It will probably come as no surprise to you that one of the questions I regularly get asked is 'How long will it take me to learn to pick locks?' Sometimes it's not so encouraging, just a simple 'How long until I can pick locks?', or occasionally a simple 'How long does it take?' I wouldn't be surprised if one day I got an email coldly asking 'When?', such is the nature of our instantly gratifying, disposable culture, where the journey is considered an obstacle and the destination everything. Sure, we all want to open the damn thing, but it's the not opening that makes it all worthwhile: If opening was all there was to it - use a key. I do my best to answer all zillion-a-day emails I receive as an online lock picking trainer, but this one gets my goat. It misses so much, it smothers an otherwise incredible explosion. It reeks of life in the fast lane; it has no time for the subtleties of our short lives, details and indulgences without which we're purely passive. If you ask me how long it take to learn to pick locks, I'll ask you 'How many locks?'.
Lock picking is an art in as much as it engages the lock picker with a certain pursuit of truth, there's an element of dissidence, the appeal of a protest to a conventional policy (of security), of what a lock is for, how it should work and how it should be used. Lock picking - essentially benign in and of itself - encapsulates many of the themes that have inspired man to move beyond not only what is expected, but also beyond what was thought possible. Opening a lock is the same as the sum of its parts, picking a lock is more, much more. I don't sell lock picks, I deal in the infinite contradiction of puzzles.
Why, when I have a key do I bother to pick? Why, when I have a pick gun do I bother to bump, then rake, then impression, locks? The answer is zen-like really, opening the lock is not my aim, I am lost in the not-opening of the lock, and somewhere within that endless paradigm I will find myself. My engagement is with the poetics of a puzzle - of a logical approach of a mechanics against an established means. I'm pushing pins, I'm holding an Nth mm of a shearline to work my own way around a different design. It's like dancing up the stairs. There's an easier way to get to the top, but it won't be remembered, the stairs will dictate me beyond myself, outside myself - hardly self at all. By dancing up the stairs I reclaim my movement, I make a place for myself in my own space rather than be dictated by the usual flow of forms. Lock pickers, in their dusty jeans and faded T-shirts step-out in style, minimal, delicate but brash, to the music of slipped pins and tired metals. So many pings and clicks combine in this orchestra of not-opening that as we sit at this tiny opera, hunched and frowning, we're far from the beaten track, we're not following a path, we're making a new one.
So how long will it take to learn to pick locks? Maybe an hour, maybe a day maybe a week? How long will it take you to become a lock picker? Forever, if you're lucky.