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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hari Raya & Breaking into my apartment.

Current location
In my studio apartment, in Vieux Nice! Woohoo! :D
Now listening to
Elated. Adrenaline rush. Really happy.
Last meal
KFC with Alban Haskaj and Paul Lavoine.
Other activities
Looking at the little edible gift I bought myself from the store downstairs. Cleaning up the house.

This weekends’s been really exciting. First of all, yesterday the juniors organized a Hari Raya open house at an apartment in Vieux Nice that they rented for 4 days. It was really well done, and the turnout was quite good, with students from Aix and Toulon and even one guy from Russia.
Hari Raya in Vieux Nice

Anyway, yesterday was great fun, and the food was awesome; there was the standard Raya fair of rendang and ketupat, which actually, has come to become rather expected. What really was a pleasant surprise was the effort they’d taken to produce enough kuih raya for everyone. A lot of them chipped in, and brought tasty home-made raya treats with them:

Serious business

The beach and the dreadful realization
At one point, it got a bit warm for me in there, with all the people in that apartment, so I went home to change to head out to the beach. Then Muddin came over to my place and we headed out together to the beach where we met up with Hanif (Farid’s younger brother who’s now studying in France!) and the other PF11 juniors.
Anyway, we had fun and all, then the juniors  decided to go to the Carras beach nearer to the Cité Jean Médecin where the other juniors were, and Muddin and I decided to head back to my place, get some refreshing beverages and think of where to go next. Just as we were reaching the door to my building, I had the sudden realization that I didn’t have my keys with me. I’ve had moments of panic about not having my keys before, on the way back from work where I’d suddenly start thinking I’d forgotten them at home, and I’d search almost frantically, and find them in my trousers’ key-pocket.
This time, the feeling was different though. I wasn’t so much panicked as just sure that I’d forgotten the keys at home. I don’t know what face I was making at the time though; I think it was probably one of terror. I really can’t remember though, I’d have to ask Muddin.
Anyway, I was filled with dread then, and I really didn’t know what to do. I think I probably started criticizing myself internally (and probably a little bit outloud too). Perhaps my inner voice was screaming in despair, “Rome! Rooooome!” thinking about the budget cuts I would have to make for my upcoming weekend getaway to Rome due to this unfortunate and completely avoidable incident. But I can’t really remember that either. Anyway, Muddin was quick to assure me that the situation really sucks. I guess I already knew that, but hearing it from someone else, confirming that my reaction is normal and absolutely expected, perhaps was useful at the time.

Gut reactions
First, I called my landlord to let him know that I’d locked myself out, and that I’d try to figure out a solution to the problem, but that in any case I’d be safe and not do anything stupid. Then, being the rational people that we are, we proceeded to do the most logical thing; we pressed all the buttons on the intercom so that someone would open the main door for us, so that we could go inside, and well, look at the door of my apartment on the 3rd floor that we wouldn't be able to enter anyway.
But no one buzzed us in (thanks, neighbours!). The lady who owns a lingerie shop right across the street from the building where I live noticed us and asked “Vous avez pas vos clés?” To which we replied “non”. Then I asked for her professional opinion as an adult who’s been an adult for a longer time than myself about what one should do in such a situation. And she told us that one would call a serrurier, which is what the French people call a locksmith. It is also, by the way, a difficult word that some people have a problem pronouncing. Not me though, coz I speak French like a champion.
She told us to head over to the nearby pharmacy and ask them for the number of a locksmith, so that’s what we did. The pharmacist there quickly did a search, (on the internet presumably; which on hindsight, I also had, right in my pocket), got us a number, and I called it.

The locksmith
Thanking the pharmacist, I left and called the locksmith. A pleasant sounding man answered. I started explaining my situation to him, but we were standing right next to a cathedral at the time, and it had just turned 4 o’clock and the bells started ringing really loudly. Amidst the loud sound of the bells chiming (which I quickly tried to walk away from; but it’s really really loud so it didn’t really help), I managed to give him the address and my phone number. I also remembered to ask him about his rates, but he told me that he’d have to see the door and then he’d tell me once he got here. With the bells going on, I really didn’t want to prolong the conversation much more than necessary, so I took that as an acceptable response and agreed to have him come. He said he’d come over in half an hour, and that was the beginning of our wait.

The wait at the park
I told Muddin he could just go home and that I’d deal with it, because I was feeling really sucky at the time and really all I wanted to do was be frustrated and sulky all alone. But Muddin stayed with me, and we went to the Proménade de Paillon park where we lied down on the very comfortable fake grass under the shade of a real tree and waited for the locksmith’s call.
I wasn’t paying attention to the time, and if I recall correctly, I don’t think I was thinking much about being locked out of the apartment. Maybe because Muddin and I had considered coming to this park as a possibility that afternoon anyway, but whatever the reason was, I was actually quite calm, and not worried at that moment. Hey, I’m actually quite happy with how I did not let that spoil my afternoon, now that I think about it. I’ma give myself a pat on the back for that. And a big thank you to Muddin of course for staying with me and waiting for the locksmith.

Daylight robbery
I’m not sure how much later it was, but eventually the locksmith called, and said he’d be there in about 10 minutes. So we headed back quickly to my building, so that we could try to get someone to buzz us through the main door. This time someone did eventually let us in. I think it was the lady who co-owns the building. I recognized her voice. At first when I said “Vous pouvez nous ouvrir la porte, s’il vous plait?” She replied “Et pourquoi je vous laisserais entrer, jeune home?” And when I answered, parce que j’habite dans ce batîment”, she recognized my voice too, and she said, “oh, vous êtes le jeune homme du 3ème?” and buzzed us in.
Anyway, we went inside and continued our wait. The locksmith ended up arriving about 40 minutes later, because it’s difficult finding a parking spot in Vieux Nice. Muddin started watching Naruto on his iPad, while I kept looking at the window to my apartment which was just out of grasp, but so tantalizingly close. Then I looked down to the floor three stories down, and it was kinda scary, the thought of falling.
Finally, the locksmith arrived; he was a youngish man, probably around 25, no more than 32 (I’d say he looks about as old as Pharrell William looks). Anyway, he took a look at the door, pushed it to verify that it was indeed locked, then said “c’est une porte blindée. Voilà les tarifs, c’est 260 euros pour ouvrir la porte, plus 45 euros pour le déplacement, avec une majoration de 100% les weekends”. Here, I’ll translate: “hey, I know that you’re probably panicking right now, so I’m gonna overcharge you and you’ll probably still pay me anyway, so that’ll be 260 euros for opening your door, and 45 euros for my travelling expenses. Oh, and in case that’s not enough daylight robbery for you, there’s a 100% premium on weekends”.
At that point, I was thinking, hah! So that’s why they didn’t wanna tell me their prices on the phone. They wanted to come here, pull this on me, then charge me 90 euros anyway just for their time. That’s probably their business model. Well, I’m a future engineer, with mediocre math skills, so I quickly calculated, and the total was “bullshit”, or, if you prefer a precise figure, 610 euros. That’s more than my rent.
No way was I going to pay more than a month’s rent just to get someone to open the door to my apartment. Unless I was really rich and that someone was my butler. But I’m not there yet, so I decided that I would not acquire his services. He told me that I’d still have to pay him the 90 euros for his time, but I told him “my card’s in the apartment, locked inside there, so if you wanna get paid, you’ll have to get it yourself. I don’t need you to open this door because I don’t live here anyway. Now buzz off and find someone else to ripoff with your ‘services’”. Or at least, that’s what I would have liked to say. Instead I said “J’ai pas cette somme d’argent pour te payer le déplacement. A 90 euros ? J’aurais jamais imaginé. C’est pour ça que je vous avais demandé au téléphone. Et vous m’aviez pas parlé de facturer le déplacement. Je pensais que vous étiez un organisme de bénévolat qui faisait ça pour aider les gens en détresse. Mais vous avez pas de cœur ! Vous êtes des arnaqueurs !”. Ok, I didn't actually say those last parts. Anyway, seeing as how we had no cash on hand, we ended up not paying him. I did say I’d maybe pay 45 euros, but not double. He said he’d call me later so I could pay up. I’ll maybe go pay him later this week or something. But I’ll tell them that I’m really unsatisfied. Yeah.

The neighbour from upstairs
After he left, we stayed there for a bit, just shocked at how ridiculous the price of locking yourself out of your apartment is. Then my neighbour from upstairs walked up the stairs and I explained the situation to him. He was really nice, and he shared some stories of how he’d helped someone break into their apartment on the third floor before, and how he’d climbed in by the window. He suggested that someone could climb down from his window and climb into my apartment since my window is right below his and not too far away either. It was an interesting solution, and quite frankly, seemed totally doable, with the right equipment and skills, of course. I imagined doing it myself, but I kept imagining falling, and I would shudder.

That might seem like a long way down, but it’s actually the short way when you compare it to the stairs.
I asked him which button I had to press on the intercom so I could get him to open the door for me in case I came back with a plan or something, and then Muddin and I decided to go to his place (well, actually, the junior’s house which Muddin’s taking care of during the summer) so we could search the internet for other solutions. Also, I needed to charge my handphone which had just died so that I could call Hanif and let him know about the situation. I’d agreed to let him stay over at my place this weekend, not anticipating that not even I would be sleeping there yesterday. The lingerie-selling lady spoke to us again as we exited the building, and told us that some Visa card holders automatically have insurance for key replacements in such events, so we needed to check that out too. At that point, hoping to perhaps get this problem solved for free, I called the emergency hotline. I wasn’t sure if this could count as an emergency and if firemen ever deal with these kinds of situations, so I was very brief with my call: “Bonsoir, je ne suis pas sûr si c’est assez urgent, vous m’arrêtez si c’est pas urgent. J’ai perdu les clés à mon appartement au 3ème étage, et le serrurier coute trop cher. Vous pouvez venir avec une échelle pour rentrer par la fenêtre ?” to which she responded “Non, on ne vas pas intervenir pour vous ramener une échelle”. So I thanked her, said bonne soirée, and hung up. All in under 60 seconds (because I didn’t want to tie up the lines in case someone else had a really urgent emergency, like they burned down their room in a student residence, for example)

Thinking of solutions at Muddin’s place
Muddin and I talked along the way to his place, and we considered the solution of climbing in through the window, either from above with a rope, or bedheet or something else, or from below, with a ladder. We weren’t sure of how safe it was for us, but we both agreed that it’s probably not safe, though it would be a piece of cake for someone who actually climbs for a hobby and knows what he’s doing. I thought of Clément Cristin, Nicolas Forget, and Joël Collinet, friends from Polytech who regularly go climbing at the climbing room at Gerbejaïr in Sophia. They could do it no problem, for sure. We also talked about how sucky losing your keys are, and Muddin told me stories of when he’d lost his keys, or otherwise been locked out or locked in different places.
At Muddin’s house, we looked online for different solutions. I also chatted with Abang Fadhil and Clément, who both commiserated as well as helped me think of solutions rationally. If Clément were here he could totally just bring his climbing gear and get in through my window no problem. But he’s in Thailand, and Joël and Nicoals weren't in Nice either so I’d have to find another climber, or climb it myself. Each time I typed “climb out an apartment window” or something similar on Google though, the results weren’t really encouraging.

Notice the recurring theme of “death”
Somewhere around that point, I had the idea of asking for help from my French schoolmates on the SI15 Facebook group, so I posted this:

I also tried looking into whether losing your keys is covered by insurance companies, so I tried calling my bank, and my home/living insurance company, but since it was  8 pm on a Saturday, both were closed. But from what I could gather on their web sites, that insurance is only for Visa premium holders and that the insurance policy I bought probably didn’t cover this.
I tried not to think about it too much, I mean, it was already sucky enough, and there was nothing I could do about it anyway, but my mind did keep coming back to it, and sometimes it just frustrated me so much that this was happening. It did help to read that losing your keys is actually a pretty common occurrence, and happens to the best of us. I read up on a few tips to avoid getting into this situation in the future. I also kept thinking about climbing in through the window. I read about ropes, and how to climb down them, how to fashion a rope out of bedsheet, how much climbing gear costs, I looked at websites for renting ladders and other building equipment. I even posted a request on leboncoin.fr looking for a climber to break into my apartment, which got rejected because that kind of stuff isn't allowed; I watched Youtube videos about lock picking, and I learned about different lock systems, and searched ebay for lock picks. I even tried calling Mme. Pégurier and I called Mme. Campion to ask if she knew any climbers in Nice. My mind just went all over the place with this thing.
Finally, I gave it a rest and went to bed. This morning, I woke up at 7.30, and immediately started thinking about what I’d do today towards making my re-entry into my studio a reality. I thought about where I’d go to look for a climber. I thought about contacting the local mountain climber or wall climber association, but then I thought that it’s really a strange request, so that would probably be more of a last resort thing. I kept thinking of different places in Nice where I might find climber-type people, trying to imagine where such people would most likely hang out.
I kept checking the comments on my Facebook post, and around 9 am, I finally got the following comment from Paul, (Pouic Ky):

 Humour always helps :D
So I got into contact with him, and learned that he had a rope and some equipment, and that he could come over to Nice from Sophia to help me get back into my apartment. I was quite pleasantly surprised, because to be quite honest, I wasn’t actually expecting anyone to actually offer the help that I was asking. I seriously did not expect anyone to take my action plan of climbing down from my 4th floor neighbour’s window into my apartment seriously. But Paul and Alban (who also called me that morning) did, and they were going to come over to Nice to help me.
First Paul told me to check if the neighbour was at home, and whether he would let us into his apartment. So I said Goodbye to Muddin and took a tram straight home, and got in by getting someone to buzz me in. I went up to his house and rang his bell, but he didn’t open the door. I told Paul that he wasn’t there, and left a note on my neighbour’s door with my number on it.
That’s when Alban said that they were coming to Nice anyway, and that we’d head to the beach while waiting for my neighbour to call. OMG THAT’S THE BEST IDEA EVER. So obviously that’s what we ended up doing this morning. Alban and Paul came over, and we went to the beach not too far from Negresco and High Club. I jogged from my place to Negresco, which is about 1.6 km, so I got a little exercise. Jogging was great to get my mind off the whole being locked-out thing. All of us had a little swim in the sea and we just lied in the sun. We talked a bit about losing keys and getting locked in or out, and Alban shared some of his stories. But mostly we talked about other stuff, and we just chilled, which was great because I actually didn’t worry much about being locked out anymore. I think I was mostly just really happy that Alban and Paul had driven from Sophia and that we were now chilling at the beach. Way to make a sucky day so much better!
Mission break-in to Hakim’s studio
Close to 1 pm, we still didn’t hear from my neighbour, so we decided to go over and see if he wasn’t just asleep or something. We were also getting hungry, so the plan was to check if my neighbour was home and then break into my apartment if he was, or go get lunch somewhere first and then come back later if he wasn’t home.
So we got the rope (actually a ladder made of rope, or, a rope fashioned into a ladder) and other stuff (a pull-up bar; the kind you attach in a doorway so you can do pull-ups with, shoes, gloves) from Paul’ car and headed to my place. We got ourselves buzzed in by pressing buttons on the intercom, and then we knocked on his door, and he appeared! He’d been sleeping in. He let us in, and Paul and Alban went to work right away deciding where to attach the ropes and figuring out how to execute everything.
The whole time they were making knots and securing things, I was just growing more and more nervous. I tried to not think about being nervous, and focused on what they were doing. Trying to reassure myself that they totally knew their knots and stuff. I do have to say though, at some points when they hesitated, or Alban would seem to correct a knot that Paul did, or the other way around, I got a bit nervous, but I probably don’t remember all the details correctly.
Anyway, since I was the lightest and smallest amongst everyone, it was decided that I should be the one to climb down the rope ladder. Now that started to get my adrenaline pumping. I told myself not to look down, and I tried to muster up the courage to do it. Alban and Paul kept reassuring me that it’s safe, and that in any case, I’d be attached to them with a second rope, so even if the ladder were to unfortunately break or anything, they’d be able to pull me up. Alban even demonstrated a few times by lifting me off the ground by the rope that they’d tied quite securely around my waist and crotch.
They really seemed to know what they were doing, and the knots they made did seem all proper-like, so I was actually feeling more and more confident. Having the rope secured around me and the other end tied to Alban gave me just enough confidence to talk myself into doing it, so I got up on the edge of the window.
There I was, sitting with my legs dangling off the edge of the window, 4 floors up. Boy was the view scary. I had to look down a little, so I could see the lower rungs of the rope ladder. I imagined myself going down the ladder. I was getting ready in my mind.
That’s when Paul redid a knot that was attaching the ladder to a railing. So there I was, sitting on the edge, but I couldn’t go yet. Suddenly, I had more time to think about all sorts of things, and I started to get really anxious about falling. I kept looking down, and I kept looking at the lower rungs of the ladder.
They were a source of concern for me because they were a bit tangled up, and not laid out properly. I was imagining how I’d manoeuvre myself down the ladder, and whether or not I would fumble with the rungs.
I don’t know how long I was sitting there, probably no longer than 2 minutes, but it was enough to make me too nervous to go on with it. I told Alban and Paul that I was too afraid, and I got off the edge of the window and back into the apartment. I was feeling a strong rush in my limbs, I think a lot of adrenaline was pumping through me just from the anxiety of the thought of climbing down and making a mistake.
Alban and Paul didn’t make a fuss of anything, and Paul volunteered to go instead of me, and we got the ropes off me, and fastened them around Paul, and he went down the rope ladder, while Alban and I held the ropes that were attached to him. He had trouble with some of the rungs, because they were tangled, and when I saw that I actually kinda got anxious a bit, but I never really got really scared because he seemed to have everything under control.
It didn’t take long before he managed to get into my apartment through the window. And that’s the story of how Alban and Paul helped me get back into my apartment and saved me a lot of euros. Thanks guys!

That’s Alban looking out my neighbour’s window on the fourth floor. I didn’t remember to take that many photos, so that’s why there aren’t any action shots of Paul climbing down, but I don’t think that anyone really was thinking of taking photos at that moment.
Once we were all in my studio, we took a breather and just chatted for a while, before heading out to get something to eat. We walked along the Proménade des Anglais, with the summer sun shining and feeling full of win and success, and then we got into Paul's car and headed to KFC for a celebratory bucket of fried chicken.  Then Paul and Alban went back to Sophia, and I went to Muddin’s place to tell him and Haziq the good news.
The moral of the story, feelings and stuff
When unfortunate and unexpected things like this happen, it is normal to feel really really sucky. One should take the time to calm down before making any decisions. Also, no matter how much it might seem like to you, locking yourself out is not an emergency you call the firemen or emergency services for. That’s for life and death emergencies. Not for stupid stuff like leaving your keys behind in your apartment.
Sorry Hanif tak dapat tumpang my place this weekend. Luckily you guys had that great apartment to sleep over at. The PF11 juniors are pretty awesome, it’s really cool how they organized the Raya thing so well. Bravo!
Relaxing at the beach is always a great idea. Should make more time for that.
Muddin said to me at one point, berat mata memandang, berat lagi bahu memikul”. This preibahasa is so true, and I think it’s important that everyone understand this; it’s important to have compassion. Think of how miserable I would have been otherwise :’( I really appreciate the sentiment. 

It's good to know your neighbours, in case you ever need their help. Also, just in general, it's good to know your neighbours.  

I do not recommend anyone do this unless they actually know how to climb and they have proper safety equipment. Like, if you've never climbed before, this probably isn't the time to make your début.

Locksmiths are expensive, but they're not really crooks. It's a legit business, and I guess they gotta make money too. Consider getting insurance for keys though, that's a good idea. So much less headache if you actually do lose your keys.
Now I’ve left the second pair of keys with Muddin lest this situation reproduce itself in the future. I’ve learnt my lesson. (Just for the record, I used to keep the extra keys at Syahmie’s house, but since they went back to Malaysia for the summer, I never got around to giving them to anyone else for safekeeping. Again, we see the ill-effects of puttings things off – they eventually don’t get done).

Everyone told me not to do it, but I still sat on the edge of that window. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Probably a bad thing? Because I'm not heeding sound advice? Probably a good thing, because I really was confident in the safety of their setup, and in Alban and Paul's strength and resourcefulness in case of mistakes, and that I had made a decision to do it? Probably bad, because Paul would have been the more logical candidate, because it's his rope, and he's used it before. 

I have to get stronger for real world applications. Like, so I can climb over obstacles and get around places really fast. Get to high places easily and stuff. Gotta acquire those important skills. Learn to ride a bike first, yeah. 

As Alban said, "Il faut pas faire les choses tout seul, il faut demander de l'aide aux gens". Jangan segan nak minta tolong kat orang. There's always someone willing to help. 
TL;DR: This weekend’s just been great. Eventhough locking myself out of the house really really sucks, the support from my friends (Muddin, Haziq, Edouard, Jamal, my friends who commented on the Facebook post like Martin and Fabien and Guilhem and Assma, Abang Fadhil and Clément, my landlord M. Penalba, my upstairs neighbour, the lingerie lady, Mme. Campion, and of course Alban and Paul) really made it all better really quick.
I’m so happy I have great friends like these. Yay!

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