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20 April, 2004

Oh no...

I experienced a moment of fear this evening; the literally nauseating sense of having a serious problem and absolutely no idea of how to resolve it.  As I was leaving for the cinema, my front door key broke off in the lock.

For a moment I just looked at the stub, willing it to simply not have happened.  There had been no force behind my twisting motion, so I couldn't comprehend what had happened; I must have misunderstood, and in a moment I'd realise it was okay after all.

Nope. I can only presume the metal had become weak by day after day of slightly flexing in my pocket, plus whatever damage might have been caused by the previous owner of the house. It did break at a particularly deep notch in the shaft.
I was immensely lucky that it snapped as I was closing rather than opening the door, so I wasn't locked out of the house. I could get in, but with the broken shaft in the keyhole, the door couldn't be locked from the outside. The obvious plan was to use a spare key to force the broken one out from the other side, but the door is visibly thicker than two keys. The lock is an integral part of the door too, so couldn't be independently replaced.

There was another scary moment whilst it seemed the broken key was fouling the mechanism and the spare key wouldn't lock the door from inside either, but that was easily solved by realigning the slots. In doing so, I noticed that the broken key had been pushed out very slightly - the door must be a few millimetres thinner than I thought. Enough was projecting for a knife to lever it out further, then just enough for a pair of needle-nose pliers, and it was out. Trauma over.

A horrible incident, which is bound to worry me every time I use the door from now on. I'll need to have a couple of new keys cut asap, as I can't assume that the current spare key is less likely to snap, so I'll check whether a more resilient metal is available, and be far more cautious in future.

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