Saturday, April 15, 2006

I Got It All Ready for You

I got a call from a young fellow yesterday morning who said somebody had taken the keys to his 1995 Chevy S-10 truck. The locksmith from the night before didn’t know how to do the job since the ignition switch and steering column had come out of a junk yard and didn’t match the door key. With that in mind I told him I could do the job and we agreed upon a price knowing that I would have to pick the ignition to the start position, remove it and fit the key.

“I’ll call you back after the wrecker brings the truck to my business; it’s across town.” He was afraid that the person who’d taken his keys would take the truck and so he hired a wrecker to haul it away as a precaution. I figured it wouldn’t be much trouble to pull the spring cover cap, toss the old combination and set it up on yet a different key since I’d have out of the column anyway.

The day went by and I had plenty to do; he never called back, at least not until the sun was going down and I told him it would have to wait until the next day. I wasn’t about to start on it in the dark.

He called this morning and explained that he’d been by the local GMC dealership parts counter, purchased a new ignition switch and they’d already put it together for him with a completely different key so that the old key wouldn’t be able to start the truck. “I got it all ready for you to work on.”

Jim Reed, the fellow who taught me to be a locksmith, had a sign in his shop to explain his prices. I wish I had a copy of it to jog my memory. It went something like this:

Basic Locksmith Work - $ 10
If you watch - $ 15
If you talk while I’m working - $ 20
If you worked on it first- $ 50

I drove the short distance to his location, one of those quick lube and oil change places. His truck was parked in the back with the hood up as I pulled in. I looked inside and sure enough the plastic clam shell pieces had been removed, along with the “Mickey Mouse” ears from the ignition switch. The brand new ignition switch was sitting in the center console.

“I tried to turn the ignition to remove it but it just wouldn’t turn no matter how hard I tried.” I closed my eyes and pictured the sign in Reed’s Key Shop from so many years ago. “I was trying to save some money so you wouldn’t have to come out”

“So, how were you trying to turn the switch?”, a reasonable question since I knew he didn’t have a key.

“I used that big screw driver; I hope it didn’t damage anything.” I took a deep breath and studied the keyway. The first three wafers had been crushed and completely destroyed. I couldn’t get the proper key blank to even go in the lock. “Maybe I shouldn’t have hit it with the hammer?”, he added as I was shaking my head.

I mentioned that the previously agreed price was no longer on the table, that it would cost more since I would have to take the ignition switch out a piece at a time. He was not prepared to pay and so I packed up and got in my truck to leave.

“What am I supposed to do now; you just going to leave me stranded?”, as if it were my fault.

“Call some other locksmith, one who has lots of time to waste; I’m out of here.”

When I was still an apprentice locksmith I would go out on calls as an observer. I remember standing off to the side of a fairly new Mercedes. The owner had locked the keys in the trunk by accident and called to have one of Reed’s locksmiths come out. It couldn’t have been 15 minutes from the time the call came in to the time we arrived. The owner had decided that a pair of scissors might be the perfect lock pick tool as he pounded the tip into the truck lock, missing a couple of times as the scissors dug into the once pristine paint surface surrounding the trunk lock.

You have to wonder what kind of chemical imbalance is triggered in the brain of somebody who’d do that. Maybe that’s one of the differences between men and women. Most women, not all, would have patiently waited for the locksmith to perform his special magic, paid for the service and gone down the road. A few macho men are unable to accept the fact that a stupid lock has prevented them from moving forward as they pick up their club, bow and arrow, shot gun or what ever “precision tool” is handy or within reach as they detonate the C-4 plastic explosives to get into their car. Maybe that sounds like an exaggeration; possibly the part about the C-4, the rest I’m sure have all been used.

I went on a simple lock out many years ago; it was a brand new Cadillac. The woman who owned the car had complete AAA coverage and so it wasn’t going to cost her a penny for my services. When I got there I noticed that something was wrong; all the rubber gasket material around the windows had been chewed up.

“My neighbor has been trying to get in. He’s such a dear; but all he had was a bow saw blade because he lost his Slim Jim.” I had one of my apprentice locksmiths with me that day and he was having trouble containing his laughter. I looked inside the car, observed the cuts on the door key and clipped out a perfect copy. Unfortunately, the “Good Samaritan” had unhooked all the linkage rods on the driver side door and it no longer functioned. Thank goodness the linkage was still working on the passenger side. To top it off, the woman called AAA and wanted to complain that I had destroyed her new car; forgetting all about her neighbor and the bow saw blade.

Edited June 1, 2006

This article was published in the ALOA magazine, Keynotes, May issue.

1 comment:

The probligo said...

I have great admiration for locksmiths - ever since some bad guys tried breaking the strongroom (walk-in safe) door where I worked. We never found out who did it; leading suspect was an ex-employee of mine (my "assistant") who we found had forged his qualifications and fired some months before.

Anyway -

Strongroom door;
Dated from early 1900's;
Key locked only;
The key had bumps and all round it mortise style levers etc.
A "key" had been forced into the lock, and broken off inside.

It took the locksmiths about 10 minutes to get the door open.
No noise.
No fuss.
Just heard the bolts slide out...
The outer plate (about 3/8" thick steel) was unmarked.
The inner cover had been partially removed and the key mechanism cleaned.