Wed, May
27
2009

So *This* is What S.O.L Means...

Locksmith

I was working away at my computer when the call came, around 11 p.m. Some relatives of mine, back from a trip to Texas, had somehow lost their keys to their home, and were thus barred from their abode by a dead bolt lock. Unable to access their phone book, and armed only with a cell, they called me — as they know I’ll be up at that time of night — to look up a security locksmith in the area that did emergency house calls. So, I took on the task.

After a couple of false starts (there are a few places which help people that get locked out of their cars rather than their homes, and the two do not mix), a quick Google search for unlocking front doors and emergency services brings up a site called Pop a Lock. The site promises to come to your front door to get you in the house, whenever you need it. Sounds like a simple enough job.

The names in this transcript have been expunged to protect the innocent. Except for those who are guilty.

So, I called the 1-800 number for the city in question.

CHIPPER AUTOMATED OPERATOR: “Hi! Thank you for calling Pop a Lock! Your call may be monitored for quality assura—”

OPERATOR #1 (considerably less chipper): “Thank you for calling Pop a Lock. How can I help you?”

ME: “Yes, X has locked themselves out of their house. Can you help?”

OPERATOR #1: “Where are they?”

ME: (Gives address)

OPERATOR #1: “Is that on the south side of the city?”

ME: “Yes. Near the airport.”

OPERATOR #1: “All right. You need to call this number: 903-xxx-xxxx. They service the area”

ME: “Fine. Thank you.” (hang up)

ME: (call number)

AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: “We’re sorry. The number you have called is not in service. If you believe this to be in error, please check the number and try your call again. This is a recording.”

ME: (call Pop a Lock, main dispatch)

CHIPPER AUTOMATED OPERATOR: “Hi! Thank you for calling Pop a Lock! Your call may be monitored for quality assura—”

OPERATOR #2 (Also considerably less chipper): “Thank you for calling Pop a Lock. How can I help you?”

ME: “Yes. I called earlier about X being locked out of their home, and the number you gave me was out of service.”

OPERATOR #2: “I’m sorry to hear that, sir. However, it is the only number we have for that area.”

ME: “I see. Perhaps you could give me the number for the next county or district over?”

OPERATOR #2: “Certainly, sir. I have a number for Polk County, sir. Try 877-xxx-xxxx.”

ME: “Thank you very much.” (Hang up)

ME: (Call new number. Phone rings. There’s a click. Another ring, and…)

CHIPPER AUTOMATED OPERATOR: “Hi! Thank you for calling Pop a Lock! Your call may be monitored for quality assura—”

OPERATOR #3 (You guessed it! Less chipper!): “Thank you for calling Pop a Lock,” says a third considerably less chipper operator. “How can I help you?”

ME: “Did I just call this number before?”

OPERATOR #3: “I don’t know, sir. You may have. How can I help you?”

ME: “I’m trying to help X get inside their home. Where they’ve been waiting for half an hour, now, near midnight, after driving all day back from Texas. I’d let you speak to X directly, but I’m not sure your health insurance would cover it.” (Note: I didn’t actually say this, but I was thinking it. These guys were immensely lucky to be talking to me and not the person in the thick of things)

OPERATOR #3: “I can try and help you out, sir. Whereabouts are they?”

ME: (Gives address)

OPERATOR #3: “Is that on the south side of the city?”

ME: “Yes. Near the airport.”

OPERATOR #3: “All right. You need to call this number: 903—”

ME: “Woah, woah, no. You gave me that number. That number didn’t work.”

OPERATOR #3: “Well, sir, it’s possible he may be busy, if you could try that number—”

ME: “Um, no. I get a recording at the other end saying that the number is out of service. The number you have given me is wrong.”

OPERATOR #3: “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s the only number I can give you for that district.”

ME: “And the next district over?”

OPERATOR #3: “I can get that information for you, sir. It’s 877-xxx-xxxx.”

ME: “Uh, huh, yeah. Polk county, right?”

OPERATOR #3: “Yes, sir.”

ME: “Yeah. I just called that number. It put me through automatically to you.”

OPERATOR #3: “Well, I’m sorry, sir. There’s nothing I can do.”

ME: “I can see that. You might want to tell your manager that a fair chunk of the city is basically out of service. Nobody’s getting their lock popped tonight.”

OPERATOR #3 (seemingly unbothered by this fact): “Thank you, sir. I will do that, sir.”

ME: “No. Thank you.” (hangs up)

This is actually cut down. I went through calling both numbers twice, on the off chance that I’d keyed them in wrong. I hadn’t. Part of the problem is that the 903 area code applies not to the city in question, but to a city, ironically, in Texas, where X was visiting. Calling the local area code version of the number, however, produced no joy. If anything, the report that the number was out of service came even quicker.

Found some joy in an alternative company called Security Locksmiths, whose phone number put me through to a weary-sounding individual who was just cleaning up from a job in the northwestern part of the city. He took the information and promised to be over in about thirty minutes. Sounds like it’s going to be a long night for him as well.


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