This morning I ran the trash out of our flat and the door locked behind me. I had my key with me, so no problem…or so I thought.

Turns out the deadbolt (lower lock in the photo) somehow managed to slide to the right. A problem, as my key only works the top lock.

I called the landlord. He came over to meet the locksmith while I went to school. When I saw him to pick up the new keys, he told me the locksmith couldn’t get over the deadbolt engaging itself. “This cannot happen!” he kept exclaiming.

Reminded me of another mysterious deadbolt incident I encountered in my travels…

Scene: A beach (the location of which I promised my surfing friend I’d keep secret), Mexico.

I arrived at my accommodations near midnight. I checked in and walked down the quiet corridor to my assigned room and inserted my key. The knob turned, but the door would not open more than a few inches. The security lock—an elongated metal U in lieu of the traditional chain—was engaged. As this usually can be done only by someone on the inside, I assumed there was a guest in the room.

Surfboard under my arm, wheeled suitcase in tow, I went back to the front desk.

“Can you assign me another room? This one seems to have been given to someone else.”

“We are one-hundred-percent occupied,” the front desk clerk said. He was a fireplug of a guy with shoulders that nearly brushed his earlobes. But his gold-rimmed smile was warm. “Besides, that room is empty.”

“But the deadbolt is engaged.” Once before, I’d walked into a hotel room to find someone else sleeping in the bed.

The clerk gave a small frown. “Let’s see.”

We went to the room. The door still wouldn’t open more than a few inches. The security lock was still engaged.

The clerk knocked on the door, called into the room. No response.

“Maybe we should call an ambulance,” I said.

The clerk shook his head. “The room is empty.”

“But it’s locked from the inside. Someone must be in there.”

Taking a few steps back, the clerk collected himself into a runner’s stance, then launched himself at the door in finest linebacker fashion. The lock gave way under the impact of his shoulder and the door flew open.

The clerk stood panting in the middle on the room, rubbing his upper arm. Splinters of wood from the shattered door frame littered the tile floor.

“See?” he said.

I peeked in, half expecting to find a corpse on the bed, or at least a very startled guest aroused from a drunken sleep. But, as promised, the room was empty.

The clerk tucked in his shirt. “Let me know if there will be anything else.”

It took me a moment to collect my wits. “What about the lock—”

But he was already down the hall.