This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Robert Kirby is on vacation. This is a reprint of an earlier column.

A question commonly asked of columnists is where we get our ideas. It's a complicated process that never should be attempted by the novice. It works like this:

At 2:06 a.m. Monday, I awoke with a headache. I got up to take some aspirin. Because it was dark and nobody other than my wife was around, I went into the kitchen in a state of complete undress.

After taking the aspirin, I went downstairs to check the latest Web news on the Iraq election. There might also be other news items worthy of a column, I reasoned.

I searched the Net, read the news and found several promising leads, including a story about some moron who got his head stuck in a storm drain. I made notes.

"Ideas for Thursday: 1. Iraqi election and freedom? 2. Monkey diapers? 3. Groundhog Day and guy in drain?"

Thirty minutes later, my headache was subsiding. I started back to bed. My office doorknob, increasingly recalcitrant of late, chose this moment to fail completely. I was trapped.

Panic. Not only was I al fresco in the dark and freezing basement — where, even at the age of 51, I believe there might be monsters — I also had forgotten my glasses and the cordless phone.

Waking my wife for help was out of the question. Not only would she be mad; in all likelihood, she would leave me here and sell tickets to the neighborhood.

Tearing the office apart failed to produce a single tool capable of easily removing the doorknob. Extracting the screws with a straight pin was the only option, a process so tedious that it would make a clock-tower sniper out of a saint.

I listened to music for solace. Pink Floyd and The Doors mostly, but later some Partridge Family, which I blame on a growing sense of despair.

By 2:59 a.m., the cold had finally became too much. I tried fashioning a pair of pajamas out of Scotch tape and The Tribune. Don't bother.

I searched the office for food. I could survive approximately 48 hours if I ate the four sunflower seeds one at a time, and saved the Rolaid for dessert.

At 3:55 a.m., intrigued by the noise, Bob Valdez stuck his paw under the door. I passed some time coloring his claws with Hi-Liters.

Later, the dogs came and snorted around the edges of the door to see if I would share my rations. It was not a Timmy-and-Lassie moment. Sending them for help was like asking them to do my taxes.

By 4:36 a.m., I considered shooting the doorknob off with a rifle left in the office by Pat Bagley. Unfortunately, the only bullet I could find was bent.

In the event that I didn't survive, I kept a journal: "Should have paid attention in shop class. Found a spider and have named him Rocky Anderson. Somewhere, someone is eating Frosted Flakes."

By 5:22 a.m., one of the screws was out of the knob. The other one came out grudgingly a half-hour later. Near death, I crawled upstairs to bed.

I'll probably do a column on the guy stuck in the storm drain. For some reason, it just seems more topical.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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