Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blogless Joel: The Night I Woke to Find my Heart Missing.

This week, Dad On The Run, is happy and proud to host a blogger with no blog. He wanders the interwebs in search of a place to host his words, shaking his cup in every direction. When I saw the cup, I looked at the man then I looked back at my own blog, so much space, so many rooms and I had to let him stay the night. That was before he told me this story about unlocked doors and the day he almost lost everything. Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing Blogless Joel. 

A Public Service Announcement: Lock your Hotel Door
by Blogless Joel

She was gone. My 3 year old daughter who was sleeping beside me when I turned out the lights was no longer there. All that remained on the hotel bed was the shiny pink blanket she affectionately referred to as her “pink one”.

I realized that we didn’t lock the door. Panic took hold.

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The loud banging on the door intensified.

Earlier that day we checked into the hotel. We picked the wrong weekend to visit a neighboring city’s zoo. A memorial was being held for victims of a recent drive-by shooting. Authorities feared retaliation. Tension was in the air and armed police officers stood on every corner.

But the day was a success. So much so that my daughter decided that when she grows up she wants to be a zookeeper--displacing previous aspirations to be a movie critic or a jockey. (When I told her to be a jockey she would have to be short and little, her response was, “Daddy, I AM short and little.” Touché.)

By 10pm, the day’s sunshine and ice cream had taken their toll, and my daughter was snoring through Lorax. The room had two individual-sized beds instead of one large family-sized bed, so I laid her on the side of one of the beds and slept beside her. My wife was in the other bed. We went to sleep ill prepared for the wakeup call we would receive several hours later.

The loud banging on the door intensified.

I wondered if I was dreaming.

I did a double take, rescanning and clawing at my daughter’s side of the bed as if frantically looking for a lost remote under the couch cushions. Nothing but her “pink one”.

My chest tightened and I audibly gasped. I shouted my daughter’s name. My wife sprang up immediately in terror.

“She’s gone.”

I had woken to a parent’s worst nightmare. The knocking continued.

“Answer the door!”

Heaving for breath like I’d just run a marathon, I sprang to my feet and grabbed for the door handle.

A hotel worker stood angrily in the doorway. Nearly pushing him out of the way I looked down the long carpeted hallway to my right and saw nothing but an endless corridor of identical doors.

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Glancing quickly to the left I saw my daughter rounding the corner in tears. Saying no words she sprinted into my arms.

“You need to lock your door,” the hotel worker said.

I stared back speechless, still confused at what had happened. In the 2am haze, I didn’t know if I was angry with him or if I wanted to give him a hug. I closed the door and said nothing.

With trembling hands and voices, my wife and I tried to make sense of what had happened. My daughter woke up in the night. Confused about where she was, she stumbled towards the rectangle of light surrounding the doorway. She reached for the handle, pulled it down, slipped through the crack, and she was gone. She could have been gone forever.

She told us she was trying to find the “escalator” (sic, elevator) so she could get to us. The hotel workers later told us she was in the hall for an hour or more. A police officer found her and they began going door to door. My daughter, an otherwise articulate little girl, was too afraid to speak. She couldn’t tell them her parents’ names and she had no idea from which of the identical doors she had come.

Never in a million years would I have thought that she would leave the hotel room. She never leaves her room at home and I wouldn’t have expected her to be tall enough or strong enough to open the door. But she did. And if not for the police officer and the hotel workers, she could have entered the elevator, stepped into the lobby, and into the streets of a major city...

I wrote the hotel a letter the next day, expressing my immense gratitude and apologizing for not thanking them immediately for their actions, which prevented what could have been a traumatic experience.

Parents, when you stay in a hotel with your children, lock the door and lock it tight--not just to keep bad guys out, but to keep the good guys in. 

They tell you to baby proof your house. They tell you to reduce the max temperature on your water heater. No one had told us this.

I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. My heart raced with my mind. My daughter just wanted to cuddle her “pink one” and get back to sleep.

“Daddy you’re holding me really tight.”

“I know.”

Joel was also recently featured at Ask Your Dad Blog, check it out here. 


  1. Getting worried this story wasn't going to have a happy ending. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Thank you Blogless Joel. You are a good man.

  3. So frightening. Glad to hear this story has a happy ending!

  4. Wow - what a traumatic experience! Glad she came back to you! With Maddie McCann still in the news over here (UK) this is a really important post

  5. Yeah, me too when I read it!

  6. It was a great job! Thanks for reading, Justin.

  7. Thank you for stopping by.