So, anyway, the lock on the security grill on my front door* has slowly become harder to open over time and I decide that I need to consult a locksmith.

There is one a couple of blocks from me. I give them a call. Dave, the locksmith, is very helpful.

You should be able to undo two screws and pull out the lock pretty easily. Bring it down tomorrow and I’ll take a look. We shouldn’t need to come out and it will save you money. We’ll possibly need to replace the escutcheon†, the lock, or maybe cut you a new key to the lock. We can probably do it while you wait.

I think it might be that my key is just worn and I need a new one.

Yep, that’s possible too, I’ll be able to tell you straight away.

The next day I take out the lock – Dave was right, it comes out easily.
I walk down to the shop. A buzzer sounds when I open the door. A little fat man comes out.

Hi. Dave?

No, Dave isn’t here today.

Oh, OK. Dave told me to bring my lock down and you could tell me what’s wrong with it. I think maybe I just need a new key.

The guy examines the key and lock.

Nothing wrong with the key. You need a new escutcheon.

Oh, OK, fine. Can you do that for me.


He disappears into the backroom. There is some tapping and clunking and a little bit of grinding. He comes back.

There, that’s better.

He turns the key. It looks good. I pay him $13, take it home and put it back in the door. It sticks as soon as I try it. Oops, I think, it’s actually something wrong with the door. Maybe it’s misaligned or something. I take the lock out and turn the key. Nope. It’s still sticking – just like before. I go back to the shop.

It’s still sticking.

The little fat guy peers at the lock and wobbles the key. It sticks. I show him how it works from one direction and not from the other.

I think I might just need a new key – see how badly this one’s worn?

He wobbles the key again.

No, it’s not the key. It has to be in straight and it works – see?

He wobbles the key and it opens.

Yes, I know I can wobble it around and it will eventually open, but I want it to work properly – no wobbling and jiggling. Just open and close.

He sighs. He goes into the back room. There is some sawing and grinding. He comes back. He wobbles the key in the lock.

Ok, now that’s better.

I try it. It sticks two times out of three.

Look, I don’t want it to do this. I don’t care what it takes – do I need to replace the lock? Whatever. I just want it to work properly. Maybe I need a new key made?

He takes the lock into the back room. There is clunking, grinding and more grinding. And more grinding and some tapping. For fifteen minutes. I walk around the shop thinking about how crappy the security is for a lock shop – I could steal a bunch of padlocks, keys and miniature surveillance cameras.

The guy comes back.

There, it’s better.

He wobbles the key to show me. It sticks.

Now look. I don’t want any more of this. I just want it fixed. Do you have a replacement lock. Whatever it takes. I don’t want any sticking. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

He shakes his head and goes into the backroom. I can see him rummaging around in cabinets. Another guy turns up and there is conversation I can’t quite hear, and they both start rummaging. This goes on for another five or ten minutes. Then there is silence. Then, oddly, some more grinding and tapping and clunking. He’s working on the lock again! I stick my head around the door.

Excuse me, what are you doing?

He holds up the lock.

It’s a bit better!


We don’t have any locks like that.

He comes back out into the shop and puts the lock on the counter.

That’s all I can do. See, the key has to be level – there’s too much movement. It’s not a good lock.

But it always used to work fine, and it works perfectly from one direction, just not the other. Maybe it’s the key – see the tine is worn and bent. Maybe it works on the tumblers one way and not the other. Maybe I just need a new key that isn’t worn like this one?

He gives me a withering look that says “What would you know about locks you stupid moron with the IQ of a squirrel?”, disappears for three seconds into the back of the shop and comes back with a key that is exactly like a non-worn version of my key.

He puts it in the lock. It works perfectly.‡

*I may live in the most wonderful city in the world, but we still have junkies.

†No, I didn’t know what it was either.

‡This is an entirely true story. It happened yesterday.