Hack: Unlocking A Locked-From-Inside Hotel Door

I was staying at a DC hotel, right near the airport. I went downstairs for coffee at around 6:30am, figuring that I would have plenty of time to pack, and get a cab for an 8:45am flight. No coffee, so I went back to the room, still half awake.

When I got back, I tried to open the door. The lock opend, but the safety lock – the hinged gizmo that you are supposed to close when you are in the room for added security – had somehow managed to close. As a result, I could only open the door a few inches, and certainly could not reach in to dislodge it. The safety lock was attached to the door frame on one side, articulated with a bar attached to the door itself, and could only be pulled away from the door when the door was completely closed.

I went down to the lobby, but the folks working there had no solution for me. This had never happened before, they said.

An engineer went back to the room, and we tried entering from an adjoining room. No go. I had locked that door the night before. I did notice a robe hanging in the closet of that room, and I had an idea. I took the robe’s belt, and asked the engineer to get me a broom or a mop.

I tied a loop in the belt at one end, and the other end I tied to the top of the mop handle. I reached into the tiny gap at my door, and got the loop of the belt around the slightly protruding end of the safety lock. I placed the bottom of the mop just inside the door, and I tipped the mop handle into the room, giving it a gentle shove. As soon as it swung past the door, I closed the door. My plan was that the mop would fall to the side, pulling open the safety lock.

I passed the key card through the lock, and open ed the door to find… yes, it worked. The safety lock had been tugged to the side, and the door was now free to be opened.

The engineer looked at me in amazement, and I said, “You should write that down, in case this every happens again.”

And I managed that little IQ test without the help of coffee.

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