It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post but I was recently reminded of a story from a couple years ago. My friend Nick paid me a visit and told me about the time he and James went exploring in our high school after hours.
They were out for a late night bike cruise when they decided to go see if they could get on top of our high school, to take some pictures. After leaving the bikes at the back of the school, a quick fence climb and small jump seemed to be all it took to get onto the lower rooftop.
They climbed the various ladders and pathways to get to the side of the school that overlooked the downtown Barrie night scape. They stood on the edge of the rooftop and watched the cars drive by. They looked down at all the parking lots to see that they were empty before exploring the rest of the rooftops. For a seemingly simple layout of hallways on the inside —a double-decker square with a courtyard in the middle — the rooftops were multileveled and complex.
At one corner of the school, there was a railing wrapped around a large trapdoor. And because the roof was mostly unexciting in itself, this door warranted further investigation. It was a thick slab of metal with a slender handle to one side. There was a limb of the handle made to hold a padlock but the slot was empty. Now that was interesting. Very promising for Nick and James. At first it seemed it didn’t have a padlock because the handle was so stiff to move anyways. The boys wondered if it had been welded shut, but a couple hard pulls and kicks turned this night from a bird’s eye photoshoot of downtown, to a real crouch in the dark adventure.
The two boys stood above the ladder that descended between them into the pitch-black beneath. Nick held the flashlight and James went down first. Once they were both at the bottom it was very tight with vents and perhaps a water heater. They had to duck and move things out of the way before finding the wall and the light switch in the cramped storage closet. A door was next. Unlocked, they both knew, as they were on the inside. But it seemed very possible that there were nighttime custodial staff roaming the halls. “Just a crack first” James reassured Nick. They peered out to see the familiar math hall, lit only by glowing exit signs and one ceiling light at the far end. With necessary hesitation, the boys moved into the hallway and looked around. More fluorescent ceiling bulbs lit up the perpendicular hallways but they too were empty. The two decided to go downstairs. They came upon a set of doors that led to the most popular cross-road at the school but it was very bright and discouraged their movement. “I want to get a picture of the office” James said. So they went the other way and found themselves at another set of doors. Through the windows they could see the lobby of the school, front offices included, well lit but vacant. “I’m staying here” said Nick. “I’m just getting one picture” said James. So he cracked the door open, scurried along, pulled out his phone, snapped one picture of the “Main Office” at 12:37am. At the exact same moment he captured the photo: BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP a quick repeating alarm started its warning. James pocketed his phone and was back at the door in a flash, only to see Nick already mounting the stairs at the other end of the hall. Nick was leaving a man behind.
Up a flight of stairs, into the storage closet, squeeze behind the vents, hurry up the ladder, slam down the hatch, yank the handle closed, jump to the lower roof, slide down one more ladder, jump to the fence, scale back down it, bolt to the road bikes, and ride out like nothing happened. Nick figured from “BEEP” to street, their escape took less than 100 seconds. They lingered out of range to see if any police came in the coming minutes, but none did.
Because they didn’t get caught, it wasn’t a crime, it was just a hell-of-a-way to start a summer.
B.F. Greeno, aka,
The Summer Sleuth