Thursday, February 23, 2006

An Interesting Call for Service

Yesterday afternoon I had a woman call me asking for prices; nothing strange about that, happens all the time. I generally like to know who I’m talking to, a social courtesy and just plain good business to start things off on the right foot.

“The car belongs to my sister; why do you need to know my name?” I use one of those old fashioned cell phones that doesn’t have a built in camera so she couldn’t see me shake my head and start to grin as I looked with my eyes rolled upwards.

“Okay, can you tell me what I’ll be making a key to?”

“It’s a 1998 Ford Ranger that belonged to her son.” There was a lengthy explanation as to the probability that the keys were in some relatives pocket because the woman was too old to be driving and they might have intentionally withheld the keys. “How much will it cost to make a key?”

I went on to explain that I would quote her two prices because on that particular year model some had a plain mechanical key that I could replace for $ 50 and that on others that had the transponder key systems I would have to charge an additional $ 100; two PATS keys at $ 25 each plus $ 50 to initialize the PATS system by hooking my computer up to the computer on board the truck.

“I’ll take the $ 50 key; we’re trying to save money”. I explained that I couldn’t say for sure which price would be in effect until I had a chance to examine the vehicle, turn the key in the ignition and see if it was equipped with the transponder system. When she hung up I wasn’t sure that she had any idea what I’d tried to explain about the newer key systems and why there was a price difference.

This morning she called back, still reluctant to tell me her name. “Remember me, I called about my sister’s Ford Ranger? You can come make that $ 50 dollar key now; she’s expecting you.” I went over the price, explaining the same thing as before.

“She can’t afford the other key so just make the $ 50 dollar key”. It was no use; just do it.

“Can I get an address and a phone number?” I took down the information and was familiar with the location that wasn’t far from the job I was almost finished with. “I can be there within the hour. It would be nice to have her name in case I have to call.” The woman then gave me all the requested information along with her own phone number, just in case I had to call back.

“Thank you, I’ll be there shortly.” I drove the short distance and upon pulling up in front of the house I called the number to let her know I was one of the “good guys”. I had dialed the back up phone number by accident and recognized the voice immediately as she answered the phone. “Just letting you know I arrived.”

I then walked up to the front door, the storm door permitted a view of the living room. A very old and feeble woman was charting a course for the front door; one labored and calculated step at a time as she made sure to catch a piece of an arm chair, a corner of a table and then the next chair until arriving at the front door. I quietly prayed for her safety as it was painfully clear that she should be using a walker; at the very least a cane.

“You’ll forgive my slowness, I just got out of the hospital with a broken hip.” I winced at the idea of her walking around at all.

“I have a cane in my truck, please, let me get it for you.” My back will pinch on me while working and so I keep the cane behind the front seat just in case. I’ve only had to use it a couple of times; even so, it’s worth having.

“No thank you, they gave me one of those walker things; can’t stand it, gets in the way all the time.” I could see her trying to figure out how to turn around; a hesitation and a look of exasperation on her face as she called out to her house keeper. “Did you unlock the garage?” I heard the garage door opening and let her know that I could take care of what ever needed to be done and to PLEASE sit and make herself comfortable.

I made the key in short order; but the battery on the truck was so weak that I had to jump it off. I keep a set of jumper cables handy for such occasions. The truck started right up with the simple key; they must be living under a special star. I backed my truck out of the garage and while I was putting up my tools I noticed that the woman had come out into the garage with a few bills folded up in her hand to pay me with.

“I’ll be right there, just making you a spare key; no charge, on the house.” I looked over and my stomach began to tighten; she was sprawled out on the floor, how she fell I have no idea. She hadn’t cried out in pain, in fact she had a silly grin on her face, still holding the rolled up bills up as if to pay me.

“Please, somebody going past will think I’m robbing you.” I forced a laugh as I went to help her up; all the while praying that she hadn’t broken her hip again, an ankle or something else.

“I’m fine, just tripped over that piece of wood; really, I’m okay.” I walked her back inside the house and accepted her payment. She wanted me to stay around; charge the battery, move the truck out of the garage and some other things.

“Sorry, I have another customer waiting on me; I have to go now.” Thinking to myself, “Please, God, let her live until I’m out of the driveway.”, knowing that her house keeper was there to tend to things.

Edited May 5, 2006: This article was published in the locksmith's national trade magazine, ALOA's Keynotes, April edition.

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