Membership Dues Serve a Purpose — T.F. Stern

By T.F. Stern,


I had a lock job close to downtown the other day, close enough where I could stop by and visit with my old friend Jim Reed, the fellow who started me down the road to become a locksmith. We had a good visit as he chided me for having mentioned him in some of my previous writings. Jim was a good teacher and taught more than how to make a key; teaching about politics and where the locksmith industry was headed, that was back in the mid 70’s and he was correct in almost all his predictions.

Jim was, at the time, and continues his membership, in the ALOA and wanted me to jump on board. I think there was a deal where if you got somebody to join your next year’s membership was reduced or maybe even free. He explained what the membership dues covered; a monthly Keynotes Magazine with all kinds of helpful tips, legislative updates and last; but not least, the added benefits of having key fairies to help along the way. He’d laugh and wink, a sly grin graced his face as his East Texas accent pulled me along; his wry sense of humor was equal to his locksmith skills.

“Key fairies have to follow the rules too, ya’ know. They’re honor bound; no stealing keys or anything like that. They are; however, permitted to place the corner of a newspaper on top of a set of keys that are on somebody’s desk, flick them in the trash or let them fall into a pocket so’s the owner of those keys thinks they’re lost.” Jim would smile, always a big grin as he went along, following the wonderful explanation of how locksmiths who are members of ALOA have these added ways to earn a living.

Once in a while a customer will ask me why a particular job is so expensive. I’ll point to a list hanging in mid air, going down each item; cost of a transponder key blank, time to determine the mechanical cuts, the expensive computer used to program the onboard systems, license fees to the State of Texas and lastly, ALOA dues which include a small portion set aside for the Key Fairies. I try my best to emulate Jim Reed’s East Texas humor and have some fun with all my customers.

Last year’s tomato garden may have been my very best ever. The plants grew thick with tomatoes that were large and sweet. I enjoy a vine-ripened tomato sliced with a touch of salt; not much can beat the flavor. Each year I take a few photographs to compare with prior crops. In this way, long after the last tomatoes have been eaten I can remember with a certain amount of satisfaction, having grown them in my back yard and look forward with renewed anticipation, the warmth of spring and yet another chance to plant more. It wasn’t until the other day that I discovered the reason for their success; tomato fairies.

No, I haven’t been re-visiting the 60’s and I haven’t taken a pain pill for my back in over a week. Like I said, I took pictures of my tomato plants; the best photograph I’ve been using on my computer as wall paper behind all the icons. This past week I was cleaning up the desk top, getting rid of some unused program icons which left a hole, as it were, in the middle of the desk top icons. More of the tomato plant picture could be seen, an area that heretofore I had ignored, my interest had been focused on the huge tomatoes.

It now showed a part of the plants that were mostly leaves, off to the left of the part that had the tomatoes. There, caught in the moment, mixed in with the lush green of the tomato plant leaves; was a clear and distinct image of a tomato fairy. She must have been flying in and out doing her magic at the very moment I took the picture; her wings outstretched as the reflection of the blue sky danced on them.

Not being an expert on tomato fairies, I have to assume that the one in my picture must be a female fairy; either that or male fairies wear long gowns too. Her translucent figure blended in so well with the leaves as to render her nearly invisible. If it had not been for the sparkling of fairy dust near her head I would never have picked her out of the background. There was no denying her presence, the light blue wisp of gown as it gently floated above the plant, her face rising with the glow of tiny luminescent orbs to light her way. I showed the picture to my wife; but she insists that my imagination has run away with me, that the image is the product of two leaves of varied hue and nothing more.

In my thirty years as a locksmith I have never once seen a Key Fairy; all the same I have no doubt that they have helped my business grow. I renew my membership with ALOA without fail and know that it’s a good investment. My wife can go on about how I’ve let my imagination get the best of me or how the leaves make it appear or give the illusion of something that might look like a fairy. To see such things one has to have the faith of a child, regardless of age. I remember my mother telling me how she took a fairy from Staten Island across to Manhattan when she was young. What more need I say?

This is article was published in Keynotes, the official magazine of the Associated Locksmiths of America during their membership drive several years ago. You get extra points if you can spot the Tomato Fairy.

The Moral Lib­eral asso­ciate edi­tor, T.F. Stern, is a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer, self-employed lock­smith, and gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since Jan­u­ary of 2005.