Wed, Nov 01, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Locksmith says job has rewards, and drawbacks

By Hsu Kuo-chen and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

After 20 years, Taichung-based locksmith A-tsun (阿圳) has had some riveting experiences on the job, including dodging bullets as he helped police enter the premises of an armed suspect.

“Could I get a bulletproof vest?” A-tsun asked an officer after hearing gunshots.

He has also opened locks to save dying patients, and once picked the lock of a dead man.

After completing his mandatory military service, A-tsun opened a seafood restaurant with a partner, but the two had a falling-out and went their separate ways.

“About this time, my brother began running a locksmith business and my parents hoped that I would learn the trade from him,” A-tsun said.

A-tsun became his brother’s apprentice, receiving a stipend of about NT$10,000 while he learned the ins and outs of the business until he could open his own shop.

Asked whether he had any setbacks when starting out, A-tsun said he had one — when due to a lack of experience he opened a door for thieves and was initially considered an accomplice.

“I would never have imagined that the clients were actually thieves. When the police came by, they all ran off,” he said.

A-tsun said he now keeps careful records of his clients’ identities to protect himself, such as license plate and telephone numbers. He also carefully compares vehicle or property ownership documents with a client’s identification.

The job even has the occasional potential romantic encounter, such as the time when A-tsun was invited in for drinks after he helped a woman clad only in her nightclothes who had accidentally locked herself out while taking out the trash, he said.

However, some jobs can be disturbing. He once found an elderly man dead in his bathtub after the man’s granddaughter called him to pick the door lock, fearing something was wrong when her grandfather failed to answer the door.

His scariest moment was when he was called to the scene where an armed suspect had locked himself in an apartment.

He said he was not given any details, but found the situation to be strange as all of the police officers were wearing bulletproof vests. He only discovered the suspect was armed when the man fired through door and the bullet flew past his head, he said.

“He knew we were trying to open the door, so he opened fire,” A-tsun said.

A-tsun said he immediately ran down the stairs as the police and suspect exchanged gunfire through the door.

He said he now asks more questions and refuses dangerous jobs.

“Most people think the job pays well, but at times — like when I am called to a job during a typhoon — it can be quite dangerous,” A-tsun said.

If a lock is picked too quickly, clients feel they are paying too much, but taking too long makes them impatient, he said.

However, the job can be very rewarding, he said.

“I once helped medical personnel get into a home where a man was dying. Doctors later said he had been within minutes of losing his life. Now every time he passes my shop he thanks me for saving his life,” A-tsun said.

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