The Ethical Lock Picker


There is nothing more embarrassing than locking one’s keys inside a building, and not having access to a duplicate key to rectify the problem. Usually one exhausts all possible ways to avoid embarrassment of having to seek help from a friend, knowing that for some time after the event word will be spread and our foolishness exposed to the community. Such was the dilemma I now found myself in.

In spite of obvious humour of the situation, friends do try and solve the problem with you. When options have been exhausted and there appears to be no other solution than to break either a door or window crowds gather to watch the entertainment. From among such a group tools are volunteered, great ideas developed and the crowd of well-wishers continues to grow while you delay that final assault of the house. Everyone gets in each other’s way trying their theories, but eventually the crowd tires and moves on to more interesting pursuits.

We had now reached a decision to try an assault on the house. At that precise moment a professor whose responsibilities included teaching ethics appeared and stood quietly at the edge of the remaining crowd. He always moved silently around campus and didn’t like being in the limelight.

He moved to my side and in a quiet voice asked if I needed help. I nodded with barely a glance in his direction and he left the circle. I’d been hearing these offers for some time and nothing had resulted from combined efforts. The professor soon returned and produced a piece of bent wire from his pocket which he plunged into the door lock. The remaining crowd moved in with renewed interest.

The professor stared at the veranda roof as he felt his way around the inside of the door lock. To our great amazement the lock clicked open and everyone surged in to discuss this great event.

They looked at the professor with mingled surprise and admiration. How did he do that with a piece of bent wire? You could almost see wheels turning inside some of those heads as they thought of possibilities this skill would open up. For the next week community children attacked all locks in sight with bent wires, but I didn’t hear any of them had the same success as the professor.

It was the talk of the campus for some time after that and everyone was impressed. Students speculated on the use of such a talent in opening store rooms in the canteen, cafeteria and registrar’s office where their grades were carefully filed away. Faculty fretted about dangers to our valuable equipment and safety of records.

But there was no need to worry. Students and community children had demonstrated they didn’t possess lock picking talent, and as the professor was a man of principle there wasn’t anything to worry about.

Students in the professor’s class had received a lesson in the tension between skill and ethical use of talent. They’d received an illustrated lesson that men of principle may not be bound by the restriction of locks and keys but could be trusted.  We are given talents to exercise in a way that does not infringe on the rights and safety of others and their property and we are to use that talent appropriately.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2015 All rights reserved

The above image courtesy of

13 thoughts on “The Ethical Lock Picker

  1. I agree, it’s a great story. I’m glad that you have so many and are able to draw some life truths from each. When we lived in Houston I was the professor who could remove a glass window pane without breaking the glass by carefully removing the rubber gaskets. Did it for several of our neighbors! That skill didn’t help in our newer house in Austin with it’s metal gaskets. On one occasion we returned from a trip to the UK and had to sit on the front porch for an hour while we waited for a taxi to pick up a spare key form my daughter who lives on the other side of town. That’s an evening best forgotten but of course held in our memories for ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And those memories of unpleasant things do tend to recur with amazing regularity don’t they? 🙂 Fortunately the mundane things we need to concentrate on day by day keep them under control until we have spare time to relax. We have one of those metal gasket frames for sliding doors in our retirement home. The only way to deal with repairs is to remove the frame at great expense and replace the whole set of doors and frame.. Fortunately these days they have a much more user friendly system.


    1. My Dad purchased a large home at a higher level in town after we went under flood in the 1950’s. It had a large veranda in front with bay windows and multiple door entries which my parents used to lock at night. My large bedroom had a veranda exit which I’d forgotten to keep a key hidden to get in. So I had to try the window entry rather than wake everyone. I was a night owl in those days.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m afraid that professor has been laid to rest so that talent was laid to rest with him. I know what you mean about crawling through windows above regular windows and crashing down venetian blinds in the middle of the night waking up the parrot and the rest of the house too. Those were my terrible teen years and a long time ago. lol..


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