You can pick your friends…

13 Jun

Ever since I was child, I have found thieves to be absolutely fascinating.

Not your “smash and grab” variety, mind you.  No, I mean your truly talented burglars.  People who can stake out a potential site, stealthily bypass any security measures, deftly pilfer the goods, and then fade like smoke into the night.

In another life I could envision myself as a rogue of some variety.  Having the skill to pick locks, hide in the shadows and move silently really appeals to me, and the idea of obtaining other people’s property without their permission doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it probably should.  But, in this life I have a less-than-lithe physique and thus I am ill-equipped for the job; I couldn’t walk silently on a bed of moss, and there’d need to be an awful lot of shadows to hide this body.

Still, that doesn’t mean that I am incapable of obtaining some of the less physically demanding skills.

When I was a young nerdling, just getting started in my career, I met a man named Steve.  We’ll just stick with his first name here because a) he seems like the kind of man who would desire a measure of anonymity, and b) I cannot remember his last name.

Steve worked for a large consulting company and helped us set up our physical and network security.  Aside from being a talented security professional, Steve was also an obnoxiously interesting person to talk to.  He was in the Marines where he engaged in all types of daring and dangerous activities. And he worked with the Secret Service where, in addition to protecting the President of the United States, he actually got the chance to guard Mikhail Gorbachev.

He has shed skin cells that are more impressive than me.

Now, because of his background, one of my favorite things to do at that time was to introduce Steve in a meeting:

“Everyone, this is Steve.  He knows six different ways to kill you with this

Then I would hold up just about any seemingly harmless object (a sugar packet, a napkin, a marshmallow, etc.), and everyone in the room would laugh… except for Steve.  The others, I am sure, believed this was because he didn’t appreciate my sense of humor, but I personally believe that it was because he was calmly thinking “Actually, I know seven“.

Anyhow, I mention Steve — if that was his real name — because he is the man that taught me how to pick a lock.

To start off, I learned how to unlock a file drawer using a paperclip and a small screwdriver.  It was not terribly challenging and yet it was, oddly, very satisfying.  It was like the feeling you get when you successfully shoot your “mark” through the eye with an ice bullet from 400 yards in high winds.

NOTE: It occurs to me that some people may, perhaps , define “satisfying” differently than I do. Perhaps.

In any case, as simple as this was, I was hooked.  I needed to pick more locks.  Every morning, for weeks after that, I am sure all the people in the neighboring cubicles would come in and think: “Hmmm… I was SURE I locked this.”.  No file drawer was safe from my prying tools!

But it still wasn’t enough.  I mean, sure, a paperclip and screwdriver was nice and all, but not exactly in line with my ideal vision of a rogue.  So, naturally, I bought my own set of legitimate lock picks from a website that I found that sells all manner of devious items: This site is basically porno for people like me.  I found a nice, simple set of starter picks and placed my order.

For the week following that, I was like a kid that ordered a decoder ring from a cereal box.  I would come home every day and rush happily to the mailbox, only to walk despondently away moments later when I saw that they had not come yet.

When they finally arrived my obsession took a steep jump up; I quickly picked every lock in the house.  I followed that up, soon thereafter, by picking every lock at work that I could without getting fired which didn’t quite fall short of my bosses office door (sorry Lisa).

I was having a ball.

I want to be honest here; Although I would love for it to be otherwise, I am not particularly good at it.  Don’t get me wrong, I can open most locks, but it usually takes me several minutes to do so.  It’s not quite like the movies where they barely do anything and *click*, the lock is open!  No, at least for me, it’s a much more complex and time-consuming process.

Before I learned what was involved, I fantasized about never using a key again; I would just pick my front door lock every night.  But since it takes me so long to do, and I need to kneel down to be at eye-level with the lock, it’s very obvious and more than a little awkward to explain. “No, really, officer… this is MY house.”

My greatest lockpicking moment, so far, happened several years ago when I was living in a townhouse community.  My neighbor Harry got locked out of his house and came over to ask me for help.  I am sure he had something else in mind; he probably pictured me giving him a boost into an open window or some such inelegant method of entry but I was having none of that!  When we walked up to his door and he saw me take out a set of picks his eyes went a little wide.

To make matters worse, I got really lucky and I picked the lock in less time than it would have taken me to open it with the key.  On the inside I was bursting with joy but outwardly, of course, I brushed this off as normal and calmly put my picks away as he nervously thanked me and quickly entered his house shutting and locking the door behind him.  I think they moved soon after that.

My wedding comes in as a close second for the happiest moment of my life.

(I am so going to get my ass kicked for that line)

Eventually, my passion for lockpicking faded a bit, and I stopped picking every lock in sight.  But even now, many years later, I still carry my picks with my every day, just in case an opportunity to use them comes along.  And I still get a bit giddy when one does.

So, if you suspect that I have been fiddling around with the lock on your door, please forgive me; it’s an addiction that is difficult to kick.  I promise that I am just doing it to keep my fingers nimble and that I will leave all your belongings intact.

Unless there’s something really cool.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 13, 2009 in Memory Lane


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 − = one