A question we’re all frequently asked, probably just under what’s your name and where are you from in the book of ‘questions for strangers’ is ‘what do you do?’, the implication being, ‘for work’. I mean, no one answers “wake up, shower, watch telly, eat, obsess over an ex-girlfriend, etc” because that would be weird. People want to know, as they almost certainly have since time began what you do for work. It doesn’t exactly define you, but it does say a lot about you, and what you are engaged with for most of your waking hours. It can give an idea of status, of intelligence, of ability, of ambition. In fact as an identifier, there’s probably nothing quite like your work to give an immediate and thorough impression of your character in a word or two.
Depending on the situation I’ll often say trainer, online trader even something as vague as ‘online business’. I’ve even managed to hide in plain sight with ‘non-destructive Entry trainer’ on more than one occasion.
Some people won’t let go though and want the details and so from time to time I just tell em ‘I train people to be locksmiths. The responses fall into FOUR categories...

1 - The Confused.
These people have absolutely no idea what lockpicking is. They’ve seen Tom Cruise, Jason Bourne, and Ethan Hunt, fiddle about with some tools and open a safe in 20 seconds but that’s it. They cannot imagine it’s even a real thing, let alone a ‘trade’.

2 - The Expert
We’ve all met someone like this. They know more about your job than you. They’ve been doing it longer and better and faster and well, you might as well just let them talk since they don’t know how to listen anyway.

3 - The Interested
Solid, well rounded and socially alert people are wonderful to be around, and The Interested will ask questions, listen, engage and usually end up with a set of picks in order. God bless these people.

4 -The concerned
Not to negatively judge these people but on no information and just a gut reaction these people are on such a level of panic and worry about 'The Internet’ they’re convinced my job is the greatest threat to civilization as we know it, or at least the contents of their apartment.

Of course, over time I have well considered and factually backed-up responses to all of these character types. Why a thief would want to add time - the enemy of all crime, to their unholy pursuit - is easily explained, and since the major point of lock picking being ‘non destructive’, lockpicks are the worst tool for the job, especially given the alternative of a hammer, or a house-brick. The many police and other security professionals around the world who we work with have confirmed this, and so such fears are quickly laid to rest.

The Expert rattles on for some time, often knowing (a friend of a friend) who made this tool that can open locks using sonic waves, quantum mechanics, or some equally insane invention, that can open any lock at twenty paces. The trick is to humour them, explain how modern locknpicking tools are developed in zero-gravity, or using the Hadron Collider. Say anything, again, they’re not listening.

The Confused often remain confused. They seem comfortable in this place. I’ll say ‘you know when you lose your keys, and you call a locksmith.....well I supply their tools’. From here they become either Intetested, or Concerned, so a well timed ‘what do you do?’ can save a lot of time.

The interested are the salt of the Earth. I like to think I’m interested in other people, their work, who they are. The old saying we have two ears and one mouth makes a lot of sense and is, I think, a ratio to live by.

I’m in Turkey at the moment, for my sins, and was sitting in a bar last night, alone, working out what to drink next from the array of unconvincingly labelled, almost authentic beverages and an stranger came and sat down next to me. Of course, it didn’t take long before we started talking, and, as I’d been through the what do you do ritual a few times already I decided to change my story, something simple, something easy.
“What do you do?” He inevitably asked after name, where you from, etc.
“Joiner” I answered, “You?”
“I’m in the lock picking trade”, he said.


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