Thursday, August 04, 2005

Skeleton Key

I got my August copy of The National Locksmith, one of the publications I subscribe to in order to keep up with the changes in my profession. Greg Mango, the editor had an article that was fun to read which he titled, The Skeleton Key. I will condense the story, sort of a Reader’s Digest version.

John Somers, of Al’s Lock and Safe in North Platte, Nebraska had a customer come to his shop requesting his services to restore a lost key to a 1977 Chevrolet
pick up truck. After explaining the process necessary to reproduce the lost key and the customer being short on cash; other alternatives were discussed.

“John then asked them what happened to the key, and Allen (the customer) said, “My friend swallowed it!”

They had been drinking, why does that not surprise me, and as a prank the friend was going to pretend to swallow the key; except by accident he actually did swallow it. They went to the Emergency Room of the local hospital concerned that the key might cut a hole in his stomach or get stuck. X-rays were taken and he was assured that the key would not be a problem and that it would find its way out via the “natural process”.

John asked if he had a copy of the X-ray and amazingly he did. “Well bring the X-ray back and maybe I can make a key from the X-ray”… “Any locksmith worth his salt could have made that key…They just happened to walk into my store”

John Somers has had his “fifteen minutes of fame”, as he put it. His story has been well publicized on the Today Show, the Letterman Show and all the major news sources. He didn’t charge the customer for the key, opting instead to keep the X-ray.

I had a similar experience, nothing quite as dramatic as a customer showing up with an X-ray to make a key, all the same it required some imagination. The customer was a wholesale car buyer. He’d purchased a Chevrolet truck the day before from one of my regular car dealerships and had returned to take it back across town to his own lot. When he went to reach for the key, the key he thought was in his pocket, it dawned on him that he’d left the key in Baytown, about an hour and a half away or more.

I happened to hear him cussing under his breath as he asked for a price, trying to decide if it would be cheaper to have me cut the key or drive back to get the other one. I asked if he had a fax machine at the office and someone who could lay the key on the platen to fax a silhouette to profile the cuts that were on the key.

“You can do that?”, a look of disbelief overtook him.

I told him that it was worth a try, that if the fax was even half way clear that it would save him a tidy sum and both of us quite a bit of time. The fax came in rather poorly and even so I was able to discern the exact cuts and clip out a brand new replacement key. He was happy to hand me twenty dollars and I gave him the fax to attach to his receipt. Like John told his customer, “Any locksmith worth his salt could have made that key”

Just as a matter of finishing off this story; how many of you were able to figure out that the cuts on the key that had been swallowed were “242123”?
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