Locksmith skills one could argue are the foundation of our professional services. I have a range of keys for the purpose of opening locked vessels. For the most part, my keys serve me well, and over the years have become a faithful friend. Those used most have become sturdier with time, while others have long since turned to dust. Fortunately, although I do not possess every key, I still remember a good number of the locks and can refer to the Specialist Locksmith College where a full collection is stored and maintained. There is tension between the Specialist College and Members of the General Solutionist Association. We pass through their esteemed institution, collecting keys and knowledge, but we are not one of them. We view locksmith specialists as technicians of excellence, but not so skilled in life outside their institution walls. A famous general solutionist of yesteryear (now synonymous with time and poor record keeping) once said, ‘It is not simply the quality of the key, but the skill and presentation behind the unlocking that makes the difference.’ This is hard to standardise in the way a key is made, and can be dismissed as mere theatre. However, the vessel bearer generally appreciates seeing the show, and having a part to play. The final unlocking is rewarding for all if opinion and experience is sought, with discussion of the various keys available. Once opened, steps can be taken to prevent accidental locking in the future. It is satisfying to nurture the confidence and skill of a vessel bearer, but not all are comfortable with the responsibility, and some solutionists keep their knowledge a secret. I have heard rumour that specialist locksmiths present a selection of keys, pass comment on each one, and request the vessel bearer to make a choice. If a plea for assistance is made, they can face a wall of impassivity, and the utterance ‘it is your decision, not mine to make.’
It sounds simple: a locked vessel requires unlocking with the correct key. However, it is unusual to have a perfect fit. There are universal themes associated with locks, but the mechanisms are exquisite in variety and detail. Foreign vessels hold their own particular challenges — without the right sequence of turns, and correct application of pressure, the key bearer will find frustration in failure despite the apparent correct key. When a vessel bearer enters dragging a weighty sack collected over time you know a challenge awaits. Ironically, the bearer will consider this preferable to causing bother on more than one occasion. As I sit, red of face and with a slight sweat, ploughing through various locks, my engagement dwindles, and they leave in a muddle with some vessels opened, some partially examined, and some needing further attention.
Occasionally I go through the motions of my performance, and the vessel opens to reveal … another locked vessel. In the early days these little surprises would send me into a frantic scramble through various keys, much to the amusement, alarm or disdain of the owner. Nowadays I sit back, take a deep breath, and a measured response. The reason for the second or third locked vessel may simply reflect the complexity, but sometimes, it defies logic and hints towards the ‘eternal lock’, a legend akin to the existence of psychics and telepaths. Distinguishing an eternal lock from one of unusual complexity is problematic. The bearer can suffer disappointment to learn you are no longer willing to try another key. I offer support and understanding for those who carry the burden of the permanently sealed. They may seek a second opinion, or return with increasing frequency and concern, hoping my conviction might waver. In honesty I do at times suffer mind wanderings of doubt.