Friday, April 8, 2011

Fiddling with my knobs

Today I'm going to remove the doorknobs in my house.

No, that's not something I routinely do for my own amusement. It's also not some sort of bizarre sex ritual (though I'd like to pause for a moment and envision how that might work).

I've never locked the doors to my house. Truth be told, I don't even own a key. While my town doesn't have a particularly high crime rate, my laziness about locking is still probably dumb.

It's a bad habit I developed while living in Montana where I not only never locked the doors to my house, but also routinely left the car keys in the ignition. That came in handy when I prepared to leave the state and move home to Oregon. I lived in the middle of nowhere with the nearest town an hour away, so I placed an ad in the paper advertising the car for sale.

"It gets great gas mileage and does really well in the snow," I'd tell people who called.

"Great! I'd like to see it and maybe take it for a test drive."

"Well, I'm out in Polaris," I'd explain, "but the car is in the grocery store parking lot in Dillon. The keys are in it, so go ahead and take it for a spin and call me back if you want to buy it."

Not only did no one find this odd, I had at least six people drive it and never once worried about it being stolen. Things might have been different if it had been a Porche instead of a rusted Honda, but still.

Alas, I'm no longer in Montana. I know my laziness about personal security isn't such a good idea anymore, so that's why I'm removing my doorknobs. I have a drawer filled with 37 random keys, and none of them seem to go to any of the doors in this house. My friendly Home Depot associate (who seemed delighted to spend 20 minutes talking about my knobs) suggested my cheapest option would be taking them to a local lock shop and having them all set to a single key.

Seems simple enough, though I suspect he doesn't realize I'm too lazy to hunt for a screwdriver and will probably end up attempting the task with a butter knife.

Are you a stickler for locked doors and personal security, or do you have my lax habits? Please share. And keep in mind that if you want to break into my house, you're going to need to do it in the next hour or so. After that, I'll be standing smugly behind my locked doors with a butter knife in hand.


Bethany Elizabeth said...

:) I'm pretty uptight about locking the doors, mainly because my mother's a worrier, so I got into the habit when I was a kid. I also spent last year in a city, so locking doors was important. :)

Jess said...

I'm a stickler for locking my car and my doors, but I live in Boston. My Boston-born parents trained me well for city living, and I think they still lock everything even though they now live in northern New Hampshire.

It actually freaks me out a little when people say they don't lock their doors, so I'm glad you're getting your knobs, uh, standardized. Good luck with the butter knife!

MJones said...

I moved to Atlanta, Ga from a mid size city with a small town feel. Sometimes I didn't lock the door to my apartment and I'd walk in and find my sister in law and my nephew hanging out.

Moving to a bigger city definitely changed that for me. I'm big on locking up, now.

Becky said...

I lived alone in Houston for over 10 years. My doors were always locked. Always. Now I live with my parents again in a slightly smaller city, and they only lock the doors before bedtime. It's driving me nuts. Crime happens everywhere, even in "good" neighborhoods. Why make it easier for someone with bad intentions than it absolutely has to be?

Jason said...

Well, I grew up in Portland's rough and tumble (or something) East side, so I know all about locking doors. I'm with Jess, actually - the idea of not doing it freaks me out a little bit.

Of course, it also freaked me out in college when my roommate and I BOTH forgot our keys and were locked out of our apartment...and I managed to slip the lock with my student ID card to get us in. Hell, I had only read about that in Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books - never expected it to actually work.

Ah, those days of gloriously crappy apartments in Eugene near U of O. I miss them so much. And by so much, I mean not at all.

Unknown said...

I live in a city now, so I meticulously lock both security lock and the normal one.

In another apartment, a neighbour came upstairs and asked if I knew how to unhinge the door, because she had forgotten her key. I didn't, but she figured it out, knocked the pins out, and then lifted the door off the hinges and stepped inside.

When I lived on the countryside I only locked the door when I was leaving for a day or so. We also had the key "hidden" in the pump house some steps away from houses.

Mary said...

Since I live in an old house, most of my doors don't even close properly (yes, this includes the bathroom. Probably good that I only live with my dogs). My front door's always locked but I routinely leave my back door propped open (easy access for me & the dogs). So I'm half-vigilant, half-lax.

Steph Schmidt said...

Considering how easily my favorite things in life can walk away from my dorm with the help of someone else I'm semi paranoid about locking doors. It's just routine now before bed living with four people who are otherwise careless about closing the window, shutting the door etc.

Patty Blount said...


Um... (tries hard to imagine this)...

I can't even imaging not locking my doors.

Two locks on all my doors, plus alarm system that's armed as soon as it gets dark.

What? So I'm afraid of the dark.

Julia Broadbooks said...

I grew up in Manhattan, in the pre-Giuliani years. To say I'm uptight about locking the doors is an understatement. My husband once accidentally left the front door unlocked all night and I nearly hyperventilated.

Danica Avet said...

I'm obsessive about personal security. I can't help it. It isn't because I'm so wonderful that I think everyone's going to want to come and get me, but because I just like feeling secure. Even when I was younger and our town was much smaller, we always locked our doors. Now that our town has grown so much, it's almost a necessity. I even have a deadbolt on my home door and if I forget to lock it at night, the next morning I feel violated, LOL.

Eh, paranoia has its uses, I suppose.

Linda G. said...

I'm a stickler for locking doors. Mine are locked all the time, whether or not I'm home. Break-ins, and even home invasions, are not an unusual occurrence in and around the DC metropolitan area. No point in making things easier for the baddies.

Diane Henders said...

Yeah, always locked. My parents-in-law had a break-in once, and I don't ever want to have to deal with the kind of physical and emotional cleanup they had to do afterwards.

They lived in a "good, safe" neighbourhood, too. I hadn't been overly concerned about locks and security systems before then, but I am now.

Alexa O said...

I've lived in Brooklyn and Manhattan and now live in New Jersey (where I grew up). I routinely leave my doors unlocked and the other day both left my keys in the ignition AND my cell on the driver's seat.

This is not because I have some kind of existential belief in trusting my neighbors, though. It's because I'm flighty.

Stephanie said...

OMG!! That story is hilarious!!!

I grew up in the city...and locking doors was just something we always did. The car doors were always locked and the house was locked up tight each night. We even had a security alarm. When I got married and moved to the suburbs (hubby was from the suburbs) he thought I was weird for always locking everything up. Until the one night we'd left the car unlocked and our gps and my ipod touch were stolen. Now he's all about locking up.

Kate Avery Ellison said...

I live in Atlanta, so yeah ... I ALWAYS lock my doors (house and car). Pretty much everyone I know has been robbed in one way or another at some point. Even with locked doors, I always lock my purse in the trunk if I'm not talking it with me, the same with my laptop if it's in my car, etc. I've had friends get their windows smashed in b/c they left their purse on the seat in plain view. I can't imagine leaving the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition!

Summer Frey said...

I live in the boonies, but I still lock. Old habits die hard. I lock when I'm home, inside the house. I lock when I'm driving. And at night? I put a security bar on the door. Yup.

Sarah W said...

I'm currently writing about characters who can open locks and disarm security systems with paperclips and jewelry findings, and just had a lovely talk with a police officer about the million and four ways people can break into one's house or business . . . so, yeah, I'm a little paranoid right now.

therese patrick, author said...

We always had one door that was unlocked except when all were home and sleeping, or no one was home. I've always lived near a city with crime issues but never considered locks as a protection. I know how easy it is to bypass them! :D

Locks are a common sense approach to taking care of myself and my stuff, not out of fear that I'll be hurt or lose anything.

Indigo said...

Ha! I live in NY, even in upstate NY not locking your doors is an invitation for trouble. I lock the door behind me when I come back in from outside, it's locked when I'm home, etc.

Oh and for good measure there is a metal baseball bat beside the front door, and a dog that bays like the hounds of hell when someone knocks.

Honestly, I'm more careful since I went deaf. I wouldn't be able to hear an intruder in the house, so it makes sense to be prepared. (Hugs)Indigo

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm from "the big city" so I always had to lock my doors. That's the one nice thing about where we live now. We never lock the front door anymore.

Michelle Wolfson said...

I feel like this entire post is written in Greek.
A regular person can take off a doorknob? You don't need to be a handyman or a locksmith??
You went out of town but parked your car at the grocery store with the keys in it? How did you get out of town from there??
Home Depot?? Single Key??? Huh??????
I think I would use a big wooden spoon instead of a butter knife. I'd feel better hitting than stabbing.

ExMagistra said...

I'd say I'm pretty "medium" about security. I leave my garage door unlocked (it's not attached to the house), but I lock the house itself. I leave the little crappy car unlocked, but I lock the good car (the little car's probably worth more stolen anyway). I sleep with a meat cleaver in my room, but it's tucked away in the closet so the kids can't find it. It's all about balance.

Laura Maylene said...

First: Holy crap. Is Montana really like that?? And you don't even lock your house overnight or when you leave?? I'm in awe.

I always lock the door. My husband and I live in a secure, safe apartment building, but still...there are tons of residents (and their friends) and the building is a 10-second walk from multiple bars. We'd probably have a bigger chance of having a drunk person wander into our apartment by accident than a break-in, but still, the door is always locked. Even when we go into the basement to do laundry, we lock the door even though we'll be gone for like 5 minutes.

Laura Maylene said...

I also have a few stories about unlocked doors:

One of my college roommates became very lax about locking our dorm room. We lived on the first floor and we often gathered on the building's front porch to chat. Since the porch was just down the hall from our room, she didn't see the point in locking our door and carrying our keys. I would half-halfheartedly tell her to please lock the door, but she never did.

And then one day someone wandered into our room, found my purse and wallet, and stole all my cash. I was just lucky this was during the pre-laptop days, and that I didn't have credit cards, etc. My roommate, of course, had nothing stolen. I think I was out $50 and I'm really annoyed at myself now that I didn't ask her to pay me back since it was her fault.

But the other story is much creepier: She left the room very early one morning and, of course, left the door unlocked. I was sleeping off the night before when I felt an odd sensation. I opened my eyes TO SEE A DUDE STANDING BY MY BED SPRINKLING A WATER BOTTLE ON MY FACE. I swear to god. I screamed and he ran out of my room. This wasn't one our friends or even a college student; it was some random guy who lived in town. It still creeps me the hell out to know he was in my room, right by my bed, while I was asleep.

I am now retroactively pissed off at my former college roommate. Happy Friday.

lora96 said...

Heehee best post title ever!

I'm a locker. I do, however, leave my keys in my truck b/c of nifty keyless entry door code panel which makes me feel like an awesome spy. My husband, who literally keeps his keys and wallet in the pocket of his PAJAMAS at night, is disturbed by my cavalier attitude toward vehicle safety.

Someone could JUST BREAK THE WINDOW and they'd have the keys, he protests.

I feel that if they are sufficiently dedicated to auto theft that they would break the window, they can have the damn thing.

Katie Richie said...

We lock our doors whenever we leave the house and usually when we’re at home.
We have a keypad on the front door, so we don’t need a key. It’s so nice to just punch in a number to unlock the door. It’s also helpful when people visit because I can give them their own code instead of having an extra key made.

Judy, Judy, Judy said...

I lock everything. I'm not quite as paranoid about it as my mom, however. We have relatives who call the house Fort Knox because all 4 doors are always double locked, whether we're home or not.

I recently had the locks rekeyed to have only 1 key fit all of them. It's so much more convenient.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I'm definitely a locker. We don't have a security system for this house, but we think we might get one for the next one.

Delia said...

I lived here in the boonies for nearly 10 years before locking my doors (or taking the keys out of the car at night). That changed when a house 5 minutes away was broken into and the mother and 9 year old girl sleeping inside were hacked with a machete. I think pretty much everyone in all the surrounding towns were cured of the no-lock disorder on that night.

Wow. That was a severe downer. Sorry.

Laina said...

The front door is locked. But that's partly because there's about 10 feet of snow in front of it, so I can't use it as a window (the only window in my living room is a picture window, so you can't open it and it gets stuffy).

The back door is unlocked. It always is til nighttime unless we leave town. Town is, mind you, 1200 people. Nothing's ever happened.

I've never been locked out of the house, not since we moved and I got a key, but when we lived in your old house, we had a door that slammed when it locked. But there was only one key so we never closed it when my mom and I were both out of the house. Then, one day when my mom's at work, my aunt drops something off at our house and slams the door. Then I come home from school and can't get it.

Also, we used to live in a city of 75,000 people... and our doors were still unlocked til nighttime. Nothing ever happened there, either.

Laina said...

Oh, also, I live next door to a church. Kinda a bad house to rob.

And the only break-in that's ever really happened in my town was when some kids put birds in the high school gym on Halloween.

Sierra said...

I'm big on locking my doors, but I grew up in not-the-safest-neighborhood in Dallas. And my overactive imagination was sure that serial killers/monsters were lurking in the dark beyond an uncovered window, so curtains were a must. I'm better about that now. Mostly.

I replaced my bedroom doorknob once in high school. My lovely younger siblings decided to close the door and take off the outer knob while I was screwing the other panel on in my room. The outer knob also had the longer piece that turned the tumblers. So I got stuck in my room for about 5 minutes until I figured out the mechanics...just long enough for them to hide really well.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I'm a compulsive door-locker. We have a sign in front of our house warning about our security system, too. No system. Just the sign.


Yes yes yes. I am a door locker and you must learn to be too.
We live in a society where we cannot unfortunately trust our neighbor. Very sad but true.
I do still trust people but I feel an unlocked door invites trouble.
Better to be safe and not sorry.
My mother's sentiments. And I'm her daughter!
Good luck with your knobs.
Blessings, Barb

Kadi Easley said...

When I lived out in the country, I never put the door key on my key chain. When I moved back to town I got a little better about locking up. I usually remember to do it before I go to bed. Other than that, it's pretty much a free for all.

Kadi Easley said...

I posted before I read all the comments and while I was reading I remembered something that happened to me when I was working in Delaware. I was staying in a pay by the week motel/studio apartment. I think the whole place was full of hookers and crack dealers. The cops were there at least once a day while I was home, no telling how many visits they made while I was at work.
I did all my errands on my way home from work, locked myself in as soon as I got there and didn't poke my head out again until it got light out. Except for that one time. I was home sick from work and laying on the couch wishing I could die or there was someone around to tuck in my blankets and bring me chicken soup when my door opened and a strange man walked in. I looked up at him and stared. I was so fuzzy from fever I couldn't even think of anything to say to the guy. He stopped, saw me on the couch, looked around the room, and ran out slamming the door. I don't know if he ran out because he was embarrassed or because I looked so awful I frightened him. That was the only time that door was unlocked the entire time I was there. I came out one morning to find out my next door neighbor had gotten into a fight the night before and stabbed someone. I slept right through it.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

My door does this weird thing where even after I lock it, it can still be opened unless I make sure that the lock clicks. That has happened to me a few times where I'll come home to an unlocked apartment, but fortunately no one has ever stolen anything. (But then again I don't have anything valuable for them to steal.) But now I always triple-check my locks, just in case. It's also because of the fact that I've watched a few too many horror movies.

Anonymous said...

Doors have locks on them? And there are keys that fit? Uh, not around here. When I said, a few posts back, that my door would be open, I meant that literally, half the time they aren't even closed all the way, let alone locked.

Grew up in a house that had NO keys, we were in a panic one time when a relative locked the front door as we all walked out. Thankgawd all the other doors were not locked. How would we have gotten back in?!

Oh yeah, I leave my keys in the ignition all the time. Otherwise I can't find them.

(But don't try to rob us, there are too many guns in the house for us to be very worried.)

London Mabel said...

I live in Montreal, and everyone locks their doors, and car doors--and that includes all the suburbs. It's second nature, you wouldn't think of doing otherwise. A high % of the people I know have had their home broken into at some point, myself included. Most home owners have alarm systems.

Christina Auret said...

Characters not locking their doors is one thing that always throws me right out of a novel. I have to make seriously huge amounts of allowance for the fact that the book probably takes place somewhere in the more rural parts of the USA.

I have never lived in a city, but I'm South African. We not only have a lot of crime, we have a lot of very violent crime.

I live in a flat that has burglar bars on every conceivable entrance. My car doors are locked even when, actually especially when, I am in the car. That's just the way things are. I lock my door when I take out the trash.

Penelope said...

I used to be lax, but single motherhood turned me in to an obsessive door locker. I actually dead the door in the same turn that I shut it without realizing it now.

Unknown said...

I live in L.A.

I've never seen an unlocked door in my life. Been locked out on multiple occasions.

Lock my car door at the gas station when I put gas.

Karin said...

I still remember the solemn moment when my father locked our door for the first time in my (then rather young) life. We were going off for holidays for a month. But just in case someone would come and needed to get in, he hang it on a little hook on the doorframe. Of course it ws still there when we got back. Today – well, things have changed a bit.