Picking Locks

by Charles Miller on August 10, 2002

I have this routine I go through unconsciously as I walk out of my apartment. Hold door open. Check pockets. Make sure key is there. Let door close. Sometimes the last two overlap, but never so much that I wouldn't have time to catch the door if I discovered I didn't have the key—usually I don't hear the "click" of the latch until I'm ten feet down the corridor in front of my apartment.

It's one of those things I've conditioned myself to do—it takes no conscious effort. As soon as I step out of my door, my hand is in my pocket checking the keys. And I'm not satisfied until I've found the leather National Theatre Company keyring that distinguishes my house–keys from my office keys (which have an old 1-meg SIMM on the keyring).

I make sure I listen for the click of the door closing, though. Sometimes the door doesn't close properly, and I have to turn around and pull it shut. Since I was burgled, I've been pretty paranoid about things like that.

So this evening, I was ducking out to Shakespeare's Pies to get dinner. This is the shop that proudly proclaims that it sells "The best pies on the planet", and while they're possibly not that good, they're pretty bloody nice.

I pull my jeans on, grab my wallet, and walk out the door. I'm wondering whether I should turn the radio off, but I decide I'll only be out for ten minutes, I may as well leave it on. By this moment, the door is swinging shut.

That's when the mental image hits me. My front-door keys, sitting spread out by the keyboard on my computer desk. And I know, I know without having to check my pocket, that they're still there.

They're still fucking sitting there on the table.

I leap for the door.



It just goes to show. You can foster a good habit until it's second nature, but one moment of thinking about something else, and it's as if you never bothered.

So I decide to be sensible about this. Apart from one moment of annoyance, there's no point getting upset about something like this. It's like when someone in a shop makes a mistake—people make mistakes, it's human nature, and getting pissed off about it is counter-productive. I'm not perfect, and berating myself for something I'm usually pretty good at is pointless. I just resolve to get a spare set of keys cut on Monday and give them to my mother for safe-keeping, like I should have in the first place.

I panicked the last time I got locked out of my house. This was when I was 15 and living with my mother and brother. Mum had been on holiday in Europe for the previous two weeks and my brother and I had been taking care of the house. She was due to return at 2am, and the afternoon before that I came home from my previous all-nighter role-playing nerd session to find my brother had vanished indefinitely, and my keys were sitting inside on the kitchen table. The house needed cleaning before my mother got home. The house needed a lot of cleaning. It was then that I learned how useful (and how bloody expensive) locksmiths are, but not before I'd panicked for an hour or two wondering what the hell I could do.

So this time, I go and have my pie. No point wandering around on an empty stomach, and it's not as if I'm in a hurry. My apartment isn't going anywhere. After dinner, I phone my father to make sure he's home, and catch the train to North Sydney. From there I arrange a locksmith to meet me back at my place. I don't bother trying to contact my agent or landlord, it's Saturday night and I don't want to annoy them any more than I already have by being constantly late with rent.

My mother lives closer, but she's got a new phone number, and the only place I've got it recorded is on my mobile phone. My mobile phone is sitting on the computer desk next to my keys.

It's absolutely amazing how quickly a locksmith can earn $100. My front door has two locks on it, one regular one in the handle, and one pretty expensive Lockwood 001 deadbolt. One pick shoved in the bottom, a few pokes through with a lock-picking gun, and they were both open in the space of two minutes. We put all this faith in locks, but the fact is, anyone can open them in a snap with enough practice. I downloaded an instruction manual for lock-picking over the net a few years ago. I'm wishing I'd practiced now—If I had, I'd not be out a hundred bucks.

Remind me not to do that again.

Previously: Sat, 10 Aug 2002 02:29:28 GMT

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