22 May 2014


As if spotty Internet access, daily power outages and water system failure weren’t enough to keep us laughing at third-world occurrences, the last two weeks we have been bombarded by door issues. We have one exterior door that opens into the living room/kitchen combo, so there are not a whole lot of backup options.

A few weeks ago, we noticed that our key was not easily opening the lock inside our door, sometimes requiring a little jiggle to offset the lock. As the days went by, the annoyance turned into disturbance and eventually turned into a fiasco when Paul could not get into the apartment for several minutes. I joked that we could start using the bedroom window as an ingress/egress point.

He contacted maintenance, explained the situation and was told that someone would be by to fix the lock. A man came, assessed the lock, added some lubricant, which seemed to do the trick, and then went on his way. Our key, though just slightly sticky, did work much better than before. I was satisfied with the service and I was pretty sure that Paul was as well.

A week later, another maintenance man arrived on our doorstep. I was still wearing a pajama top that wasn’t exactly outside-world appropriate. Thankfully the maintenance man knocked before coming in – something they do not typically do. I suppose the maintenance people are used to residents having jobs and tourists checking out of rooms, so popping a master key into the lock and letting themselves in as if any apartment were their own home seems to be the norm. I have been startled on a few occasions.

I answered the door as it was opening while covering my goods with my folded arms, asking how I could help. The man advised that he was checking on the door. He heard that we had a faulty lock. I told him a man the week prior had already come and fixed the lock and that it worked just fine. Apparently our housekeeper had complained about her key sticking, so this guy I guess was just following orders. He didn’t seem to understand that the lock had been fixed, even after testing the lock with the key because the next thing I knew, he was removing the door knob from the door. I went into the back and changed into something more appropriate as I told Paul what was happening.

We spent the day with a hole in the door that exposed us to the outside world. The latch part was still in the door, though, so the door itself could not be closed completely, otherwise we would be stuck. So not only did our door have a hole in it, but also our door was slightly ajar.

Paul did his thing while I stayed in the apartment and then I did my thing in the gym. Everything was fine until I came back inside, leaned my backside against the door and gave it a push with my hands and the rest of my body. Oops. No problem, I thought. We’ll just pull some lever and the clasp will release and all will be fine. No, it really wasn’t that easy.

I figured we would just leave the door and the maintenance man would know how to fix it, but Paul slightly freaked out and kept spouting words like, “if there’s a fire I don’t want to be stuck in here,” so he did not appreciate my lackadaisical attitude or my jokes. With a pair of scissors and some determination fueled by anger directed at me, Paul was able to once again open the door. So there we were, in our apartment with a hole in the ajar door.

Sometime around 4:30 the man reappeared with a similar doorknob. He installed the knob and tested our keys that suddenly did not work. Paul was out so I swapped our old house keys for the new ones. The maintenance man had three keys. He said one was for us, one was for housekeeping and one was for the manager; I took two keys. I thought we were all set, he left, job done.

When Paul came back, he quickly assessed that while I had received new keys for the knob lock, I had given away our old keys for the deadbolt. Oops. Apparently our new keys did not work up top. We were able to get our other key back the next day and continued on living life with two house keys. It’s been done before.

We realized this week that our housekeeper’s key works in the deadbolt lock but not in the new knob lock. I guess the maintenance people did not give her a copy of the new key. Paul and I yesterday made the decision to simply lock the deadbolt any time we require service moving forward. Problem solved.

This morning maintenance came to visit!

Apparently there was something wrong with our lock, but I did not know what that could be. It took several rounds to get him to understand that the bad lock was fixed and that yes, we were living with two keys, but that two keys were not an issue for us. Everything was O.K. He left.

Half an hour later he was back with another guy. I cannot tell you how many times I had a conversation that included these words: “You have two keys – one for this lock and one for this lock.” Yes, I just showed you that. “We are going to take this one out, take it to locksmith and then you have one key for both lock.” Nine times I had that conversation…at least. I’m not kidding.

I just let them do what they wanted to do. Like with most things in PNG – food orders, contracts, bill discussions – no one will ever understand logic or what we consider common sense. It is often easier to surrender.

Did you notice that we have four locks on our door? One knob lock, one deadbolt, one sliding bolt and a chain.

So we sat all day with a hole in our door again. I ran to the back and came back with a sock to stick through the hole and around the door so that I wouldn't again accidentally lock us in. They chuckled and kindly removed the latch. This afternoon, two men came back and replaced our door knob with yet another lock. They were quite pleased that we had one key to open both locks. Funny, both sets of keys – our newer set and the original set – both opened the new lock.

We thought we were good. The knob was in, the locks worked, the keys worked in the locks. Everyone was happy. Problem solved.

Then around 7 p.m. someone came around to check on the door. Paul confirmed that we were still good. I swear, if a maintenance man knocks on our door next week, I am leaving the country.

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