How to Manage When Life Screws You Over

(Me staring at a giant octopus in Dotonbori Osaka)

Being trapped inside my Airbnb apartment for six hours in a foreign country and thinking that my friends could potentially in trouble was the scariest experience ever.

It was the second day of my Osaka trip. After visiting the Osaka Castle and Hep Five Ferris Wheel, then took a nap, the rest of group wanted to go out and explore some more. I was more hesitant because the weather report said that there was a 56 percent chance of raining. We negotiated. I decided to stay, and they said they will come back to pick me up for dinner.

4:00 pm: My friends left the place. Our Airbnb apartment was pretty small. It had a T.V that has approximately seven Japanese channel (with no English subtitles apparently), and my friends also took the pocket WiFi, our only source of internet connection, to navigate their way around the city. No T.V and no internet, I was off to a pretty good start.

6:00 pm: I kept myself entertained for the past two hours. I read my book, danced around the room because no one was there, and actually tried to watch the Japanese T.V that had no English subtitles.

My friends’ plan was to explore the anime district in Nipponbashi, which was only one subway station away from where we stayed. I figured it probably it takes around two to three hours for them roam around and then come back.

6:08 pm: Boredom kicked in.

7:00 pm: They were still not back. Something clearly went wrong. Either my friend John, by his curious nature, decided to take a little extra time checking out the anime district, or the crew might have run into some kind of trouble. Personally, I thought it was the first scenario. I also ended up eating my other friend Jame’s leftover curry rice, the only thing I found in the fridge.

8:00 pm: The boredom was driving me crazy. I wanted to get out of my house, but there were two problems. The Airbnb only provided us with one key, and my friends took it. There was also the password for the lobby gate that James had on a piece of paper, but my friends took that too. F*ck.

8:20 pm: I found a show on T.V that featured Athletic Japanese women going through obstacle courses. Yes! Something you don’t need to know the foreign language to watch!

9:00 pm: It has been five hours since I been stuck in the Airbnb. Some serious shit could have happened. Before my friends left, I made an offhand joke and said, “If you guys don’t come back by 10 pm, I will assume you guys ran into some serious trouble and will call the police.” It is only one more hour before 10 pm. I was really nervous, but I knew I needed the plan to help me cope with the situation.

Here was the plan. In worst case scenario, I will have to go to the police station, which was 20 minutes walk away from our place. There was still the problem with our apartment door and the lobby gate. How am I going to come back?

Our apartment door does not automatically lock itself after closing. You have to use your keys to manually lock it from the outside. On the other hand, Japan is one of the safest places in the world. If I were to leave my apartment door unlocked, chances that one of the neighbors breaking into our apartment is pretty low. As for the lobby gate, I plan to go outside of the building and wait for a resident that could potentially give me the password. However, I have to go out eat an actual meal first because the leftover curry was not enough.

There was also a chance that nothing really happened to my friends, and they might come back to the place while I go out to eat. To deal with that scenario, I wrote a letter and left it at the counter of our kitchen table. Aside from many curse words, the letter states that I will be eating outside and told them to send one person to wait for me in front of the building at 11 pm (Just in case I don’t run into any residents later).

10:00 pm: I left the house and saw a small group of Chinese tourists trying to get in the building. The right thing to do would have been to go up to them and ask for help. However, I was already pretty far away from the building when I saw them. It would require me to run all the way back and yell after them to stop before they went in the lobby. I didn’t. My fear got the better of me.

10:15 pm: I went into what I hoped was a ramen shop located right around the corner. It wasn’t a ramen shop. The noodles and the broth were served separately, and you were supposed to dip the noodle into the salty broth to eat it. It tasted alright, but it was no ramen.

It was interesting how they had two cameras set right outside the shop, which you can view on the big screens inside the shop. The two cameras were directed at the intersection where the subway station exit is located, and my friends will probably go pass there on their way home. I stared at the screen the entire time while I ate my noodles.

10:45 pm: I went back to wait outside the Airbnb building.

11:00 pm: Couple of people passed by. None of them were residents of the building. It was getting a little lonely at night.

11:05 pm: A black car pulled over. An elderly Japanese man came out followed by a younger Southeast Asian lady. They tenderly kissed each other and said their good nights.

I was sitting 20 feet away from them when it happened. They probably knew I saw them.

The old man departed in the black car, and the lady walked towards the Airbnb building. Ohhh she lives here too, I thought, this is probably the most awkward moment to ask someone for help.

I went up to her anyway and explained my situation. Thankfully, she was a really cool person and also speaks English. After hearing my situation, she decided to help me out.

11:10 pm: Got to the floor I lived on and saw my friends just getting out the apartment in order to look for me. Those f*ckers!

At least they saw the letter.

11:15 pm: They told me they got lost coming back when they had three people and a pocket WiFi. Unbelievable! They did, however, apologize profusely, and I forgave them.

Life is unfair. Therefore, it makes sense that life would find ways to screw us over from time to time. Through this experience, I felt like I gotten better at handling the problems life throws at me. When you realize that panicking doesn’t help anybody, you can be calm and develop strategic plans to cope with tough situations.


If you enjoyed reading this, I also write more here on a Quora.