Sometimes you can tell by a person’s voice that they’re going to be fun to meet; today was that kind of day. A woman called wanting work done on her Ford Explorer; something about how when it came back from being worked on the ignition key no longer worked in the doors or the storage cover. There was a familiar ring to her voice which I pegged right off as being similar to a character in the movie, Temple Grandin.
Temple Grandin was autistic and certain aspects of life were a major challenge, things you and I take for granted. She was deathly afraid of automatic sliding doors, to the point of avoiding shopping at stores where she’d have to go past the guillotine-like devices. On one such occasion Temple entered a grocery store and found herself trapped, unable to leave once she realized her only exit was through an automatic sliding glass door.
A sweet woman approached Temple, started a conversation and recognized an opportunity to assist the petrified young girl past the automatic doors. Her voice was that of a long lost friend even though they’d never met; this was the voice I heard over the phone. I mentioned this to the customer upon first meeting to work on her key issues.
Turned out all she needed was some spray lubricant in her locks, there was nothing wrong other than they’d become dry from the elements. Most of the time she used the remote “clicker” to open or lock and so the key hardly ever was used. She had a sense of humor and got a good laugh for not having tried something so simple herself. I did make her a duplicate transponder key and programmed it so she’d have a back up key; not like it was a wasted call.
While lubricating the locks and testing her keys to make sure they worked I told her about a woman, many years ago, who’d called because, as she explained, she’d locked herself out of her car one very hot August day. It was late on a Saturday and I was still an apprentice locksmith working for free; well, not quite free. I got paid in knowledge and every now and then I was given a job at the end of the day, something not too difficult where I could keep the money; mostly jobs the boss didn’t want, too far in the wrong direction or not worth the effort.
It was a typical Houston summer afternoon, about 97 degrees with high humidity when the lady called about her Cadillac being locked with the keys inside. Almost an hour’s drive and the lady was sitting on the trunk deck waiting when I drove up.
She wore a professional three piece business suit; but her makeup had “slid” down and was dripping onto the jacket portion, that’s how hot it was. I walked around the vehicle testing all the handles; it never hurts to try the simplest thing, the passenger side rear door opened.
“That’s not possible, I always lock the doors”, she blurted out as a smile crept onto my face. I tried to hide it; but it was already out there. The lady was perplexed and beside herself as my sense of humor rose to the occasion.
“I’m not going to charge you for the lock out; however, not telling anyone your name is worth the price of admission, wouldn’t you say?” She paid in cash and was embarrassed to look me in the face. That’s the human condition; some have it worse than others. Today’s customer only needed a little spray lubricant to get her locks working, nothing to feel too bad about.
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.