1997: Budget Locksmith

It’s been just over a year since moving  into this home on Bauling Lane with the  anniversary commemorating  the inevitability of Murphy’s law as much as the passage of 365 days occupancy. This structure that was so seemingly completely void of problems or defects started showing those defects on the 366th day, but to be honest, I can’t feel a whole lot of disappointment.  We left our own share of “issues” with the home we sold in East Tennessee nine years ago and one issue in particular comes to mind often: I do wonder what the current occupants think of a utility room doorknob that rattles slightly when turned.

It all came about ten years before the sale when both boys were high school students living at home and Meghan was a toddler.  Conrad and Sean were wonderfully low maintenance kids to raise but life on a freelancer’s income meant that Lori and I didn’t get many of the “date nights” that all the successful marriage books stress. When we did get out it was quite an event as was the case one Friday night in the spring of 1997…though the “eventness” ended up having to do more with what was going on at home rather than anything we were doing while out on the town.

After the two boys repeatedly assured us that everything would be OK we drove off to a night of dinner, dancing and wild living…

…OK, you got me. It was more like the following:

  • Drive to Wal-Mart to pick up copies of Conrad’s senior pictures
  • Stop at Woodsmith Market to fuel up the van
  • Stop at McKay’s Used Books to replenish our library
  • Conduct a professional development session regarding current figure sculpture techniques AKA cruising the action figure aisle at TOYS R US.
  • Wind the evening up at the Panda Chinese café for a late dinner.

The dinner took a little longer than expected; half way through our General Tsao’s chicken I looked up and said “I don’t love my work”. After getting the choking under control Lori politely asked who I was and what I had done with her husband.  I explained that as I didn’t see my art as being separate from my total identity so making a statement about loving my work would be the same as saying I really, really liked my pancreas .

We finished out meal and drove home, secure in the knowledge that our precious two year old daughter had no doubt spent a pleasant evening with her very capable brothers. Within seconds after parking the van and walking into the house I began to have doubts about that assumption.

As usual we had entered the house via the back door and through the shop, which lead to a hallway led to the utility room in one direction and the stairs to the main floor in the other. The kids were standing in a row right outside the utility room door, Conrad cradling a pajama-clad Meghan in his arms with Sean standing next to him, inexplicably wet-haired and freshly showered. We expected some sort of greeting but all we got were the two boys mumbling something about”everything was OK tonight”

If guilt had a smell this situation would rival the baked-bean-&-deviled-egg pant-splitter that Dad emptied the car with at the Fourth of July picnic in 1968. As Lori and I brought items in from the van the boys never moved an inch from in front of the door to the utility room and when I’d make eye contact you could see sweat drops shoot horizontally from each boy just like you’d see in a cartoon strip.  Then it hit me – our family dog Punky was nowhere to be found so I stopped and asked point blank what was going on.

It seems that Meghan had been playing in the utility room and at one point she pulled Punkin (the family dog) in, then slipped out pulling the door locked behind her. When the boys figured out what had happened they started to panic; It was a common interior door knob that locked when you rotated a button in the middle of the inside knob;  they unfortunately did not know that the knob is easily picked by inserting a nail or rod through the hole in the middle of the exterior knob so they were trying all sorts of exotic options to open the door.

It took me thirty seconds to get the door unlocked and open. The first thing I noticed was a distance “doggish” smell to the room and I wondered if Punky’d had an accident in there, which would have explained my sons nervous condition.  Then I noticed two sticks lashed together and extending from a gap between acoustic ceiling tiles and not quite reaching the door. Lastly I noticed a small hole in the face of the door knob, which emitted a slight rattling sound when turned.

As I turned to the boys the stony silence turned to silt and the entire story came out, in a somewhat haphazard fashion.  Sean’s freshly  scrubbed appearance was the result of two attempts to open the door, both of came about after he had climbed up the shelves in the storage room adjacent to the utility room and pushed up the ceiling panel and insulation in attempt to gain access to the room. Upon discovering that the opening was far too small to crawl through, he tried manipulating the lock with the two lashed sticks. When that too failed Sean tried to shoot his pellet gun through the opening in hoping that the impact of the pellet would to shoot the thumb-set into the open position, but instead he missed and the BB went through the face of the knob coming to rest inside of it.

…and it was at this point in the story where Lori and I walked in through the door from the shop…which was just as well. While it is true that neither one of my sons were bitten by the carpentry bug as teenagers, they were both very smart and very innovative.  Several years later Conrad told me that they were preparing to remove the door from the frame just as Lori and I walked in.

Given the proximity of my shop and power tools I shudder to think what they would have come up with in their desperation.

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