(written March 2008)

There is that moment, when the knowledge descends upon you, relentless and final. The deed has been done, there is no repentance. Not a feeling of foreboding but rather that stark and brutal realisation that ‘it has happened’ and you can not undo it.

My mind immediately rehearsed all the actions of the past few minutes and then stretched to all the alternative solutions to undo what was done.

The act was final. Obvious solutions – none.

Here we were, barely back in Turkey, a mere few days, beginning the process of settling in to the flat, and had just left for Church. We stood there, outside our front door, me bent over, trying futilely to turn my key in the lock, knowing full well it was impossible – there was another key on the opposite side barring any movement. I could neither fully lock the door nor, on our return from Church, unlock the door, which was more the point.

A Turkish flat generally equals to one door. True we do have two doors on the terrace, but I know they are locked (they always are) and the front door has a key in the lock (bad habit, yes I know – I really do know that now).

What to do?

No simple solution.

Actually, no solution whatsoever came to mind.

Nothing for it but to lock the top lock, and leave the door and the problem and go to church.

Which we did.

By the time the meeting was over, I had an idea. Overhead transparencies. When in Diyarbakır we experienced a similar, uh, event.

We were staying with some friends, and as we all left the flat, the door was closed – but the keys, er, all the keys, were still in the flat. Oh, I should mention, our hosts were not the ones who shut the door – some lessons, it seems, are slowly learned.

One door, all the keys inside. What to do?

Well, the building has a “doorman” cum “cleaner” and as I was about to learn, cum “door opener”.

After we explained the problem, he went and got an x-ray – I assume an old one they didn’t need any more and he met us at the door. He slipped the stiff x-ray film between the metal door frame and the metal door, wiggled it into place, and shuffled and banged and shook the door and it popped open.

I had visions, or at least hope, of being able to do the same with my improvised x-ray (three sheets of acetates). My friend also had an idea of getting a wire and pushing the key out of the lock so we could use the key normally. So, with two strategies in mind, it was with more hope that we, after church, strode down to the quayside and boarded the ferry that would take us back across the Bosphorous Strait and home.

On disembarking, we made our way through the crowds, around the construction site for the new Underground system that will stretch beneath the placid waters of the Bosphorous and up the hill to our flat.

At the door we immediately prepared our copper wire and threaded it carefully into the lock. At about the depth of a key it hit a firm surface. That must be, or at least, could be, the offending key. I push and prod and wiggle the wire this way and that. Being copper, it bends rather smartly. However, as a forceful probe, it bends far too smartly.

We try one end of the wire and then the other and then both ends at the same time. I can not discern the slightest movement or advancement. If the firm surface we have encountered is the key, we have been unable to persuade it to budge.

Time for plan “B”.

I took the first sheet of acetate and started wiggling it about and it felt like it made the turn and found the mark. I was able to move it down to where the lock was. No effect – but I wasn’t done yet.
The second and third sheets of acetate followed the first and made a laminate-like body of three sheets prized between metal frame and metal door.

This door was tighter than the one in Diyarbakır and there wasn’t much slack to allow it move.

I huffed and I puffed, pulled, pushed, banged and generally made my face go red and the door rattle. There was no discernible effect on the locked door.

The wire didn’t work. The x-ray look-alike, three sheets of acetate, didn’t work. Time for plan “C”.

Oh yes, we had a plan “C”.

My friend had told me about plan “C” but we had tried everything else first because plan “C” meant getting a locksmith to come to the flat and do the business – for a fee. We were trying to avoid paying a fee needlessly.

Now if we had been in the UK, Canada or the US, it might have been difficult to find a locksmith on a Sunday, or to encourage him to come out to the flat. And if this had been the UK, Canada or the US, there would have been a formidable charge for a Sunday call-out.

But this is not the UK, Canada or the US.

A man was quickly found, and the fee he would charge is the cost for doing the task as on any other day of the week. He was simply glad for the work.

My friend had volunteered to collect the locksmith and so T and I were waiting at the top of the stairs as they made their way slowly to the summit.

The locksmith got right down to work, extracted a special implement, slipped it between frame and door and the lock snapped and the door rocked open a wee bit and then returned to it’s start position.

He tried again – to the same effect. He would do his ‘thing’ with the special ‘tool’ and the lock would audibly snap open and the door would shunt a wee bit only to pause briefly and then return to its former state.  Multiple times he tried and multiple times the process was repeated – always ending on the same sad note.

Then he queried if I had unlocked the upper lock. “Yes, of course” said I extracting my keys to demonstrate the unlocked-ness of the upper lock.

Now you have to bear in mind that a Turkish lock doesn’t turn once and lock. You rotate the key once and the bolt goes into the frame an inch and a half, you rotate a second time and the bolt goes further into the jam, and finally, a third time and the bolt is driven further into the door jam. Then the door is truly locked. That is true for the bottom lock and for the second, upper lock (this, too, has three turns).

I confidently put the key in the upper lock and turned it, and the bolt was withdrawn from the jam and the door popped open.

I had indeed unlocked the upper lock – but it seems, only twice. Patiently, the lock waited until the third turn to release the bolt from the confines of the door jam.

The locksmith smiled, his talents had been vindicated – the problem wasn’t with his skill or special tool; it lay elsewhere. He collected his fee and went smiling on his way.

I, for one, was glad to have paid the fee, to gain entrance to our flat and to be able to enjoy it far out weighed the cost of having a locksmith do his magic. Our stairwell is nice, but our flat is nicer.

Kind of reminds me of life in Turkey really. I had thoughts and ideas on how to get the door open. I tried, diligently, with tenacious effort, full of hope and faith. To no avail.

I needed someone who knew what he was doing and had the right tools for the job. Even then, I was able to hinder his work.

So, please pray with us that the Turks, who diligently and with tenacious effort seek to please God, will avail themselves of the locksmith – the Holy Spirit using local and foreign saints and receive the ‘key’ – the Good News – that unlocks the door – pray that they will not hinder the work and be released to enter in and enjoy all God has for them.

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