Saturday, January 22, 2005

Magic Key Blanks

If all I did was blog about politics life would get downright dreary. Today I will share something a little lighter. Some of you may consider this to be "Outer Limists" material; but, I assure you that it is factual.

Magic Key Blanks is what I have called this:

Most folks have been locked out of their car or house at one time or another, its part of being a member of the human race. A momentary distraction and its too late, the door has closed, your keys on the other side. The invention of locks was supposed to keep out the bad guys; funny how that works.
Over the years I’ve come across a variety of interesting approaches to lock outs that cause one to wonder. I showed up to unlock a fairly new Cadillac parked in a lady’s front driveway. I took a few moments to inspect the vehicle; taking special notice of what appeared to be fresh damage to the weather stripping of the passenger side window. I asked how there happened to be long jagged cuts the entire length of the weather stripping. “My neighbor was trying to help me open it. He had a bow saw blade; you know, like a Slim Jim.”, smiling at me as if I thought that had been a great idea too. This same lady called my office and wanted to claim that I had been the one who destroyed her car; turns out her neighbor had also unhooked all the linkage rods in the door; neither the locks nor the door handles functioned at all.
Most of the time its easier using a key; otherwise when you bought your new car, the dealer would issue you a coat hanger and a short piece of wire to hot wire it. This sort of logic baffles many people, especially the large primitive gorilla types who want to throw a brick through the window just to see if they can do it on the first try.
I was taught how to read a key’s profile; similar to reading music; only instead of notes, the information is translated into depth and spacing of cut. Locksmith work, when performed properly is a form of entertainment; similar to a good magician doing close up card tricks, you can watch all the moves and never quite figure out how he did it.
Jim Reed, the locksmith who taught me during my apprenticeship, used to tell the customer that he needed to “talk” to the car to obtain the necessary information prior to cutting the key. He employed his thick East Texas accent and humor just like a magician uses patter to force a smile even from the most frustrated sole. Jim would kneel down next to the car putting his ear against the door lock. He would nod his head, jot down some numbers, nod some more until he had the customer grinning at his silly stunt. Anyone knows that car locks can’t talk; all the same, Jim would then take a key blank and show that it had no cuts on it. He would then place the blank key into a manual key clipper, one designed to originate that particular brand of key; squeeze the handle as he clipped each individual cut along the length of the key until it was finished. Actually, before he ever started to “converse” with the lock, Jim had glanced inside the passenger compartment and studied the profile of the door key long enough to ascertain the exact cuts. The “blow off”, as carnival workers would call it, came when Jim placed the finished key in the lock. Rather than turn the key and open the door, Jim would shake his head and grin, pause and say, “No need in me doing all the work…”, step back a bit and point to the key while he guided the customer’s hand onto it, “…here, you do it.” Invariably there would be some hesitation followed by a gasp of amazement when the key turned in the lock.
I had a chance to use my key reading abilities one afternoon. I parked next to the target vehicle and before I had stepped from my own truck I read the perfectly silhouetted door key hanging from a ring of keys in the ignition switch. It came to me that it was time to use those new “magic keys”, the ones that were made out of some space aged alloy metal that forms itself inside the confines of the lock. I walked to the back of my truck and clipped out a working door key before I greeted the customer. He had not seen me prepare or cut the key, possibly expecting me to use a Slim Jim or some other car opening tool. I explained that I had recently attended the locksmith convention where I had purchased some new and fairly expensive experimental key blanks developed by NASA. I told him that his car would be my very first chance to try them out the “keys that cut themselves”. I pulled a blank key from off the key rack and showed it to him. I palmed the shown key; switched and inserted the finished product key into the lock.
“No way!”, his wide eyed expression was instantaneous.
“It takes a couple of minutes for the chemical reaction to work.” I tapped the face of my watch, placed my index finger close to the edge of the key pretending to notice that it was getting too hot to touch. I then stepped back so that the customer and I were both next to each other watching the magic key do its thing. Two minutes went by and I made sure that the key had “cooled off”; wouldn’t want to burn my fingers. Jim Reed would have been proud as I handed off the actual turning of the key.
“You’re sure its cooled down?”, tentatively reaching and yet stopping short of touching the key. I nodded and assured him that it was ready. As he turned the finished key he blurted, “I hope only qualified locksmiths can purchase these. Just think what a crook could do with something like this!” To this day he could pass a lie detector test; pity the next locksmith who hasn’t stocked his truck with these new space age keys and only has a Slim Jim.


GWhizKids said...

Great story!

Nerdy Conservative said...

Cool story! I can tell that you have no sense of humor whatsoever.


Michael Morley said...

Good One I am looking for some information on key blanks so found your blog. Quite impressive post, thanks for sharing such nice post with us.