Stuck In The Crapper

December 29, 2009

in Airplane Stories

Good Morning Friends!

Several of you may have received a rather cryptic text message from me yesterday that may have seemed like a riddle…”guess who got stuck in an airplane lavatory for over an hour?” is the question that was posed. Well, the answer to that riddle, folks, is ME.

However, some of you may have taken this little riddle out of context with the responses varying across the board from people insinuating that somehow I joined the Mile High Club to suggestions that I was experiencing digestive difficulties. Let me tell you something, unless you are the size of a garden gnome, there is no way that more than one person can even fit in the lavatory of a Canadair Regional Jet 200, so really your only option for Mile High Action is joining it, ahem, by yourself. Additionally, doing anything other than Number 1 on this lavatory is really not an option either. So here’s how it all went down…

Prior to my flight, I enjoyed a snack and a beverage with some of the other travelers in the Little Rock Municipal Airport (signs on the highway indicate that it’s a national airport, but I’m not quite sure). The young man sitting next to me at the eatery was also on my flight and we headed to our gate together, but not before I decided to make one last trip to the little girls room, just for safe measure, as a good traveler always does. However, I tend to drink a lot of water, and by the time we boarded, my bladder decided once again that it was full, and I checked with the flight attendant to see if it would be alright if I took another quick trip to the loo before takeoff. I have followed this protocol several times before without incident, and with the short duration of the flight, it was questionable as to whether or not the captain would take off the “fasten seatbelt” sign in flight to allow movement about the cabin. I was in the last row so I wasn’t going to cause any traffic snafus, and off to the lavatory I went.

Got in, locked the door, did my business, washed my hands and as I tried to exit. Lock. Wouldn’t. Budge.

I tried drying my hands even more… maybe there was still soap on them. No luck.

I tried wrapping towels around the little sliding knob. No luck.

I tried pulling on the door, hoping that maybe a change in the angle would allow the latch to freely slide. No luck.

I knocked on the door from the inside and said, “Help! I’m stuck!” and the flight attendant, Tony, came to attempt to assist. No luck.

Tony got the captain and they went to see if a screwdriver would help the situation. No luck.

On and on with this for about 30 minutes and I started to panic. Sweat accumulated on my brow, my heart started to race and then came the tears. I was officially freaking out.

Tony tried to keep me calm but it wasn’t helping. Usually when faced with a panic stricken situation, one can take a deep breath. Not an option on a lavatory where the aroma is a combination of blue water, the fecal matter of others and Delta’s latest choice of in-flight soap, Lemongrass Wasabi (no kidding). I tried wet paper towels on the back of my neck but the coolness had the shelf life of potato salad at a July picnic.

I guess my distress became evident to a few of the passengers as I started to hear different voices trying to reassure me that Delta would get me out of there soon. It didn’t help much and seemed very trite, considering they weren’t the ones stuck in the airplane crapper. Tony came back and told me that ground maintenance was on its way and would get me out. That took another 15 minutes or so, and when they arrived I was thrilled. Ground maintenance has the big tools, and at one point I asked them if they had a blow torch and they could just melt the door and lock to get me out.

After about 15 more minutes or so, progress was made and I started seeing a crowbar appear on one side of the door. Luke the maintenance guy was persistent and worked the door from both sides with the crowbar. I started seeing the door come off its hinges and the full vision of the lock appear from its hiding place. Five minutes later I was out and the lavatory on this particular jet was rendered inoperable, thanks to my small bladder and Luke’s crowbar.

Once out, I actually gave Luke a hug and was greeted by Tony with some ice water. I didn’t drink too much because, even after all that time in the lavatory, I had to go again. The crew allowed me to deplane and use the facilities in the terminal. I talked to the co-pilot for a few minutes as I stood shaking like a chihuahua on Red Bull, and he told me a story about how that had actually happened to one of his captains once before any passengers got on the plane. It made me laugh a little bit but still doesn’t make up for the fact that airplane lavatories do not have any means of escaping in the event of an emergency.

After all was said and done, I caused our flight to be delayed by two hours, many of the passengers had to de-plane and catch a different flight to Atlanta and others (including myself) had to catch later connecting flights home. I should have been home by 8:30pm but instead I didn’t get back to Nashville until around 11:30.

Many have asked what Delta did after this incident? Well the answer is nothing, really. I wrote a letter to customer service and they did provide me with a $100 credit, but that’s it.

The moral of the story is that you should most definitely try to empty your bladder before you board. If you do have to use the lavatory, check the lock before you commit to locking the door. Sometimes it’s worth having the door slightly cracked open to avoid getting stuck.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim December 30, 2009 at 5:15 am

Wow….I can't imagine being trapped in that small space for that amount of time…I only use the plane's bathroom when it is an absolute necessity, because at 6' I can barely stand in most….and, feel a bit claustrophobic in there…

I wonder, what if you would have broken down the door yourself? Would the airline hold you responsible, or worse yet, possibly arrest or bring charges against you?

Interesting story…and, for most of us, that would be a hellish experience!


Jodi December 30, 2009 at 7:15 am

I’m really quite sorry that this happened to you. But I loved the way you wrote it and I found it a very entertaining story which had me chuckling throughout. I’m glad they at least gave you something for your inconvenience.


Bob December 30, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Wow, a true story of survival and courage. Wow.


Demotage January 2, 2010 at 9:04 am

Actually, there is another escape route from airplane lavatories; in fact two.

First, tamper with the smoke detector. Security gets their way faster than maintenance. They don't have big tools, but they can shoot open the lock.

If that fails, the second route requires you to drop trou, raise the seat and sit on the rim, being careful to form a seal between your butt and the rim. Then flush. The suction will pull you out of the lavatory.


CRJ Mechanic January 29, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Yeah have someone 'shoot out' the lock on the door you are less than six inches behind, great idea, fella! There are ways that the door comes off in an emergency, that particular aircraft takes 1 phillips head screwdriver, 2 latches and about 30 seconds to remove, door closed or locked, does not matter. Incompetence.


Drew February 1, 2010 at 7:28 am

Wait, so you "only" got $100?

Honestly, what did you expect out of this?


Krysten Mabry January 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

This just happened to me on the 22nd. I was on a united airlines flight when my son and I both were stuck due to a jammed lock.


Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: