In which I go to great lengths for my child, or, Santa learns a little lock breaking

Ollie found a padlock outside. I don’t remember exactly when it showed up; Ollie just brought it home from school, said he found when they were at the park across the street.

It’s a little bit worse for the wear, having been outside and everything, but nothing special, other than it’s pretty heavy duty.  He carries it everywhere, he sleeps with it at night. I mean, there is literally nothing you can do with this lock. It’s just a big, heavy, locked…lock.

So naturally, Ollie has fallen in love with it.

For the past month or so, whenever we ask Ollie what he wants for Christmas, he says, “The combination to my lock.” It is the ONLY THING HE WANTS. “That’s impossible, buddy,” I say. “There’s no way to find out the combination.” “Santa can find out the combination,” he stubbornly insists.

I mean, I wouldn’t feel so bad about it if he wanted *anything* else. But for months, consistently, the ONLY THING HE WANTS.

“You know,” said Sara, with all the aplomb of someone who is suggesting someone else do something that she herself would never actually do, “If you could check 4 combinations per minute, it would only take 40 hours to check all the possible combinations…”

Grandpa took the first shift. “You can do WAY more than 4 combinations a minute,” he said, and proceeded to try the first 2000 combinations over the weekend.

Now, at this point I started to get a little excited. Only 8000 more possible combinations, and most likely the combination would be somewhere in the middle anyway. I could check them every day while on the train, find the combination, and return the lock before Ollie realized it was gone. Come Christmas, Santa slips the combination into his stocking and we have the most MAGICAL CHRISTMAS EVER! Ollie will believe until he’s 32.

So away I went. I could get between 500 and 700 combos checked per train ride, depending on if I caught the express or not. I knocked out like 2000 additional one night while watching Mad Max. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use my wrist for like 2 days afterwards, so I’m not sure that actually put me ahead, but still.

Naturally, it was totally worth it because as soon as I solved that combination, all the hard work would pay off and it would be the most MAGICAL CHRISTMAS EVER!

When I got to the 9000th combination, I said to myself, “That’s okay. No worries. That just means the first number is 9, that’s all.” “What are the odds it’s in the last few numbers?” asked Sara. “100%”, I said confidently. “I’ve checked all the other numbers, so I know for a fact it has to be in the last few numbers.”

In reality, though, I was not feeling so confident. Every number that went by I was more sure I had missed it somehow. Imagine if the first digit wasn’t lined up just perfectly; that entire 1000 tries would have been invalidated. For all I know, this stupid rusty lock had a broken mechanism.

When I finally got to 9999, I was…disappointed to say the least. It really was quite a lot of work, which I was happy to do, assuming that it actually resulted in learning the combination. But, since it hadn’t…

You can find anything on youtube, including thousands of videos on how to pick a lock. Now, to be clear, picking the lock wasn’t really useful in my case: I didn’t just need to get the lock open, I needed to actually have the combination. So up until that point I hadn’t gone down that road, but I was really at rock bottom here. Maybe I could pop it open, and then somehow reset the combination (which I can say now is definitely not something you can do, but honestly I probably wasn’t in my right mind at that point.)

You can find anything on youtube. Seriously. I watched a series of videos of people picking my specific model of lock in under 30 seconds. One guy did it with a paperclip. Easy breezy. I could totally do this.

I totally could not do it, and I broke the paperclip off inside the lock. The most magical Christmas ever was getting farther away by the minute. Santa was going to be an utter failure, Christmas would be ruined, and Ollie would probably end up riding the rails, bitter and alone, just another disillusioned hobo, drunk, depressed, and cursing God Santa.

I kept at it. I learned so much about picking locks, you guys. I examined cutaway diagrams of locks, learned where to buy lock picking tools, or even how to make them in a pinch.

And then I found it: the post to end all posts. It gave me a technique so simple and easy, requiring no tools at all, that honestly I’m not sure why we even bother to lock things. Less than 5 minutes and I had the combo.

Man, I sure wish I had looked up how to do that before I spent all those hours brute-forcing the combination. Oh well, who cares. The





was back on, baby!


Now that I can open it, I can see that I undoubtedly wasn’t tugging hard enough when I was checking the combos. On the other hand, if I actually did fully check each number, it would have taken too long and I never would have checked them all. Either way, in hindsight, I can see my brute-force method never would have actually worked.

I called Sara up to tell her I had cracked it. “It’s weird, though,” I said. “It’s a strangely round number.” “Wait, you mean the combination is the address of the kids’ school??”

Guess we know where the lock came from.

5 thoughts on “In which I go to great lengths for my child, or, Santa learns a little lock breaking

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