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It Was My Umbrella That Locked Us Out of the WeWork

I left work Friday without my umbrella. On Monday morning, it had locked me out of the office. By Tuesday, my umbrella was a meme.

by Mike Ponticelli; as told to Matthew Gault
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Sep 18 2019, 8:03pm

Image: Mike Ponticelli

I came to work on Monday morning and found I couldn’t get into the office. Casey got to work before I did and he was standing there, outside of the door, with no way to get in. It was like a “does not compute” moment.

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Sometimes you’ve got a problem and you see a clear solution. Sometimes you see a problem, and you know the solution will be messy, but there’s still a solution. There was no solution here. The seal was perfect. An umbrella had the door locked perfectly.

My umbrella.

There’s four of us in that office. We stood there for 30 minutes. It was like in Looney Tunes when you take the canned goods and you just smash it with a club over and over. We tried to jiggle the door.

But no, man. It was geometrically perfect, how the umbrella had fallen. The door would not budge. We tried coat hangers, we tried our fingers, we tried wedging it, we tried picking it up. The windows on the outside overlook a roof on a nearby office, but there was no latch. They’re just big panes of glass.

We called WeWork, who manages the building, and they were as baffled as we were. They started by jiggling the door. We said we’d already tried that. Then they’d see if they could stick their fingers through the edges. We said we’d already thought about that too. It was like each person had to go through the same sequence. It was a small scale version of the sword in the stone, everyone thought they could dislodge the door if only the crowd would let them try.

Defeated, we all pulled out our laptops. We had one Mac charger and one iPhone charger between the four of us. WeWork put us in an empty office downstairs and we entered exile.

I woke up the next morning and prepared. I came to work with a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, extra coat hangers, and I thought I was going to be industrious and solve this thing. I was unsuccessful.

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Then, the internet caught onto our plight and suddenly a lot more people had opinions about whether or not I’d tried a coat hanger. And a whole bunch of other people said, “that’s ridiculous, why don’t you just break the glass?”

I think that most people don’t have the good sense to know how much breaking the glass would be a mess and a danger. If my dog was trapped in there, or a child, I would have broken it. I didn’t look at it as an impermeable barrier. But this is an office environment. It’s just a room with computers. Everyone was cool. Nobody’s insulin was trapped inside or anything.

Honestly, we could have probably gone an extra couple of days but that was our office and we wanted back in.

That day, WeWork brought in an engineer who specialized in getting in closed offices. The engineer tried the exact same things we did—jiggle the handle, tried to stick their fingers inside the crease. The engineer said this was beyond his pay grade and we were told there was an elusive, super engineer, that’s very rare and takes days to schedule. WeWork said it would be quite expensive, and that this was all beyond anything anyone had ever seen before.

We were in acceptance of our new reality. The problem was so challenging. This was a Gordian Knot that nobody could figure out a way to cut.

Tuesday evening, around 6pm, someone cut through the floor of the fifth floor and into our fourth floor office. Then they used a bit of wire to pry loose the umbrella. There’s still a hole in the ceiling now, about the size of a gherkin.

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I’m back in the office today and I’m grateful to be home. I missed the chairs that had the grooves I put in them. We were all happy to be reunited with our Apple and iPhone chargers.

I don’t know how the umbrella fell. My theory is that the maintenance crew, who came in on Friday evening...something happened that caused the umbrella to fall in such a way that could never be replicated in 1,000 years.

To be clear, I don’t feel responsible. It’s my umbrella, but the situation was pure luck of the draw. No one is calling for my head.

Except the internet.