I started to write that the first thing we did after getting the keys to our new house was to change the lock, but that’s not actually true. We knew the toilet worked but was a bit wobbly and needed adjusting so Bill took care of that straight away. Our next step was to order a refrigerator. After all, if we were going to be working on the place for the next few months, we might as well be comfortable and the local sparkling wine doesn’t chill itself. With those priorities checked off the list it was indeed time to change the lock and have a French lesson at the same time.
Because we’ve moved several times within the US in the last 30 years, Bill has a lot of experience in changing out locks be it just in the door knob, just a deadbolt, or generally both at the same time. You go to the hardware store, buy the new locks, and then spend an hour or so unscrewing several spots, taking out the old equipment, lining everything back up, threading the cam through the slot and then screwing it all back together.
Here, at least in our experience, it’s one screw, pop out the old pop in the new and you’re done. That’s the short version. The long version takes over when you have to go to the hardware store to get a new lock which means that first you have to measure the old one since they vary in length based on the width of your door. Then you have to figure out where in this huge store you’re going to find locks and of course, the high-security one that we wanted was kept inside a locked cabinet. We now had to say in French, “the lock is locked” and just like every other awkward situation we’ve been in, the person helping us just chuckles and gets us what we need.
It’s not just the locks that are different from the US but also the mechanism in the door frame. Have you ever seen a bank vault where the rods on the door move in and out of the frame to form a solid wall when the door is closed? We have 5 points on our front door where pins move into place into the frame once you raise the doorknob and “set” them. After you turn the key, that door is meant to stay locked.
Inside the house all of the doors have the kind of knobs that I remember from my grandmother’s house. There’s a skeleton key, that probably opens all of them, that you leave on your side of the door when you want privacy. I just read that French artist Edgar Degas wanted his paintings of women bathing to look real, as if the viewer were spying on them through a keyhole. I think that we’ll keep those skeleton keys handy.