I Got Locked in a Toilet at a Medieval Festival in Italy
Shit. What’s the Italian word for ‘help’?
I frantically wracked my 10-year-old brain and attentively scanned the room for something I could use to pick the lock, or at least draw attention to my current situation.
To my left sat a sink; to my right, a basket full of paper towels. Directly behind me, a toilet; and in front of me, the culprit: a bulky wooden door that refused to budge. Not exactly the imagery that compliments the ancient architecture of Certaldo Alto, Tuscany, and the enchanting mythical playground of their most important event of the year, which was simultaneously happening on the opposite side of these four walls.
Five minutes prior, I was having the time of my life, soaking in the sheer magic of Il Possente Banchetto Medievale – The Mighty Medieval Banquet – admiring terracotta dishes, wooden spoons and the particularly lavish 14th century menus that laced the wooden tables lining their way down the street.
It was as if I had woken up in an ancient Disney fairytale, with characters dressed in medieval costumes darting in between the sea of people taking their seats. This was until I needed to use the bathroom.
The one rule of this event is that no foreigners are allowed to attend, but, despite having been officially invited by a local, karma saw its chance to pounce on me, and grasped it with both hands.
The brand new digital watch I had purchased the day before beeped, letting mw know it was 6 o’clock. I could just make out the early evening sun setting through the slacks of the wooden door. I bet the sunset is beautiful, I thought to myself. But I had bigger problems: the entertainment for the evening was about to begin, and nobody ever gets up to go to the bathroom during a performance.
“Ciao, Ciao, Ciao!” I yelled repeatedly, the only Italian word still floating around my brain at this point. Alas, my distraught calls for help and frenzied knocking faded into the abyss. The rapturous laughter and applause amongst the crowd grew louder and more frequent, rapidly diminishing any chance I had of being heard.
Surely my parents can’t think I’m taking this long in the bathroom. One of them will come looking for me soon, I told myself reassuringly.
Another quick glance at my watch told me the time was now 6.15pm. The sun had almost disappeared and the only source of light was coming from a small flickering lantern hanging from the ceiling. There was no way I was letting that candle blow out.
Blood trickled down my fingernails from my countless attempts at trying to unpick the lock. I’d wake up with bruises along my body the next day from unsuccessful kicks, shoves and pushes of the door.
Perched on the cold plastic toilet seat cover, tears blurring my vision, I rocked myself back and forth and continued to sing whatever top 40 pop song I had stuck in my head at the time, hoping
if I repeated it loudly and frequently enough, someone might hear me. I got through the song three times before I heard a faint set of footsteps nearing closer.
“Hello? Please help! I can’t get out!”
I didn’t care if they couldn’t understand me anymore; I just needed to be heard. I needed somebody to know I was in there. I wanted out.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door and I erupted into tears.
“Stai bene?” a stranger on the other side of the door questioned. Are you okay?
“I can’t get the door open, it won’t unlock!”
“Only speak Inglese, only speak Inglese,” I cried again.
The next few minutes flew by in a state of commotion. A constant flow of conversation in Italian came and went as multiple people appeared and then disappeared, while I stood on the other side of the door, breathlessly waiting for something, anything to happen.
“Hello miss. I am one of the chefs – we are going to help get the door open. Please stand back.”
I’d never been so happy to hear anyone speak in my life. As I backed away from the door, a knife poked through the gap as they began hacking away at the lock. The sound was worse than nails scraping down a blackboard, but I was too focused on getting out to care.
6.30pm flashed across my watch. 30 minutes of being locked in this bathroom. This has to work, I thought to myself.
Applause echoed from the crowd as if encouraging my break-out, although I could tell from the noise that the live band had just taken to the stage.
“We’re going to kick the door down now, please stand as far away as possible,” the chef instructed.
As I huddled into the furthest corner of the bathroom, a voice counted down in Italian and a striking blow hit the door. It came hurtling down and crashing onto the floor in one foul swoop.
“This is very old door,” one of the other men helping with my freeing joked, but it was too soon for me to laugh about.
The cold breeze against my face was the freshest I have ever felt. I leapt into the arms of those around me to thank them for getting me out of there. Half an hour feels like a long time to be locked in a room in a foreign country when you’re 10 years old, and with nothing but a sink, a basket full of paper towels and a toilet to look at, it felt like it had been a decade.
Walking around the same area the following day, I passed the bathroom one last time. The flickering lamp was out and with the door now leaning against the entrance, the room almost appeared larger than I had remembered it.
Previously, Il Possente Banchetto Medievale had been described to us as the most unforgettable event you will ever attend and I’ll give it to them, they were certainly right about that.