Over time people develop skill sets. Some are marketable skill sets like people who can build furniture or cut hair. Other skill sets are far less practical, a favorite of the military being underwater basket weaving. Some are marketable skills but are generally just handy to know. I recently decided I wanted to work on one such skill.

Thanksgiving evening I was sitting in my office at home, staring at my computer screen wondering why the hell I was still awake after 11pm after spending a day with family for the holiday. Then my phone started to vibrate. I cocked an eyebrow, confused and curious, and looked at the screen. A text from a friend asking if I was still awake. I replied and the next message was a plea for help. My friends had locked their keys in their car while doing some Black-Late-Thursday-Evening-Not-Quite-Friday shopping. Soon I was there with them, freezing cold and struggling to jimmy the lock on the door to an old Tacoma. I also drive a Tacoma. Even though mine is considerably newer, the key pattern is the same. While my friend worked my makeshift slim jim, I began wiggling my key in the door lock. I am convinced this helped the pins wiggle into place to allow the door to pop, because my key turned when the door lock button went up.

This is a common story. I’m sure everyone who owns a car has probably locked their keys in it at one point or another. It got me thinking though, and I decided I needed a set of actual lockpicks. While standard lockpicks don’t really work on car locks, knowing how to bypass a lock is a useful skill to have. Back when I was in high school I had a friend that was the son of a locksmith. He had a few training locks and, if memory serves correct, four different types of pick on his desk in his room. The tumblers of the training locks may have been worn, but they were good practice. I had no need to really do anything with lockpicking after high school, so that was the last time I messed with a set of picks…until today.

With all these killer sales and what not going on for the holidays I was excited when an offer popped up for a small pick set and a see-through polycarbonate practice padlock. Just a touch over $30 and the simple set was on its way to me. I don’t know all the proper names for the different shapes, or the application each is designed for, but I do know that with one of the most basic tools in the set and the long, single-ended torsion bar I have managed to repeatedly make quick work of the practice lock.

Is it a practical skill? Yes. Will I ever really use it? I don’t know. Someday my son may put a lock on something and lose the key and I will be very happy to have this set of picks. Or it may find its way into my collection of stuff that’s neat but never gets used. I can’t foresee the future, I don’t own a DeLorean or a Tardis, but as the Boy Scout motto says: Always be prepared. With this set of picks and the practice lock, I have a rudimentary grasp on the skills required to bypass basic mechanical locks and the ability to do so, all without breaking the bank.

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