Few conversations have been more interesting – in an anxiety-inducing way – than the one I had with the locksmith who worked on my bedroom door one afternoon. I had unintentionally locked myself out of the room, and when I realized that the key was inside the room, I asked my mom for the spare. For some reason, there wasn’t any in the bunch of carefully labeled keys we perused. Okay, no problem – one can find everything on the Internet, I told myself. All I had to do was look for a video on You Tube on how to pick a lock (thank God my laptop was in the living room).
Little did I know that they only make it look easy in movies – just a few seconds of tinkering with two little tools on that knob then the door magically opens. The burglar is in business! At least that’s how it always is in cop shows and suspense flicks I’ve seen. Why couldn’t I do it? I even tried using an old credit card, sliding it up and down the narrow opening while testing the knob if it yielded to my cajoling.
When nothing worked, I decided I would have to get a locksmith. It happened to be a Sunday, so looking for an available one was more difficult than usual. I followed a few leads given by friends, tracking some of them down only to come upon padlocked booths or kiosks.
Finally, this unassuming man whom I had seen several times with his cart and “key duplication/shoe repair/umbrella repair” signage at a street corner about 10 minutes away from our house was up for the job! Hurray!
Within half an hour he was outside my room, working two little tools on the keyhole. It was fascinating to watch and I instantly wanted to learn the skill. It would definitely come in handy for just the fix in which I found myself!
I have forgotten the exact exchange we had that allowed me to unearth the facts pertaining to his admirable talent, but in those 3 or so minutes I asked him how he learned to do the lock-picking and was nonchalantly told his being in prison enabled him to acquire the expertise. Now hearing that from a man who was inside your home and fiddling with the knob on your bedroom door has the potential to make beads of sweat instantly form on your forehead and give you that sinking feeling. That’s what happened to me in the next few moments. I also froze (metaphorically, of course).
I don’t like this conversation, I seem to have thought to myself at that point. Note that I seem to have thought it because the details of those moments escape me now. Everything just became fuzzy from then on, swimming inside my head – did he build a career on picking locks in illegal situations and got jailed for it, and perfected the skill while in prison? Or did he do time and simply taught the “craft” to the other inmates in a skills training of sorts? I just know the word “prison” was somewhere in there, and visions of him in a group engaged in a lock-picking demo remain in my mind.
I don’t remember what I said after that, but my sinking-feeling-in-beads-of-sweat-and-frozen-demeanor would have lasted longer than a few seconds had the locksmith been less skillful – shortly after revealing the circumstances pertaining to his expertise, he casually turned the knob and gave the door a slight push. Open sesame! Seeing the door slowly swing toward my bedroom gave me the feeling of witnessing the parting of the Red Sea. It was a welcome sight indeed, mostly because it meant I would not have to spend another minute with the dude whose honesty was admirable but whose timing in revealing unsavory aspects of himself would be funny only if it happened in some movie, not in real life (and certainly not to me)!
I did thank him for his service (he was fast, too, unlocking that door in 4 minutes tops), paid him and promptly showed him the way out. Thank God nothing untoward happened. I was grateful, too, that I didn’t have to break down the door or ask one of my brothers or nephews to kick it open, stuntman-style.
When I see my keys, sometimes I’m reminded of this lock-picking incident. I even wonder about the talented Mr. Locksmith from time to time. What has become of him? How much does he make in a day? Has he saturated the market in our area and decided to move to another location? He and his cart are no longer on the street corner that used to be his regular post. I sure hope his key duplication and umbrella/shoe repair services generate plenty of customers and enable him to make ends meet, whatever his needs may be. His lock-picking expertise sure is awesome; let’s hope it’s used only for purposes that don’t deserve another stint behind bars. Well, for all I know, he could have just said those things to get a kick out of seeing the expected reaction. It’s possible none of it is true and that his talents and interests simply lie in keys and locks – and getting careless key owners out of their predicament is just something he does on the side.