September 27, 2004 in City

Mistakes are some people’s key to success

By The Spokesman-Review
Liz Kishimoto photo

Allied Security locksmith Dave Wambsgans fixes an exit device at the Pizza Hut at Sprague and Vista.
(Full-size photo)

Behind every accidentally locked door, there’s a story. Take this one by locksmith Terry Young, for example.

“About 5:30 one morning I got called out in the Valley to open a door for a young lady who was letting her dog out and got locked out of the house,” Young said, chuckling.

“It was off of South Pines. Yeah, it was in the winter. I pulled up and she’s sitting on the porch in her nightgown, less than a nightgown, actually, holding her dog.”

It’s the kind of story that’s hard to tell wrong. Young tells it in a way that gets an audience laughing long before the punch line. He tells it like the lumber worker he was before an Idaho mill took several of his fingers, before Lucky Five Locksmithing of Spokane Valley became his fallback career.

“No,” he said, when asked if the dog was large enough to keep its owner warm, “No, it was a poodle. And there was no snow, but it was cold nonetheless. She didn’t say much of anything except, ‘Please, open it.’ I wanted to know where she went to make the phone call, but I didn’t ask. I just opened the door.”

Reality television missed out on the locksmith’s diaries, the man against his bonehead-self conflicts, the embarrassing episodes of compromise.

Mary Goddard and her husband, Gary, own Gary’s Key & Lock on Trent Avenue. They made a living in Millwood unscrambling front door locks, car doors and grinding new keys when there was no other answer. But they got out of the lockout business about the time cars were becoming tougher to crack and their word-of-mouth security business picked up.

Babies locked in cars are the ones she remembers most. It happens more than you’d think. The kids are usually fine, as long as they don’t look out the window and spot their mothers in hysterics. One woman actually cloaked her car with blankets and showered it with a hose to keep her child cool. The tactic worked.

A typical lockout runs $45 or more, but Goddard and her husband always waived the charge for stranded children.

Locksmith Tim Hartman once knew a Spokane area disc jockey who locked his keys in his car so many times he had the locksmith keep an extra pair in a file cabinet just in case. But his best stories stem from burglaries.

“I got called up one night to go work on a door because someone broke into this store on Division Street and it couldn’t be locked up,” said Hartman, who works from Allied Security. “It was one of those little stores. I parked out back and saw this big hole in the wall. Someone knocked the door out. The wall was made of cinderblock and they used a car. We got a sheet of plywood and boarded it up.”

You have to ask people what they’re trying to achieve, Hartman said. A guy came to his shop awhile back with a lock attached to a block of wood and said he needed a new lock. Someone had taken a chain saw and cut the lock out of the man’s door. He likens locksmiths to morticians; everybody needs one eventually.

“We all have stories,” Hartman said. “I let my neighbor in her house when she’s in her robe and gets locked out because was getting her newspaper and the door shut.” That’s a little embarrassing, but it’s better than a poodle hug on a cold porch.

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