My Childhood Dream


Life Face First: Negotiating One Calamity at a Time

 I pulled a bobby pin from my hair with a flourish that was exceeded only by the gleam in my eye.

I was going to live out a childhood dream. I was going to pick a lock.

“I watched a lot of Scooby Doo as a kid,” I explained to my husband’s grandmother reassuringly.

She didn’t look convinced.

We were seated at her dining room table, going through paperwork her late husband left her.

One box, a vintage locking metal file folder, was firmly secured, and she didn’t know where the key was. The lock appeared to be quite simple. I felt sure that if Shaggy and the gang could pick the lock to a haunted mine shaft with nothing more than a hair pin, I could easily open this little lock.

Besides, I had experience.

When I was a kid, I spent hours practicing picking the lock on my bedroom door. It seemed to me to be a more useful skill than learning things I would never use – things like math, for example.

I unbent the pin and inserted one end into the lock. I gave an expert flick of my wrist…

…and nothing happened.

I frowned and tried again.

Still nothing.

This never happened on Scooby Doo. Where’s Velma when you need her?

Twenty minutes, two bent hairpins and one ruined paperclip later, I began looking for the key.

When that failed, I asked my husband Brian to try his luck at lock picking.

“You’ll probably get it on the first try,” I complained.

I was already mad at his imagined success. I wanted the box opened, but I wanted to be the one who opened it.

He inserted the sturdiest hairpin, gave it a twist and to my great satisfaction, the lock stayed firmly in place.

Seven-year-old me would have never forgiven thirty-seven-year old me if he’d picked it on the first try.

Of course, she probably wouldn’t be happy if he got it on the second try either. I held my breath.

Brian wiggled the bobby pin again, more forcefully this time. As he fought the recalcitrant lock, his thumb pressed down on the locking mechanism. A latch released and the lid opened.

We stared at it dumbly.

“It wasn’t locked?” I asked in disbelief.

“No,” he replied almost as confused as I felt. “It was only latched.”

“So, you didn’t pick the lock after all?” I asked with relief.

“Nope,” he replied.

Seems my dreams of picking locks would have to wait until another day. After all, I reassured myself, you can’t pick a lock that isn’t locked.


Nora Blithe

Nora Blithe is the author of the syndicated humor column “Life Face First.” Read her blog online at