Turning Back the Locks

I am a locksmith, and my business is in locks and keys, but my real business is in peace of mind.

There’s only two reasons a locksmith ever leaves their workshop. The first is a thing I call “rescue missions”, which is when, for some reason or another, someone ends up behind, or in front of a lock, which they need to open as soon as possible. In these circumstances, I’m their knight in shining armor, and I’ll hop on the number 26 bus and be there in a jiffy.

Usually, they’re locked out of something, like a house, car, or office. I can pretty much always rely on a steady work flow from car locks alone. I’d say I get one or two people locked out of cars weekly, and thank God for it, because some weeks it’s really where I get my rent money. I’m not saying I want people to get stranded outside their cars in the cold, but it’s true that if they never did, I’d end up locked outside my own apartment – homeless.

Once, I had to help a man who lost his life savings after forgetting the combination to his personal safe. Another time I saved half a dozen starving horses when I had to pick the lock of a horse barn for a woman who dropped her key down the kitchen sink.

It can be an awkward situation at times. Seeing how I can’t ever really know who actually belongs where. Sometimes, such as in the case of the bank safe, and to the dismay and anger of my customers, I have to go as far as bringing in the local authorities, in order to prove that these are the original owners of the lost keys. Such judicial decisions shouldn’t be expected of me – I’m just a locksmith, not a judge.

Believe it or not, once, I actually apprehended some local hooligans who tried getting me to work as an unknowing accomplice for them by cracking the locked door, and security system, of a rather glamorous mansion. They took me for a fool, but I suspected something was amiss. I had called the cops before even arriving, as is my custom, to come and check out the situation. You should have seen those two boys take off running when that cop car showed up. They didn’t get more than two blocks away before that terrifying German shepherd took a big old bite out of one of their behinds. I didn’t envy that young man, but I didn’t feel too bad either, seeing how they had taken me for such a damn fool. The owners of the place, they must have been from some old wealthy family, because they were kind enough to pay me in whole, plus a little extra, for the work I would have done on their house.

Sometimes on these rescue missions, the people are locked inside something. Usually, they’ve left the key outside, or someone had unknowingly taken it with them when they left them behind. Sometimes they’ve still got the key laying around somewhere inside with them, but for the life of them, they can’t remember where they put it. They usually find it right where they had left it in the coming days.

Another time, believe it or not, I had a case where a whole family got locked up inside a house before Sunday church. Apparently, some little rascal, refusing to go to church, had in retaliation gone and locked the main door to their apartment complex and straight up swallowed the key! I hopped on over there and busted that family out just in time for them to make it to communion. I felt bad for that little fella, cause I reckon his behind was mighty sore from getting a whipping that morning, and sorer later that night while trying to pass those damn keys. I’d say that the boy learned a valuable lesson.

Still, another time, I straight up saved a marriage. This groom had locked himself into his sixth-floor apartment on the morning of his own wedding day. By the time I arrived, there was a crowd of people gathered on the street all looking up and shouting, “Don’t jump! Don’t jump!” For this crazy guy had gotten himself into a straight up fit, and in a foolish attempt to escape had thrown a chair right out of his window. I don’t know what his plan was after that, because there was no way in hell he’d survive that fall. I suppose he’d thought he’d try climbing! But thankfully, I, his heroic locksmith, showed up just in time before he probably would have killed himself. I’d say everyone on that street thought I was a hero for the way I stormed in with my handy lockpick, and as they all had said, “talked him off the ledge.”

The groom was so thankful he even invited me to his wedding. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk more champagne in my life, and I had to have eaten a hundred of those tiny crab dip sandwiches. I got my money’s worth from the champagne alone.

The marriage didn’t last too long though, seeing how it turned out the apartment wasn’t his, but his mistresses. She had apparently, in jealousy, locked him in there the night before the wedding. I know this because he had told me to keep the whole story, “Just between the two of us”, he asked me with a wink. I had given him a wink back, but by the time he asked to keep it “just between us”, I’d reckon I had already told the whole story to just about everyone I’d met at the wedding up to that point. Needless to say, I just filled my pockets with crab dip sandwiches and stormed out of there about the time the wife started shouting and throwing plates – which I thought was a real waste of some beautiful china plates.

I’d say if he wanted it kept a secret he should have said so sooner, but I don’t feel too bad, for I’d say that marriage wasn’t going to last long anyhow.

These “rescue” missions are more or less my bread and butter. It’s funny that a big part of my entire trade rests on the stupidity and forgetfulness of mankind. But the other reason I get called out of the workshop is to do what I call “changes,” which is basically when someone wants their locks changed for various reasons.

Now and then someone might lose a key, or maybe a key even gets stolen. In these cases, for a little peace of mind, they call me in to change everything around and give them brand new shiny keys and a fresh start.

It’s actually incredible how much of my entire business is built on people just wanting a little “Peace of mind”. If I’m honest, I think I’d have to confess that I hope the world doesn’t get any safer. In some ways, I’d even go so far as to say I could really go for it getting a little less safe. Now I’m not saying I want people to get hurt or anything, but I mean, a little increase in the number of local home burglaries wouldn’t be so bad. Let’s face it, if no one ever went anywhere they weren’t supposed to be, and no one ever did anything they weren’t supposed to do in the places they weren’t supposed to be, and no one ever took anything they weren’t supposed to take, I’d be right out of a job.

Now, I would never commit a crime personally. I am a God fearing man of strong moral values. I just kind of hope someone else keeps doing the crimes for me. For so long as they do, people will always want locks, and so long as people want locks, I can pay my rent.

Often people just want their locks changed after someone breaks in. It’s their first step towards finding peace – simply changing the locks. I don’t know why. If they got burgled before and the locks didn’t stop them then, new ones probably won’t stop them now. But apparently, having me come in and resecuring the whole place again somehow gives them a false sense of safety.

Truth is, and this is something I’ve come to terms with a long time ago, if someone really wants to break into your house and kill you in the middle of the night, a lock really isn’t going to stop them. But for the sake of my business, I hope that truth never gets out.

Sometimes these lock changing jobs can get a little awkward. You see, people often change their locks when someone previously welcomed inside, is no longer welcomed. But that certain someone, for whatever reason, refuses to give up their share of the rights to the locks. In other words, they don’t want to give up their keys.

Now, I’m just a simple locksmith. I’m not a therapist or a social worker or some kind of counselor. But let me tell you, I have been dragged into some really awkward social situations during these lock changes.

The worst is when the person getting locked out happens to turn up in the middle of my changing the locks. The questioning that follows is often unbearable for me. What am I doing? Why am I here? Why don’t my keys work? Who the hell do you think you are, you old pervert?

I’ve seen all kinds of people getting locked out. Abusive husbands, boyfriends, wives. Crazy drug crazed roommates who didn’t pay their rent for months. Stalker ex-girlfriends and boyfriends.

It’s true that changing the locks is often a person’s first step to finding peace of mind during any kind change. Just kicked out your drunk husband? Change the locks. You found your roommate selling your belongings by the road? Change the locks. Did you find your friend suspiciously smelling your underwear at two AM? You should probably change the locks.

The thing about changing the locks though is how final it is. It’s a pretty big escalation in any feud. It’s one thing to tell someone they aren’t welcome, it’s a whole other thing to actually change the locks – that’s really telling them they aren’t welcomed. At that point they are literally locked out of their house. There is no more definitive way of removing someone from your household.

Honestly, I don’t think people fully comprehend just how big a statement like changing the locks can be.

Which brings me to the third reason I get called out of the workshop, “Changing the locks back.” It’s a rare job for me. In fact, it’s so rare, I’ve only actually been called out for it one time. I still remember getting that phone call. I thought the man was simply asking for your typical run of the mill lock change, but when I arrived, he insisted that the locks be changed back to what they were “before”.

You see, apparently, this man had already had his locks changed years ago. And now, he didn’t just want them changed to any lock, he wanted them changed back to his old locks. Of course, I told him that I didn’t keep old locks just laying around. In fact, there was a good chance his locks were actually in someone else’s home.

I was so curious though about why anyone would ever want their locks turned back. I mean, I can always easily create new keys for him that he could give out to anyone he wants in his house. To which he said, “I don’t know where the person I locked out is.”

So curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask him, “who’d you lock out anyhow?”

He told me, “his daughter” and went on to say that he hadn’t seen her ever since having changed the locks.

Now let me tell you, I’ve never seen a sadder looking man in all my life. And of all my awkward lock changing jobs, this one was by far the worst, because here I was having to tell him that once the locks get changed, you can’t really turn them back. And even if you could, changing the locks is a big statement, it’s like saying “you’re so unwelcomed here that I literally had a man come and paid him to change every lock in the house”. It’s a pretty strong statement.

I told that man all this and he just about broke down. I figured this must have truly been his last ditch effort to turn things back. He had to have known turning the locks back wouldn’t have helped him at all. But like all the work of a locksmith, we sell a certain kind of peace of mind.

Thankfully he still had his old house keys, and it actually wasn’t all that hard for me to build new locks off of those keys and have them installed in his home. So in the end, he did turn back his locks.

A few months ago, I happened to come across that man on the street, his face still recognizable because it’s probably the saddest face ever. So I asked him how things turned out, and if changing the locks had actually helped in any way. But he still hadn’t seen his daughter in years. I never did learn what feud had torn that family apart, but I felt strongly for that old man.

To this day, I never change anyone’s locks without first giving them the caveat, “once they’re changed, you can turn them back, but you can’t really turn them back, if you know what I mean.”

They don’t ever seem to know what I mean, and just tell me to get on with the job. But now, I keep a big crate in the corner of my workshop full of labeled old locks, just in case anyone ever wants to turn them back. If only for a little peace of mind.

5 thoughts on “Turning Back the Locks

  1. Love This! In another life I dreamed of escaping and becoming a locksmith. There is some magic there, neither good nor bad, at the threshold. A locksmith is akin to a roving Hermes, summoned to allow one to pass through without judging why.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment Kim. I really loved this concept of a lock smith constantly finding himself getting all caught up in other peoples lives and drama. Your idea of a roving Hermes is not something I had thought of, but yes, it is perfect.


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