actual bar. On Saturday nights, when the bar did substantial business, the bar runner would have to drag a two-wheeled cart with 4 or 5 cases of beer at a time up the stairs, through the empty dining room (it knew no other state, I think) and into the kitchen. From there it would wait in the kitchen walk-in cooler, or travel out to the bar to be greedily consumed.

The basement hallway was littered with the typical promotional materials beer companies offload on unsuspecting bar owners to help peddle their fermented sugar water. It was a kaleidoscope of seasonal merchandise, a fantasy land were pirates and helium balloons enjoyed each others company. And in the center of it all, the oversized wooden door to the beer cooler.

The beer cooler door was heavy, but it needed to be pushed hard to close and lock. The cooler itself was a walk-in variety, stacks of 24’s on either side of the room, with the kegs in the far corner, and on-tap liquor in the other. I bee-lined for the kegs, and started lifting each of them until I located the empty one. The kegs are attached to hoses that run through the floor to the bar taps we love so much. Each hose is attached to the keg by a metal clamp like device, and with a lift of the device’s handle, and a quick twist of the clamp, the keg is untapped, and the clamp is ready for another full keg. Before I can complete the switch, the bar manager rushes in, changes a bottle of liquor on the wall, and rushes out again.

As she exits the cooler, she gives the door a shove, and it finds the momentum to both close, and lock behind her.

I waited for her to notice and let me out. She does neither.

Now growing up on the apple farm, the cold apple storage in the barn had a similar door as this beer cooler door. The major difference was that the apple storage door had a handle on the inside. The beer cooler did not. Design flaw or feature? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Now, during my time at Cheers I spent a lot of time in that beer cooler. Enough time in fact, that on more than one occasion my mind started thinking about other things, while the rest of me carried on with the usual tasks. Some of the things my mind thought about were “Pirates vs helium balloons: who would win?” and “What if I got locked in this beer cooler?” I felt the later was a more likely scenario, and gave it more concentration. Enough concentration, that when that door really did bolt shut, I already new what I had to do.

The biggest drawback to being trapped in a beer cooler, besides the door that won’t open from the inside, is that no one will hear you scream. (Regardless of the male fantasy of being locked in a room full of beer, you really do need to get out. Eventually.) The walls are thick and insulated really good, because, dammit, people like cold brew. Also, this cooler was, as I pointed out, a remarkable distance from the actual bar, where the only other employee and patrons were located.

So then, how does a beer cooler communicate with the bar?

Starting with the keg I just changed, I began to untap all the beer kegs. I suggest, when in this situation, starting with the most popular brand, then work your way to the hard liquor. Just like a Saturday night. And then you wait. Within minutes of cutting off the supply of beer and liquor to the bar, my prison door was opened, and in ran the bar manager.

“What are you doing in here?” She inquired.

“You locked me in,” I explained.

“Oh. You’ve got food orders waiting.”

Locked in a Room

By | Real Life

After reading John August’s blog entry regarding ee overuse of air ducts as an escape mechanism in movie and television screenplays, I got to thinking about the times I have been trapped in locked rooms without air ducts. It’s happened more times than you think.

One time, I was in a busy banquet hall.

I was working the kitchen, preparing food for the buffet, and the dinner service had recently completed. In fact, all of the service staff had gone home, except for the bartender who remained to serve drinks for the rest of the night while the patrons danced to the deejay. I didn’t feel like going home just yet, so to kill some time, I decided to check out the main floor of the building.

The banquet hall had two floors, the recently renovated upstairs were the current function was taking place, and the main floor, which was empty of people, locked, and time lapsed in that 70’s-painted-cinder-block-Labbatt-50-clock-on-the-wall-Legion-Hall decor. So I travelled down the back kitchen stairs, through the only unlocked door into the main floor banquet space. The room contained the usual suspects: a small bar, rows of banquet tables and chairs, nicotine stains on the ceiling. At the far end of the room was a door leading into what looked like a lounge, with more comfy chairs and a low coffee table. From the lounge another door lead into a smaller mostly empty room. It wasn’t until I entered the smaller room, decided there was nothing there to see and no where to go from there, that I realized the door had locked behind me.


I thought, “I could yell! I’ve got good pipes!” but I could hear the deejay music from upstairs through the ceiling, so surely nobody would hear me. So then I thought, “I’ll just wait it out, someone will some looking for me!” But everyone else had gone home except the bartender, who reasonably, I assumed, would have thought I went home as well. It was clear that I was on my own.

I looked around the room. My only friend was a lonely chair, who appeared anxious for me to solve this whole dilemma so he could join his friends in the banquet room. There were certainly no air ducts, and no scrap metal pipes to pry open a locked door. But, thanks to the lousy 70’s chic, there were gaudy ceiling tiles. I grabbed the chair, and slid it close to the door. Standing on the chair, I pushed aside one of the tiles, and stuck my head up into the darkness.

My eyes took a moment to acclimate themselves to the shadow. It was musty and dusty up there. I probably ingested something toxic that will surely hasten me into my declining years. The space above the tiles was black, and small. There was very little room between the tiles and the real ceiling, or the floor of the second level, and what space there was I found filled with wires and pipes, and concrete. But to my good fortune, the wall that contained the locked door ended just above the ceiling tiles, and I could see the backs of the tiles from the adjoining room!

I used the door knob as an impromptu ladder rung, and pushed and pulled myself up into the blackness. I arranged my feet on the most secure surfaces I could find, a pipe and the wall-top, and began removing a tile from the other adjoining ceiling. With tile removed, I squeezed through the hole, and landed safely on the ground in the otherwise unlocked lounge.

So you’re asking yourself, “What’s the moral here?” Well clearly it’s “Don’t hang around after your shift is over!” Er, maybe it’s “Always look out for number one!” No, that’s dumb. Maybe it’s “Always wear clean underwear?” I think there are as many morals to this story as there are air ducts, which was none, had you paid attention. So, stick that in yer pipe and blow bubbles.

Next week: The time I was locked in a commercial beer cooler! Every man’s dream becomes one man’s nightmare!