An after school learning forum at a neighbouring school meant an encounter with an unfamiliar building and corridors. Modern schools tend to be built in a very uniform way and it was only upon passing double doors for the second time that I realised I was going in the wrong direction and turned around to pass for a second time the principal, who stood engaged in conversation with another teacher. He looked mystified at the stranger wandering around the building
Leaving after the meeting, the uniform doors and decor offered too many choices. Another teacher thought that the door to the right offered a way to the exit. Deciding to retrace my steps, I chose the door to the left.
Two minutes later, I was standing at glass doors staring out at the other teacher. “Press to open” was in large white letters on both handles, but the doors would not budge. For a moment, I feared I had been cast in a particularly nasty French short film from the 1970s about a man in a telephone box. Perhaps it was subtitled in English, probably not, there was no dialogue important to the plot.
The man stepped into one of the phone boxes that were new at the time – hexagonal, six glass panel walls were held in place by uprights that stretched from a steel floor to a steel ceiling; the telephone was mounted on the wall opposite the panel that opened as the door. He made a telephone call and the horror of the film began. As he turned to leave, he found the door was stuck fast and that he could not get out. He tried to phone for help, but found the telephone no longer worked. The man was in despair and was delighted when it appeared rescuers had arrived. However, they did nothing to release him, instead they used a crane to lift the box, with the man still trapped inside, onto the back of a lorry. The lorry transported the phone box to a warehouse filled with phone boxes and it was unloaded. The man stared out at the phone boxes all around him, each with a corpse or skeleton inside, and realized the horrible fate that awaited him. Perhaps it was one of those films that connected with primeval fears, it abides deep in the sub-conscious, memories of it came back this afternoon.
I gave the door handle a harder push, and it opened. “I thought I was trapped in a French horror film,” I said to the other teacher, who stood talking to a colleague. The teacher looked even more mystified than had the principal an hour previously.