On locked doors

I live in the middle of the Melbourne CBD, in an old heritage building. My apartment is in a separate section at the back. At nine PM, I went out my front door, down the corridor, and through the main stairwell. A white door with a metal handle leads into the main part of the building, where the elevators are located. It was locked.

I walked down the stairs, trying the doors on every floor: they’d all been locked. When I reached the main lobby, I took the elevator back up to my floor. The door to the stairwell opened from the inside only. The metal handle on the other side didn’t budge.

I headed back down, and called our building manager rightaway. Their mobile number is written on a metal plaque next to the letter boxes. He didn’t pick up. I left a message, asking for explanations. Maybe there had been a change in policy, and the person in charge had not properly thought it through? He called back after a few minutes. We clarified the situation. He was not aware of anything. Most likely, security did something wrong. He would see to it. When I came back after a long walk, the doors were unlocked.

It was a little thing. A door inside my building which is normally open suddenly was not. I could walk down the stairs, I was not trapped. But I felt a strange sense of helpless fury. This lock was a concrete, physical reduction of my freedom, imposed arbitrarily. “It’s not a bad thing I called,” I thought, “If the building manager receives calls at 9pm when something like this happens, he might be more careful.” I was angry.

We live under the shadow of security. People constantly patrol the various spaces where we live, work, shop, rest. Often, we’re not aware of them. We may know, in the abstract, that security comes at the price of reduced freedom. Pure abstractions are hard to grasp emotionally. Yesterday, security gone rogue became a direct physical experience. There is nothing abstract about a sudden obstacle inside your home environment, that appears with no warning or explanation. It prompted me to fight.

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