© Copyright 2009 - LockedInALocker - Used by permission
Storycodes: Sbm; cage; locks; stuck; true; cons; X
In the winter of 2008, I had a rather hairy experience in a cage I was locked into, and it was ultimately due to a moment of carelessness that I should have known better about.
This reinforced the importance of carefully observing one of the basic rules I believe anyone who engages in any form of self-bondage or -confinement should observe, relating to combination padlocks. I will explain this briefly, and will then relate the incident that happened to me just recently because I didn't pay full attention to this, and thus breached a fundamental rule that should apply to any use of combination locks - especially in solo play.
I'm referring to the type of combination padlock with several (usually 3 or 4) separate dials, where you can choose your own combination - not the type with a single dial which you turn clockwise and anti-clockwise, whose combination cannot be changed with any models I've seen of this type of lock.
My suggestion (and one of my basic rules) is:
Before you lock a combination padlock, make sure that the correct combination is set to what you think it is. This is because you can accidentally change the correct combination when locking or unlocking it, especially if you are fumbling with it in an awkward confined space. Verify that the number you think it is set to actually does open the lock immediately before closing it and twirling the dials to lock it.
This is what happened to me:
In the winter of 2008, I bought one of those lightweight collapsible wire dog crates, for the purpose of locking myself inside it. It is 30 in. long, 19 in. wide, and 22.5 in. high, and I fit in quite easily, but must be in a somewhat loosely curled-up position. I've been gradually collecting a variety of secure containers, and enjoy playing around with them; and I decided it was time to try a dog cage.
After buying it, I got inside briefly to assess how secure it seemed to be. I gently tested it by pressing outwards, and decided that, if I pushed really hard, I would probably be able to force apart the various wire-mesh sections, probably doing quite a bit of damage to it, mainly by unbending bent loops of metal that held things together. To make it more secure, I got about a dozen small keyed padlocks and used them to join together adjacent sections of wire along the edges. After that, it was much more secure, and I thought the cage might now be inescapable, or at least that it would be an immense and long struggle to break out.
Before I describe what happened, I should just say that my main method of making myself helpless in a container is to attach a lamp to a timer and use that to switch it on and off at preset times - when it's off, I cannot read a combination padlock and thus cannot escape. I have to use this method because I don't know anyone who shares this interest, and therefore have no partner to help me. I believe this is probably the best method of locking yourself up and making it truly inescapable, yet enabling eventual release.
A few weeks after I bought the cage is when this happened. That day, I spent a couple of hours locked in a suitcase which was lying on my bed (a bed being the best place to lay a suitcase you're in), and I got out when the lamp came on. I considered whether I wanted to spend further time in my cage. I put some clothing on, because I had been naked in the suitcase, but it was rather cold and being covered would be much better in a cage. I picked up the cage, which was sitting nearby, and placed it on the bed, next to the suitcase which I left standing upright on the bed lengthways, leaning against another suitcase which was standing next to the bed. (The mattress is low down, so the tops of the suitcases weren't very different in height above the floor.)
I still hadn't quite decided whether I wanted to have a session inside or not, but I decided to get in at least briefly and consider whether I felt like staying in. The lamp would be on another 10 minutes or so, so I would have that time to decide before it became irreversible. If I went ahead, I would be in the cage for 2 hours, because that was the duration of the next off-time set on the timer. (It can be set by quarter-hour increments, and I sometimes set extra periods of off-time ahead of time in case I want to continue after my first session ends.)
It was about mid-morning, and semi-dark in the room with the curtain tightly drawn (when the lamp was off), and I wasn't even sure whether the combination lock would be readable or not. If it was, it would be impossible to make myself helpless. (It hadn't been readable inside the suitcase without the lamp on, because only a little light comes into a suitcase in the gap between the zippers.)
The cage has two doors which can be padlocked shut: one in a longer side (30 in.) and one in a shorter side (19 in.). I decided earlier to use the one in the shorter side as my normal entry point, and used keyed padlocks to fasten the other door shut in 4 different locations as well as the dozen or so padlocks spread all over the cage where the edges join. Two padlocks fastened the two door-latches locked and I used the other two to strengthen other weak points at the top and bottom of the door.
I often set the cage on the opposite end from the end door, so this door which I get in by is on top, about 2 1/2 feet high. This is easier for me than leaving the cage in its normal position and getting down low and crawling inside that way. Thus, in this orientation, I am in an upright crouching position. This was the position of the cage on this occasion.
There is a plastic tray in the bottom of the cage which I leave inside because it's more comfortable to lie upon, and when I set the cage on end it is vertical, lying against the side my back is leaning against. If, after locking myself in, I want the cage to be in its normal position, it's easy enough to tip it over while inside, provided there's room on the required side. Then my crouching position is either on my back or face-down. In that situation, I can turn over from front to back, with a bit of awkward scrambling around.
To make the door secure after I get in, I normally use two combination locks, one for each of the two wire latches on the door that you slide shut to lock - but this time I had only one combination lock handy; but I also had a spare keyed lock handy. So I took both these locks, along with the pair of identical keys on a ring for the keyed lock, and got into the cage. It was in the end-on position, so the door was on top.
At some time while I was dressing, arranging the cage, getting the locks and keys I needed, and getting in, the lamp clicked off again.
I would only need one of the pair of keys, and the presence of the other would mean I wasn't really fully locked in at all, because I would still be able to open one of the locks with the spare key; so I removed the key to be used from the ring, and tossed the ring and other key out through the bars of the cage, and it landed somewhere a few inches away - I couldn't see exactly where because of the dim light.
Then I fastened one door-latch shut with the keyed lock, and then (being very careful not to drop the key), I threaded the key through the shackle of the combination lock, then fastened the combination lock on the other latch.
I checked the readability of the combination lock. I might have done this after closing the lock and turning the dials randomly, when it would have been too late to help me anyway; but that was okay, because I had decided to go ahead anyway if the lock was unreadable.
If I could read it easily, I decided I would get out and abandon the session. If I couldn't, then I was committed to spending two hours in the cage anyway.
However, I found that the readability was in that in-between area where you can sort of read the digits, but with great difficulty, and you often confuse 0s, 3s, 5s, 6s, 8s, and 9s, or 1s and 7s. If you are patient, you can in this situation open the lock eventually, but it can take several minutes, or even more than quarter of an hour, because you sometimes have to hold the lock at exactly the right angle in the poor light to get the best possible view, and you sometimes have to change the way you hold the lock even to read one dial after another.
I also noticed that I had been a little careless in fastening the keyed lock, and it was in fact fastened around only the wire on the door, and not the wire of the latch nearby that was also meant to be included. This meant that effectively one latch was not locked after all. The other was fastened by the combination lock: this was sufficient to lock the door, but the loose latch did mean you could bend the door open a bit on the unlocked side, and with great difficulty you might be able to force it open.
But I wanted the door to be properly fastened, so I decided to open the combination padlock, retrieve the key which was threaded through it, open the keyed lock, fasten it properly, then put the key back on the combination lock, and fasten that too. With quite a bit of fumbling around, I managed to do this, and was finally locked in properly. When you're finally locked in, there's almost a sense of relief, especially if locking yourself in has been a bit difficult - at last you have nothing to worry about, because you're securely locked up and there's literally nothing you can do anyway.
I had by this time decided to complete the session, so I wasn't bothered by the possibility of not being able to read the combination before the lamp came on again. I had already found that I could with difficulty; but that might change if clouds increased and the light filtering in dimmed a bit. But I did wonder what would happen if I couldn't read it later on - and especially if the lamp didn't turn on two hours later, for instance because of the globe burning out. It was a fresh globe, so this seemed unlikely - but I checked the combination lock again to see if I could still semi-read it.
With great difficulty, I did read it again - but now I found that, even on the correct combination, it would not open. For the first time, I was starting to feel worried. I thought maybe in the dim light I had still not read it correctly; so I kept checking it again. 4 seems to be the most unmistakeable digit in poor light, with 2 and 7 being next; so often, in setting a dial to open the lock, it's best to go to one of those digits, then count forwards or backwards to the correct one purely by touch.
The dismaying realization set in that, even after doing it this way, the correct combination was no longer correct: in fumbling around a little earlier, I must have accidentally changed the correct combination to a new one by at least one digit.
Usually when this happens, it is only one dial that is changed, usually one of the end ones, which are the easiest to disturb accidentally; and very often it changes by only one or two positions (for example, 3 might change to 2 or 4, or less likely 1 or 5 - but very rarely any more distant). So the best thing to do in that case is to check all permutations which differ from the correct digits by only one or two. This would mean checking a few dozen possible combinations - a rather trying business to keep track of mentally, but usually easier than running through all possible combinations - especially on a 4-digit lock such as I normally use.
It got worse when I found that no combination close by would work, and I realized I must have somehow changed at least one of the dials by more than just one or two places. Being a 4-digit lock, there were 10,000 possible combinations - and it was a good-quality lock that you can't pick open by touch alone. (With some cheap locks, the dials click a bit more noticeably when you have the correct digit and you pull gently on the shackle. A good-quality small combination lock is not as easy to find as you might expect.)
The realization set in that I was very likely to spend the entire day inside the cage, running through up to 10,000 possible combinations - something I had not at all been planning to do. The situation was conceivably even worse still - that something had gone wrong with the lock, and it had jammed somehow inside, and no combination would open it. This is extremely rare, but I think it can very occasionally happen. At least, I do have several locks that I have not been able to open for a few years now, and their action has gone stiffer than usual - maybe sand or grit had got inside it. It would be extremely bad indeed if this had happened now.
I thought I was okay for the time being, as far as going to the toilet was concerned; but I started to contemplate how it might be in 6 hours' time. I thought I'd better start working out possible ways of escaping straight away, even though I didn't need to get out yet.
I tested the sides and top of the cage for escapability, if I was ultimately forced to break out destructively, and it wasn't good: I didn't use my full strength, because, even at this stage, I didn't want to destroy the cage unless I really had to - but I pressed outwards quite hard with hands and feet; and my tests suggested that I would be unable to break out at all, no matter how much strength I exerted.
It was just a portable, collapsible dog crate weighing a few pounds - but was surprisingly strong and secure for that - and I was helplessly contained inside it, very securely locked in; it seemed weird, maybe even a bit humiliating, that such a flimsy portable thing could render me completely helpless so effectively. My feelings were a mixture of anxiety at my situation, and an enjoyment of being so helplessly locked inside a small cage. (My anxiety was only moderate at this point, and I realized the enjoyment would vanish if it got too much worse.)
I still thought most of the combination digits would still be the same as, or similar to, the original ones, and I might not have to permutate through all 10,000 combinations. But the light was so poor that reading the digits was very slow and difficult - maybe permutating all 10,000 combinations by touch alone (a technique which is at best slow and tiresome, but at which I am quite adept now) would be no slower than laboriously reading and setting combinations that are close.
The cage was still on its end, and I was curled up in a ball, with the door on top. By leaning back and rocking the cage, I would be able to tip it over backwards onto its floor, with me lying on my back. There was enough room in the cage that I could turn onto my back or front, so whether I was on my back or front once tipped over didn't matter.
If I tipped the cage over backwards, it would bring me a couple of feet closer to the curtains, and maybe a small gap in the curtains at the bottom would give me more light. But, on the other hand, there were things on the floor directly in front of the curtains, and I might get less light - I just didn't know. And if I tipped the cage over, it might be very difficult to tip it back to its original position, because the cage with me in it would have its centre of gravity lower down once tipped over. So I thought that I would do best to regard tipping over as an irreversible move, only to be done when I had exhausted any possibility of escape in my present position.
Well, there didn't seem to be much I could do - so I eventually decided to tip the cage over. I had done this before, so I knew it was easy enough to do. The bounciness of the mattress underneath made this easier, and it may not have been possible on a hard floor.
Tipped over, the door and my head were both facing the curtain and the sliver of light, and I was lying on my back.
The light was much better now, thanks to the gap in the curtains at the very bottom, and the cage-door and my head were facing it, and I could easily see that I had reached my supposedly correct combination and found it to be wrong now. I did a bit more permutating of nearby combinations, to no avail. I seemed helplessly locked up, and just couldn't do a thing about it, and I was getting more worried. I live alone, and no-one was within hearing for calling for help - but I would try for many hours to escape on my own before submitting to the embarrassment of having to be rescued. Anyway, that was not a choice, because no neighbours would hear me, and nor would anyone in the street.
Another idea occurred to me. I remembered that all the keys for the keyed padlocks were a couple of feet away, on top of the more distant suitcase (the one beside my bed, not on it). They were all threaded onto a nylon line to keep them together - dozens of small and medium-sized keys. I wasn't interested in opening the locks fastening the cage edges to each other, because those edges were already fastened anyway and the padlocks merely strengthened them; but I was very interested in opening the four padlocks on the other door I hadn't entered by - I thought this was now my only hope.
I contemplated how I might be able to reach those keys, tantalizingly out of reach by a couple of feet. But I could not slip my hand out between the vertical bars of the cage more than a couple of inches, since the vertical bars were only an inch or so apart - so a couple of feet away might as well have been a hundred feet. There are horizontal bars welded to the vertical bars, and these were a few inches apart; so there seemed no possibility of forcing the vertical bars further apart. Also, I would have to tip the cage back to its initial position to even get a chance at reaching the keys, and I was far from sure I could do that.
Then I remembered the spare key I'd tossed out through the cage bars. It may be out of reach, but it may also be within reach; and if it was a little out of reach, I might be able to rock back and forth and bounce the cage to change its position so that it came within reach. I thought it was a slim hope, because I couldn't see the key, and didn't know where it was, and it might well be buried amongst folds in the bedclothes. But I had to try - I couldn't think of any other way of escaping. If I could find it, and use it to open even just one latch on the door, I might be able to force an arm out, slightly bending one side of the door outwards, and might then be able to reach the other keys.
But again, to do this, I would need to tip the cage back upright again, so the door was once again on top - in my prone position, I could do nothing but laboriously spend hours running through all the combinations on the troublesome combination lock - a painful ordeal I dreaded. Tipping the cage back up again was necessary before any other options became available to me. Maybe tipping the cage down in the first place hadn't been such a bright idea after all - but it was now done.
I decided to try tipping the cage up again straight away, because I knew this would not be an irreversible move - I already knew I could tip the cage into the lower position if I needed to.
I quickly found I couldn't do this. I tried it both crouching on my back face upwards, and face downwards, and I didn't even come close to doing it - I just couldn't hurl myself far enough or quick enough to tip the cage back, just couldn't get enough leverage. But I thought it might be easier to tip it up again if I could turn around so that my feet were towards the door. I knew that turning around so my head was facing the other end of the cage would be more difficult than just turning over from my back to my front; but I thought there was enough spare room to do it. I immediately started trying to do this, and managed it with considerable difficulty and squeezing of various parts of myself.
Now I felt I had a better chance of tipping the cage back up, and I cautiously tried a few experimental heaves, rocking back and forth once or twice and suddenly hurling my weight forwards - and the cage reared up gratifyingly by 30 or 40 degrees in the right direction before falling down again. If I exerted full strength, I began to feel I could do it. This would mean that I would be literally upside down if I succeeded in tipping the cage back up - but, having just succeeded in turning around head and feet minutes earlier, I knew I could do it again and turn from upside down to right way up, ending up in the position I'd been in originally.
I hurled myself forwards with all my strength, and managed, in a head-spinning moment of giddiness, to tip the cage completely up again, back to its original position. The door was on top again; but I was crouching upside down, feet upwards and head against the bottom of the cage, and using my hands to steady myself in this unstable position. I wouldn't like to spend too many minutes like this; but I immediately set about wriggling upright again, and managed it within a minute or two. The light was dim again, but that didn't really matter, since my principal strategy was no longer to fiddle endlessly with the troublesome padlock.
I couldn't see the key I'd tossed out carelessly, so I was still in some trouble: without that key, I couldn't do a thing.
Except... another idea occurred to me. I recalled that the floor of the cage (now behind my back and behind the plastic tray I leaned against) had far larger holes in it than the walls and top of the cage. If only the plastic tray weren't there, there was a possibility I might be able to turn around and squeeze an arm out one of those holes, and turn it leftwards to reach the keys - I might be able to reach them if I tipped the cage hard sideways to lean against the nearer suitcase, which was close by on my right.
But that tray was in the way - I couldn't do this if I couldn't do something about that. I thought that, if I squeezed myself hard into the opposite side of the cage, I might be able to move the tray around so that it was against the adjacent side of the cage - if that side was long enough to take its width. I didn't recall if it was, but I had to try. If the adjacent side wasn't long enough, then I might not be able to move the tray aside sufficiently to gain access to the large holes.
I turned around 180 degrees (quite easy to do) so that I was facing the tray, squeezed myself hard against the opposite cage wall, and tried to ease the tray rightwards. It took a few minutes; but I managed it: the tray was now out of the way, and I was facing the lattice of large holes unimpeded.
I was able to insert my right arm into one of these holes and reach leftwards - but I just couldn't reach the keys - they were still a foot or so away, even if I tried to lean the cage hard against the nearer suitcase. I tried various holes along the left edge, but none enabled me to reach far enough - not even nearly. My left arm would have been no good, because I would have been able to turn that only rightwards - exactly the wrong way. Regretfully, I had to abandon that idea; so I moved the tray back to its original position, and turned around again so my back leaned against it once more, and tried to think what to do next.
My only hope, I was gloomily thinking, was to find that key I'd tossed out - otherwise, I seemed to be locked up totally helplessly, and for good.
I squeezed my fingers out through the bars at the base of the cage in various likely places, trying to feel for the key, which I hoped was only an inch or two away. I couldn't find it; but then I decided to bounce the cage up and down gently to shift its position slightly, which might enable me either to see the key or feel for it in slightly new positions.
My first bit of luck happened after a little time of doing this, and I found the key and drew it inside the cage. Handling it as if it were delicate china, in my anxiety not to drop it, I inserted it into the lock and with relief opened it. That released one of the latches on the door, although the other one was still tightly locked by the troublesome combination lock. But now it was possible I would be able to push open the unlocked side of the door a few inches and squeeze my right arm out. It remained to be seen whether I could reach far enough to get the keys, but I thought I probably could - the position was more favourable than the large holes behind the tray which I'd tried earlier.
First of all, I had to turn round yet again to face the tray. It wasn't easy to squeeze my arm out: the other part of the door was still tightly locked in place, and it hurt quite a bit to force my arm out. But I inserted it as far as possible, at the same time leaning to the left so the cage tilted slightly, so that it rested hard against the nearer suitcase. And I was able to reach over that suitcase to the one beyond, where the keys were lying, threaded on their cord.
I felt around and grabbed what felt like a thread with keys on it. My outer garment was my pyjamas, which I had worn because I thought they would be more comfortable in the cage and enough to keep me warm; and my pyjama sleeve caught on the latch when I tried to draw it in. I tried to disentangle it, but couldn't seem to. Finally when it seemed to come free, I realized I'd torn an L-shaped hole in the sleeve near my elbow, a few inches long. Well, they are old pyjamas, so it didn't matter a lot - certainly less than escaping from that cage did.
I got a bit of a shock when I realized they were the wrong keys. There were in fact two bunches of keys on that further suitcase: the majority of keys belonging to the locks on the cage (and many other keys to other locks), and a separate one with a few keys I couldn't find the locks for - and it was this latter bunch I'd drawn back into the cage. I'd have to try again for the right keys.
This time I thought to pull my sleeves back all the way to the top of my arms, and I reached out again with a bare arm. Groping around (I couldn't quite see what I was doing), I managed to find the other keys, and drew them in. My arm was hurting because of the metal pressing tightly on it, and after it was inside again, I saw in the dim light what appeared to be a scratch several inches long on my forearm. Apparently the arm fit into the opening so tightly that I had gashed it on the metal, either going out or coming back in - I didn't know. Blow this, I thought - the last thing I needed was an injury that would spread blood everywhere as I struggled to escape from that cage. But after a few seconds it became apparent that it wasn't bleeding, but had just gone red because I'd only partially broken the skin.
There were dozens of keys on that thread, and I had to find the four keys that would open the four locks on the side door (which was directly against the suitcase). I knew this would take ages of fumbling around in the semi-dark; but I just had to set about it. At least I knew escape was really within reach now, and I was not particularly worried now - just a bit frustrated at all the fiddling around that still lay ahead. Strategically, my escape was nearly complete; but in terms of time maybe only half over.
First of all, I decided to turn round again so my back was once more leaning against the tray.
Most of those locks could be rotated around the bars they were on so that they pointed inwards; but one slightly larger lock faced outwards and couldn't be turned inwards because of its size and because of the fact that nearby bars prevented me from rotating it fully, and I was a bit worried about that. I realized that I would have to hold the key (once I found it) with the ends of my fingers, poke those outside the bars, and try to manipulate the key into the lock in that very awkward position.
I put that aside and decided to focus on the other three locks first. It was very hard fiddling with small keys on their thread, partly because the weight of the other keys tended to pull the key I was holding out of position. And it was still rather dark, and thus difficult to see in detail what I was doing. I untied the knots holding all the keys on the thread so I could remove them individually - being very careful, because I must not drop any keys in case they were the ones I needed. If they dropped, they might fall to the bottom of the cage resting on the bed, and might still be within reach - but they could possibly bounce out of reach. I had to do it, though, and just acted very slowly and carefully. I did drop a few, even so, but was able to retrieve them by moving my legs out of the way.
I tried each key in turn in each lock, and dropped it into my pyjama top pocket once I'd eliminated it. (Handling so many small keys efficiently in the dark and ensuring I lost none proved to be quite an awkward operation.) One by one I found the keys for the three easier locks; I didn't quite have to try all keys in all locks, because the locks were of different sizes and so were the keys, so that gave me clues about what keys were most likely.
One lock defeated me for a while, because I assumed from its appearance that it was a Lockwood lock, and I tried only Lockwood keys in it. When this repeatedly failed to open it, I decided to try others, and another key worked. Pulling the lock in, I looked at it closely in the half-light and saw that it wasn't a Lockwood lock at all, but another brand that was the same in size.
Now my final barrier to freedom was that one lock which I couldn't turn to face inwards. Conceivably I might have been able to force the door open with one latch still locked; but it is an incredibly strong little cage, so I wasn't sure of being able to do this; and, even at this stage, I still wanted to avoid destroying the cage if possible. I knew that some hours later (if I hadn't escaped) I might not care about that any more - but I hadn't reached that stage yet.
So I set about the difficult task of getting that last lock open. I realized that the main hazard in poking keys out through the bars and trying to insert them into the lock was that I might drop the key - and, already being outside the cage, a key was especially likely in that case to bounce out of reach. To prevent this, for each key I tried, I tied it loosely to the end of the thread the keys had been on, which was a nylon fishing line superglued to a thicker line. If it dropped, it would then be easy to pull it back in again. Then I would try it in the lock, and this took several minutes because it was almost impossible working through the bars to point the key at the keyhole, and adjust it to exactly the right angle to insert it. The poor light made it even more difficult still. And after trying each key I had to try it again turned through 180 degrees, in case I had just been trying to put the right key in the wrong way. But after I eliminated each key, I untied it from the thread, and tied the next key on, and went on doggedly - there was nothing else to do.
It was tiresome and time-consuming; but I dared not take even the smallest risk of losing a key in a moment of clumsiness. And I did sometimes drop keys; so this was a wise precaution to take. The worst thing would be to panic and take short-cuts, and possibly destroy my only hope of escape.
I focused on keys that seemed likely to fit the lock. And finally, to my great relief, I finally managed to shakily insert a key into the lock, and was able to actually turn it those few degrees needed to open it. Just before I managed this, the light clicked on again, showing that all these escape attempts had taken two hours.
I opened the door a little, until it came up against the nearer suitcase; but this was enough to enable me to extend an arm out enough to push the suitcase backwards along the bed, to my right, and I was able to open the door fully and wriggle out. What a relief!
I didn't feel this would put me off getting into cages, lockers, or suitcases; but I'd certainly had more than enough of them for the time being; and I resolved to be more careful in future, and always check a combination padlock's combination immediately before closing it. I do that usually anyway - but just neglected to that one time.
The troublesome padlock is still on the cage, months later, and the end door still locked; and I will some time have to spend maybe an hour or two trying different combinations to get it open. It points inwards, and can't be rotated outwards; so, ironically, the only comfortable position for me to work on the padlock will be to sit inside the cage and manipulate it from there. Well, some time when I have the time to spare and nothing more pressing to do....
It is one of the more anxious times I've had in a container, but not quite the only one: I have had a few in suitcases and lockers, though, so it's not entirely new. It's very rare, though, since I'm very careful, and know most of the things that are likely to go wrong, and know what precautions can prevent them happening. But this kind of mishap is certainly a hazard of this hobby.
However, most such incidents can be avoided by careful planning and rigid adherence to a few basic rules and precautions - such as always checking the combination on a lock immediately before closing it to ensure it is still on the number you think it is.
Other rules include things like:
* Go to the toilet immediately before getting into a container, even if you intend only a short session: by the time I got out of my cage, I wasn't urgent, but quite ready to go. (I went before getting into the suitcase 4 hours earlier, but didn't go in between the suitcase and the cage. Maybe I should have.)
* Before getting into a container, be sure you can if necessary endure several more hours than you've planned for. If you think you can't, then don't go ahead. Things can go wrong, as I found out drastically on that occasion. Usually you can put them right again with careful thought and action and not panicking; but it can take a long time, and you must allow for this possibility.
* If you rely on a timer-controlled lamp to govern opening a combination padlock, do it in a place where daylight will release you if the timer or lamp fails.
* Use an analogue timer, not a digital one: after a power failure, an analogue timer will continue from where it left off once the power returns; a digital one may not, unless it has an internal battery to keep it going.
* Especially with luggage (suitcases, duffel bags, sports bags, mail-bags, etc.) don't lock yourself in if you think the day is warm enough that heat will build up; you get to know this from experience. This could be deadly in a suitcase if you were forced to stay in for hours. (Lack of air, though, is not a problem at all with most soft-sided suitcases.)
* With cages in winter the opposite problem prevails: getting cold. Rugging up well and having a hot bath beforehand can help with this. (Lockers are in between cages and luggage on the hot-cold scale. On a cold winter night a day or so ago, I got quite hot curled up in a two-tier locker over 90 minutes, and started sweating, despite being naked. This may not have happened if I hadn't had a hot bath shortly before.)
* If things do go badly wrong and you get trapped, assess quickly whether you can break out and whether you are willing to do a lot of immediate damage to the container you are in, rather than try to get out less destructively and more slowly. If you can see that breaking out is not possible, avoid panicking, and focus on thinking your way out rather than breaking your way out: you are at the mercy of equipment that is stronger than you and doesn't care whether you get out or not. It has the advantage of strength over you; your advantage over it is your ability to think. So take your time and think before every move you take, no matter how small or insignificant it seems - especially if it cannot be reversed. In my cage escape just described, if I had panicked and struggled, it is almost certain that I would have done something wrong somewhere along the line that would have made impossible the complicated series of actions by which I finally effected my escape.
A few days later, I decided to write a detailed account of this while it was still fresh in my mind, since I thought it may be of interest or benefit to others who follow similar pastimes.
And the lesson to be drawn from this is obvious. People more conservative than myself may well think the important lesson is not this or that precaution, but not to do self-confinement at all. I know I will keep doing it, though, because I often crave it and have no-one to lock me in places.