Monday, October 16, 2006

Throw me a bone

It’s hard to believe I’ve been involved in the locksmith business for over thirty years. It started out as a hobby; showing up as an apprentice on Saturday, not even an apprentice since I was really just visiting a friend who happened to own a locksmith shop.

I’d watch and fiddle around all day learning what was inside different locks, tinkering with them or fitting keys. My payment came in the form of lunch; usually a Philly Cheese Steak Hoagie sandwich around lunch time. I had the benefit of learning from several locksmiths; picking their brains and learning techniques that eventually led to my becoming a locksmith in my own right.

A few months into my apprenticeship I’d learned enough to handle some jobs without having someone watching over my shoulder all the time. Near the end of the day if a call came in, one that wasn’t too involved, they would throw me a bone; I could complete the job on my way home and keep any money earned from that job. That was neat, seeing as how I’d have done the job for free just to gain extra experience.

I’ll never forget the first “paying” job. It was around four thirty in the afternoon and I drove several miles to make a replacement key on a Ford. I whipped out my impressioning file, filed the marks and turned out the key in a respectable time frame. I made a finished product key and handed it to the customer, not wishing to hand over the “art work” key which wasn’t as professional.

I was feeling pretty good about having done my first paying job as I was driving down the road, going over the entire job in my mind and smiling for having reached another level. I’d driven four, maybe five miles when it dawned on me; I’d never asked for the money. I’d been an apprentice for so long it never occurred to me that I’d accept payment for work I’d done, that’s what real locksmiths did. I guess I was still an apprentice, my next job would have to be the first “paying” job. I laughed at myself; what’s that line from Forest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does”?

I’d forgotten all about that until this afternoon. It’s been raining for the past two days, starting Sunday morning and dropping enough rain to where I was considering closing down for the day. Many of the freeway service roads were under water making travel to some areas downright impossible; or is that impassable? The first two calls that came in didn’t want to wait for the roads to clear and so I recommended they call some other locksmith. I wasn’t going to let my truck, my livelihood, get washed away just because I thought I could make it through high water only to find the water was too deep. No, they could wait or find somebody else.

I did run a call a little later when the rains let up a bit and in an area of town that normally didn’t flood too easily. The car was under cover, well, half way under an awning as light rain fell. When I’d finished programming the keys I held them up in the air; the lady was standing in the house watching from the window. She poked her head up and held out her hand, the one with the money, up in the air.

“You want to get paid, don’t ya”?, as if I’d forgotten to ask for payment. That’s what triggered the memory of that first “paying” call some thirty years ago. She had her title and driver’s license ready so we could complete the transaction.

The sun peeked through the clouds for a few minutes as I started to make my way back. The rain followed, lots of it, and hasn’t let up since. I couldn’t say how much rain we’ve received in the past twenty four hours; I’ll leave that up to the folks at the news station with their fancy Doppler radar, but it’s enough to where I might have trouble hearing my phone ring the rest of the day. Instead of a bone, maybe I should ask somebody to throw me a towel so I can dry off; it’s nasty out there.

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