I followed Hey-There—my 62-year-old Canadian roommate whose name (Heather) has been Bolivian-bastardized—into our dingy double room in Potosi. A minute later, I thought I'd go buy some water from the front desk.
I tried the door.
I twisted the center turn-gizmo on the knob and tried again.
"Oh shit," I spoke to myself as well as to Hey-There.
"We're locked in."
Hey-There immediately rushed over and tried various squiggles on the doorknob. None of them worked.
"Phone," I said, even as she was already walking to it.
She picked it up.
"Unplug it and plug it back in."
We eyeballed the room. There were two third-floor windows that looked over a courtyard and a small bathroom window that led into the hallway.
"We could climb out through the bathroom window," I suggested, though we were both eyeballing it dubiously.
"But how would we get up to it, and how would be get our bags out?" I could hear her voice rising as she realized that I'd already switched on to. We were locked in a Bolivian hotel room.
"Okay, stay calm. I've got a Swiss army knife," I said, heading for my backpack. I'd sussed out that the hinges were on our side of the door, and the doorknob was held in by only two screws.
Hey-There didn't get to 62 without the ability to 1) use common sense and 2) embarrass herself when needed. She stuck her head out the bathroom window.
I had my Swiss army knife out by now but could barely use it due to an attack of giggles. I was thinking about a time in Laos when my roomie Lochie had turned the doorknob in a Pak Beng hotel room and it had fallen off in her hands. She's brought it to me with a "WTF" look, and I'd asked the hotel to deal with it. This situation was slightly different.
Later, our trip leader Paul would say "I thought it was just some kids playing or something, but then I realized that yelling sounded like Heather."
He came to our door and Heather said "We're locked in."
Paul tried the knob. He shook it, twisted it, and pushed back and forth.
"I just need a little time," I yelled through the door. "The knob is in the way of my screwdriver. I can only turn about 20 degrees at once."
"I'll go get someone."
Paul brought back the hotel receptionist, who went through the obligatory pushing, pulling, turning, and twisting before running off to find someone else to help.
"Don't worry, Paul, I think I can take the hinges off if this doesn't work."
Hey-There added, "I think she's almost got the knob off. We just need more time."
A few minutes later, the knob loosened in my hands just as the hotel manager pushed the door from the outside. The door swung open to reveal three worried-looking people on one side, two triumphant women on the other (that's me and Hey-There, by the way).
"We want a new room. Now."
Hey-There glared at the staff. They scampered to get us a new key.