I Tip My Hat To Professional Burglars Everywhere

August 23, 2010 – They make it look so darned easy in the movies.

By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond

I’ve been a little – OK, a lot – reticent lately. As some of you have surmised, I’ve moved to Kentucky ... again; maybe the third time will be a charm.

Anyway, for the last few weeks I’ve been hurriedly setting up the house, not only unpacking boxes, but making repairs and improvements. My history is that usually when I move into a house I only get fully settled and unpacked just before I move out! So this time I thought I’d get fully settled and unpacked immediately in the hope that it will encourage me to stay a while. At the very least, getting settled quickly will permit me to enjoy my visit to the fullest, however long it is.

Among the improvements I’ve been making are those pertaining to security. I admit it, I have a fetish for security. I love locks, especially when I’m the only one who has the key. Of course, such a fetish has its downside, particularly when one becomes separated from their keys. It’s one thing to remember to bring along your keyring; it’s quite another to have the correct keys on the keyring.

Incredibly enough, for some sixty years my house had no latches on the windows! That didn’t concern me since I figured the windows on this old house were painted shut, but one day I discovered that all the windows open, and rather easily, and they had no locks. I quickly remedied that situation and then turned my attention to the door locks, deciding to replace the old doorknobs and deadbolts on my old house with new ones that are keyed alike so that I need only one key to enter the house instead of two. Being an old house, it’s gone through a few iterations, the particular one to which I allude being the addition of the utility room, which obviated the need for a door lock off the kitchen. Nevertheless, the door to the kitchen still retained its locks in spite of the new locks added as part of the utility room. Cursed with my fetish for locks, I see no point in not locking both locks when I go out. Why not? They’re there, why not use them?

So I replaced the doorknob to the kitchen with a new one and attached the new key to my keyring, which carried three keys as before, the third one being for the storage room off the carport. Enchanted by the uncharacteristic facility of the previous day’s home improvement, the next day I decided to replace the doorknob to the utility room as well in order to reduce the number of keys required from two to one. It was a nice idea, except for one thing: I apparently selected a key at random to discard from my keyring, and unfortunately it was the new key! Now, such a boneheaded move wouldn’t have been a problem if I had simply observed the cardinal rule I employ when writing computer software, which is to always test the changes.

It also would not have been a problem had it happened two weeks ago, before I put locks on all the windows.

It also would not have been a problem had I discovered it an hour earlier this morning, before the trash collectors came by. Sure, it would have been disgusting to root around in the trash can for the new key which I discarded, but it would have been a darn sight better than what I ultimately had to do to get back into my own house. Unfortunately, the trash collectors are very dependable and punctual around here and by the time I discovered that I was securely locked out of my own house, the trash collectors were half way to the landfill with my key.

What’s incredible is that I immediately ascertained exactly what happened, right down to recalling the sight of the new key sitting atop the pile of refuse in the kitchen garbage can. I kicked myself for not discovering my error sooner, but thought to myself, it’s water under the bridge. The problem before me was how to get back into my own house with minimal effort and damage.

I figured the most challenging problem, aside from proving I was the owner of the house should that be necessary, would be getting into the utility room, and as I drove to an appointment I pondered four possible avenues of entry: removing the storm windows in the front of the utility room; removing the louvered window slats and cutting a hole in the screen in the back of the utility room; buying a skeleton key at the home improvement store that might fit the lock on the utility room door; or, least promising of all, using the skeleton key I spied in the storage room.

The home improvement store sold some skeleton keys, but not any that looked like the one I needed. Strike one. When I got home from my appointment, and following lunch and a nerve-settling beer, I examined the storm windows and immediately concluded that going in that way was a lot of work. At least a dozen screws would have to be removed and eventually reinserted, and that’s assuming they would be removed easily which is seldom the case. Strike two.

Entering the storage room, using the only key on my keyring that actually opened anything, I retrieved the skeleton key I discovered just days ago. It was terribly rusted, but it appeared to have the correct shape. Encouraged, I ran around to the utility room door and after some fiddling to get the rusted key into the lock, it opened the door! I was exceedingly relieved to have breached door number one so effortlessly, within just five minutes. I figured the hard part was behind me – ha, ha!

Reluctantly, I used my nifty new glass cutter to attempt to cut a hole in the kitchen door window to reach through and unlock the door. Christ, they do this all the time in movies and make nice, neat circular holes that pop out with the slightest tap. As soon as I pressed the glass cutter onto the “glass” I knew something was amiss. For starters, the glass simply wouldn’t scratch.

No, that’s not the work of vandals, and yes, that damned indestructible window is still in place

After considerable back and forth and up and down motions with my new glass cutter, instead of a neat, circular hole like in the movies, instead of even a neat, square hole, I ended up with something that looked more like vandalism by gangsta nincompoops. Nevertheless, I figured a couple of gentle whacks and the piece of glass would pop out. So I applied some tape to hold it in place and gave it a gentle tap all around the edge of my “cut.” Nothing. No sound of cracking, no movement, nothing. So I grabbed an 8" steel C-clamp which was handy – I would have used a more “professional” percussion instrument such as a hammer, but alas, mine was securely locked inside – and gave the square a firmer “tap.” Still nothing. So I gave it a bit firmer tap. Still nothing. So I taped a cloth towel over the glass so I could whack it a bit harder, and still nothing! Finally, in desperation, I grabbed the wrench I use to shut off the main water valve to the house and gave the glass a homerun-style whack. Still nothing! What is this stuff? It surely isn’t ordinary glass, but more like something from the planet Krypton.

Perspiring profusely in the 90-degree heat, I gave up on breaking that “glass,” which remains intact still, and decided to remove the molding that holds the glass in place. It was rather easy to insert a screwdriver and gently pry out all four pieces of molding, in spite of the rubbery glue holding them in place. The problem was that the glass was just as securely glued to the molding on the other side of the glass. I tried and tried to slice the glue and pry out the glass, but to no avail. Defeated, I made the reluctant decision to ruin another window!

Fortunately, since the utility room is where the outside of the house used to be, there was another convenient window to massacre, this one containing “ordinary” glass. The difference between the glass on the door and the glass on the window was immediately apparent, as my glass cutter easily scored the surface of the window glass.

Notice the nice, neat, square hole?

As before, I precluded attempting to cut a circular hole in the glass like I’ve seen in so many movies, and went straight to the pedestrian square cut, the results of which you can clearly see in the above photo. As I recall, the glass, while it broke rather easily, assiduously avoided any of the scorings made with my glass cutter and simply shattered, showering me and the floor with tiny shards of glass, one of which eventually embedded itself in my finger. I was, however, able to stick a tool through the jagged opening, unlatch the window and climb inside, discovering in the process that I’m not quite as limber as I once was.

Nevertheless, I was greatly relieved to be back inside, removed my soaked clothes and rewarded my prowess as a burglar with a Piña Colada. So now in addition to the numerous other repair and improvement projects on my list, I can add one of my own making: replacing three windows. Only two are my fault; the third was the victim of a BB countless eons ago.

Sure looks like a BB hole to me, and I should know ...

The moral of the story is that if you harbor a fetish for locks like I do, make sure you have the correct keys on your keyring. It’s not a bad idea to give a friend or family member a set of keys as well.

The End