Me Against the World, and by World, I Mean Doorknobs

meLike many a fresh-off-the-press graduate, I just have undergone that daunting, tedious, soul-numbing process of apartment hunting. I’ve gotten my degree, more or less grown up, and now it’s time to move on. And by moving on, I mean that I need to stop living on campus. Like every savvy domicile seeker, I created a master checklist: rent, location, utilities, etc. The one crucial element I overlooked however, was doorknobs.

You see, my condition, Epidermolysis Bullosa, among other things, causes recurrent scarring. This scarring has done a number on my hands over the years, eventually causing my fingers to fuse together in permanent fists. Dextral deficiency has just always been something I have always had to compensate for. Ho Hum, I shall never be a seamstress. Or a flautist. But I digress. My lack of nimble fingers or grip has generated over time a running list of arch-nemeses, not the least of which is doorknobs.

I was therefore dismayed to find that my oh-so perfect new sublet, with its exposed brick and sprawling square footage, in actuality held me hostage due to cursed tightly fitted knobs on every door.

Fortunately, the fix was simple enough, only requiring a trip to home depot for lever handles and a call (or two) to maintenance to have them installed. The pad is perfect, and I am no longer trapped in my own home.

However, navigating a world that was not made for you isn’t always that simple, and knobs and I have had more disastrous run-ins, requiring swift decision making and ingenuity on my part. Not every place is my apartment where I can adapt accordingly. And knobs are everywhere, I tell you. Everywhere.

Take that time my father, brother, and I had a go at DC’s restaurant week. The old, established steak house we decided on was rife with DC politicos of all sorts, and the décor set the perfect ambiance for such a crowd, with dark wood panels, crisp linens, and bow-tied staff. Just as the evening was winding down, a trip to the ladies room turned into my own Mission Impossible, with all the stakes and no stunt double to bale me out.

The stalls all had baccarat crystal knobs. They were quite fetching, so at first my preoccupied mind failed to notice how they could become a serious issue. I walked into the stall without really giving it a test to see if I could turn it before I let the door latch behind me. This was a heinously problematic oversight when I tried to leave and had no way to get out. I was alone. I could have just waited for some Good Samaritan to open the door if I called for help. Pride put that in the “absolutely not” category. I didn’t have my phone to call the people I’d come with, and even if I did, the circumstance of my entrapment would have had to make for a slightly awkward encounter with the ladies room for my dad or brother. The glint of the crystal mocked me, and if doorknobs could point and laugh, this one would have. Pushing the panic down from creeping into my throat, I noticed the gap between the bottom of the stall doorframe and the floor. The only way out was down, and so I got on my stomach and shimmed my way under. It was relatively smooth sailing until the belt on my sweater dress got stuck and I was flopping and wriggling like a freshly gutted sea bass sprawled on the floor half-in, half-out with my skirt hiked around my waist. Eventually, I freed myself, brushed off the dirt and God knows what else, and fixed my dress before anyone else came in. I mean, seriously, could you imagine what someone would have done if they walked in and saw me? Like really, picture it for a sec. …Yeah.

I made it back to the table no worse for the wear (except, maybe, ego) and I did get a damn good story out of it. But the point is, every day I am reminded the world was not made for me, and I was not made for it. Every stuck door, or stubborn knob is a reminder of my inability to navigate my space. It also takes the phrase “with one hand tied behind my back” to a kind of personal level for me. Is it frustrating? Absolutely. But its forced me to work with what I have to make my daily life function. I see the world and my place in it from a very unique lens, and forced certain creativity and need to think two steps ahead. As I enter grownup land and figure all this out, there is always going to be a doorknob and I am always going to have to figure out a way to sneak around (or under) it.


17 thoughts on “Me Against the World, and by World, I Mean Doorknobs

  1. You’re a fabulous writer and storyteller, Megan. I’m the Communications Director for, and I’ll be in touch about guest blogger for our blog, Disability.Blog. Can’t wait to read your next post.



  2. Forgive me if I misunderstood the way those bathrooms worked, but by escaping the stall from under the door, haven’t you left a locked from the inside stall empty in the bathroom?
    I am sure they were able to open eventually, but they must have wondered how the heck that happened.

  3. […feels suddenly compelled to design a portable knob-turning device you could carry with you, similar to those grippy things people use to open jars. Actually, would one of those work?]

  4. I love the way you write Megan! And I have to say it’s great to hear the experiences of other disabled students from Duke even if our experiences were very different. It’s nice to feel one wasn’t alone after all. Keep up the great blog!

  5. Doorknobs are huge for us, too. When we built our first house, we installed level handles everywhere. Our second house, we decided it was in the cards because the doors were all lever handles. And in the 3rd one, we spent over $2000 replacing doorknobs with handles. Why? Because it’s an actual fire hazard that we have 3 young children with ichthyosis (similar to EB, but less severe) that cannot manipulate doorknobs.

  6. Hi Megan, it’s nice to meet you. I have a gadget in my kitchen drawer that might help with doorknobs. Imagine a huge hairpin with the rounded end lined with soft rubber. It’s intended to be used to open jar lids and it’s pretty good for that but it occurs that it might work on many round door knobs too, and doesn’t require a lot of dexterity to use. I don’t know if they will ship to where you are, but you can find them here.

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