American in Spain

Breaking and Entering

July 5, 2009
Break In

Someone broke into our house today when no one was home. The intruder climbed perilously over a wall (six stories up!) separating our balcony from the neighbors', smashed through the glass of our balcony door, cutting his hand in the process, and climbed into our house. We found glass all over the kitchen floor. Luckily for us, the intruder was me.

Break In

I've known this was going to happen since just shortly after we moved into this house. The lock on our front door is rendered inoperable if there is a key in the lock from the other side of the door. When we are at home, Marga's keys are usually in the door on the inside. This is because a key is needed to unlock the door even from the inside, so we leave the key in there for easy locking and unlocking. Occasionally when I go out to buy groceries and leave Marga at home, I will come home and find that her key is in the door and I have to ring the doorbell to have her let me in. Until today, this flaw in our lock's design has only been a little annoying.

Our door has three stages of locking. 1) Since there's no door knob (Spanish domestic doors are weird like this) outside, when the door is just closed without locking it, you can't get in from the outside, but you can easily open it with the knob on the inside. 2) If you turn the key once, a bolt extends from the door to the frame. At this point you need a key to unlock the door from either side. 3) If you turn the key a second time, the bolt extends even further into the door frame, supposedly adding even more security.

I grew up in a household where the door was never locked. My parents still never lock their cars or the door to their house. There's just so little crime that there's no point. Marga, on the other hand, grew up in a country where all ground floor windows have wrought iron bars on them and her fifth-story house was robbed once, an experience which, very understandably, traumatized the whole family, making them extra paranoid safety-conscious.

If it was up to me, I would probably never lock our door. When it's closed, you can't open it from the outside with a key, and that's more than enough for me. Even if you could open it, I can't imagine people coming up to the sixth floor to test doorknobs looking to rob someone. When I leave, however, I have taught myself to always turn the key once. I don't do this as much for security as I do it to make sure I have my keys with me when I leave. As you might imagine, Marga turns the key twice every time she leaves and keeps the door doubly locked even when we are at home.

Yet another flaw that our door (and the doors of most Spanish houses, from what I can tell) has is that you must have a key to unlock it from the inside. If there's a fire and you need to get out quickly, you'd better have your keys with you, otherwise the door is just as locked to you as it is to a potential robber on the other side. As a result, we normally keep a set of keys in the lock, and the door locked, when we are at home. We never forget to take them out because the door won't open until you unlock it with the key, thus reminding your brain to take them out. But this morning I went outside briefly to chat with the neighbors and when I came back inside, I didn't turn the key. You see where this is going, don't you?

This morning, we got ready to go for a walk. We got Nora into her stroller, got her sunscreen on, and got her stroller out the door. We were so absentminded that we didn't even take any food for Nora like we usually do. With Marga and Nora outside the door, I closed the door, inserted my key to lock it, and... shit!

We were locked out with our keys and we had a baby that was going to need food in about 30 minutes.

We rang the doorbell of our neighbor that has a window near ours that could potentially serve as an entry point, but he wasn't at home. To get to the flat of our balcony-adjacent neighbors, we had to leave the building, walk around to the other side, ring the doorbell, and take the elevator up to their apartment. Luckily they were at home and have become friends with us recently because of their love of small babies.

The whole ordeal only took about an hour from start to finish, but it was very nerve wracking...especially the part where I had to put a hammer through our double-paned glass door. Thank goodness this happened in the summer when it's not that bad having a window "open" in the kitchen.