I’ll give you the moral of the story first. If you stay in an Airbnb, find all the exits when you check in. And make sure the place has a fire ladder — those emergency ladders that hook over a window sill so you can escape from the second floor. And – this is important — make sure you have a window sill.

Four of us — my husband, my child and her friend, and I — rented a condo in the mountains. Lovely views, lovely condo with tiny cactus plants in little white pots scattered here and there on the mantle and bedside tables. The jury is still out on whether the cacti were real or fake. A cactus is a good plant to keep in a second home because you don’t have to water it much. But my daughter said they looked fake to her.

We all went to bed and slept well. After showering in the morning, my husband went to open the bedroom door, heading for the kitchen. The bedroom door would not open. The latch thingy was stuck, and the doorknob wouldn’t turn. He tried to jimmy the latch. No luck. He took the pins out of the hinges so we could unhook the door on the hinge side. But the door was wedged between the high pile carpet and the top of the door frame. Would not budge.

While my husband operated on the door, I recalled seeing an emergency escape ladder in the bedroom closet in a box. I pulled the box down and opened it on the bed. The ladder was still wrapped in plastic and wedged into the box.

The other exit from the bedroom was a balcony twelve feet above the ground. There was also a door leading from the balcony to the eating area of the condo, but this door was locked. If we could not get out the bedroom door, our only option was going over the edge of the balcony. But never fear, we had a fire ladder. Which would have been nice if we’d had a window.

See, I examined the ladder and realized it was designed to hook over a window sill. We had no window sill in the bedroom. We had a sliding door that opened onto the balcony. The balcony had no sill we could hook the ladder onto. It’s a good thing the cactuses in the little pots were not at the moment on fire.

As I said, my daughter and her friend were also on the premises, but it was 8:30 in the morning, and they were not awake. But we had run out of options, so I yelled my daughter’s name and pounded on our stuck bedroom door.

“Daughter!” I yelled. I didn’t really call her “Daughter.” That sounds like an Amish thing to do. Sorry, that’s probably offensive to the Amish, and I hear they are lovely people. But for privacy reasons, I won’t list her name here even though ninety per cent of you know her name. So just fill in her name in your imagination. Unless you’d rather think of me as an Amish woman. An Amish woman with no farming skills. And limited cooking and sewing skills.

I called my daughter’s cell phone. No answer. I texted. No response. I continued to yell.

“Husband,” I said to my non-Amish husband, “Do our cell phones have any kind of alarm that does not call the fire department? Something loud enough to wake up Daughter?”

“Oh!” husband replied. “Hit ‘Find My iPhone.’ It will ding Daughter’s phone. That might wake her up.” He did not really call her Daughter because he’s not an Amish man. This reminds me of “Amish Paradise,” a Weird Al Yankovic parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise.” You should google both songs. We were not in an Amish paradise, more like Amish purgatory where you’re stuck in a room and have to figure a way out. Or maybe it’s more like an Amish Escape Room where you go with your friends, and you have an hour to do all these puzzles and figure out how to get out of a room. In an Amish Escape Room, you have to churn milk into butter before they let you out.

Daughter’s friend heard me pounding on the door, but she and Daughter had watched a scary movie with a creepy villain the night before. The friend feared a creepy villain was pounding on the front door of the condo, and she tried to ignore the noise.

Daughter finally woke up and heard us. She came to the bedroom door and tried to open it, pushing on the hinge side.

“Wait!” I said. “We are Silly Parents! Daughter can unlock the balcony door, and we can go through that.” Daughter did so, and we were saved.

We rehinged the hinges and didn’t completely close the door for the rest of the visit. But I was not risking a fiery death. What if someone accidentally left the stove on? What if one of the little potted cactuses burst into flame due to spontaneous combustion? I wanted two exits from this Airbnb place. 

I disengaged the fire ladder from its box and dragged it to the window in the dining area. I measured to see if it would fit the window. I was tempted to test the ladder as I did when I was a child. In 1975, my parents watched a TV special on Home Safety. Fire ladders didn’t exist at the time, or if they did, my dad (an amateur carpenter) said, “Shoot, I’m not spending $20 on a fire ladder when I can make one.” And make one he did, out of rope and slats of wood. My little sister and I practiced climbing out our bedroom window. It was all great fun because neither our cacti nor our house was actually on fire.

Back to the moral of the story. If you are in an Airbnb, make sure all the doors work and locate your fire ladder. And consider paying an Amish person to go on vacation with you because I bet they know how to handle emergencies. Even cacti that burst into flame.

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