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This article was published 26/11/2009 (2706 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Opening locks without a key doesn't require the magic and mastery of Houdini or the finesse of an old-time safe cracker.
You've just got to be patient and skilled and own very expensive tools, says local locksmith Darren Ingleson.
"The nuts and bolts of it is basically learning how to pick locks," says Ingleson. "It's tactile.
"In Canada it's kind of like the wild, wild west. There is no real formal locksmith school. It's sort of like a secret cabal. You learn by practising."
Ingleson, 42, fell into performing legal break-and-enters because he's an honest man. In 1992, he had a job servicing bank kiosks. There were no security cameras in those days.
"There was a situation I had with the Royal Bank where I found $120,000. I couldn't believe it. I thought maybe it was a sting."
He moved a ceiling tile, stuffed the money inside to keep it out of sight and called police.
The bank sent him a letter of thanks. He's still got a copy.
When he applied for a job with a St. Boniface locksmith, Ingleson attached the letter.
"He goes, 'Do you want a job?' "
In 2000, Ingleson started his own company, Wildwood Lock & Security. His speciality is automotive problems; everything from keys locked inside a car to lost keys.
He gets a lot of calls from people who have lost their transponders.
"It's very expensive to keep up with the technology," he says. He drives a decommissioned ambulance, an eye-catching vehicle that holds all the tools of the trade. It cost him $15,000 in 2005. He calls it his office on wheels.
Yes, it's securely locked.
Ingleson says he gets all types of customers.
"People want things done right now. I'll get a baby locked in a car. You try to deal with that quickly and compassionately."
He tells the story of a local TV personality whose child was trapped inside a locked car. It was 90 minutes before he could get to her.
"She was really calm. It was really cold out but she stayed calm."
"You get people who are hysterical. There was one guy who had a bucket of chicken in his car. He kept telling me I had to hurry. He didn't want it to get cold."
Ingleson doesn't share any tricks of the trade. He can get into any car, he says, and make a new key on the spot.
"I'll tell you this. I've got a bypass tool. It's not a brick being lobbed through a window."
He remembers one job where he committed a major faux pas.
"I was referred by a real estate agent I know. This lady needed new locks installed. I knocked on the door, the lady answered and I said, 'Congratulations!'
"I thought she'd just bought the house. Turned out she'd just kicked her husband out."
Some customers defy belief.
"I remember when my dad died in 2001. I was going into the Gimli hospital. I was just devastated. My phone rang. It was a guy looking for help. I told him my dad had just died.
"He goes 'oh.' He called back about five minutes later and goes 'When you're done with your dad, can you come over?' "
And then there's the client on Bower Boulevard who wanted to pay the locksmith in soap flakes.
"I'm not kidding! He was an agent for them or something. He had this pallet full of boxes and thought I should take them.
"That's the Winnipeg shuffle. It's the vexation on the human spirit."
Ingleson can get downright poetic at times.
He declined the man's offer.
Some customers are memorable because they're so nice.
Ingleson did a job at a Victoria Crescent house. The lady inside was baking Yorkshire pudding. He told her the smell reminded him of his dad.
"About four months later, I got this quilt. She'd stitched on a Yorkshire pudding recipe. It was so nice. She knew it would mean something to me."
Ingleson says he refuses to demonstrate his skills to impress people. He's been asked but this is his job, not a party trick.
And while he can get into any house in the city, he does his due diligence before picking a lock.
"All you can do is make every conscientious effort to document they are actually the owner.
"I know a locksmith who always asks the same question. Where do you keep your rice? If they don't know where the rice is, it's not their house."
Ingleson says he didn't have any sort of career plan starting out. He graduated from Glenlawn Collegiate, took a couple of university courses and tried to sort things out.
"I was kind of a bit of a wastrel. I didn't grow up thinking 'I want to be a locksmith.' "
He and his wife, Michaela, have three children. His sons are already saying they'd like to join Dad in the family business.
It's an honest living, he says. He gets paid by the job. He estimates he makes between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.
"It's a good job. There's no typical day. There's just no routine. It's tough setting a schedule. Locksmiths' wives are the most understanding in the world."
Magic! Presto! Darren Ingleson has just unlocked the key to his wife's heart.