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Pinkhas Pinkhasov, 38

What I do

To be a locksmith is in my heart and I love it. When I do my job, I only think about the job. Everything else disappears from my brain. I am very serious about my concentration, but when I finish my job, boom, everything comes — all my personal problems. Of course the telephone rings all the time and that interrupts me but I have to answer it. I don't have anybody else working with me after my older brother died in February. He was sick.

When I first came from Russia in November 1991, I knew I wanted to continue to be a locksmith, but I did not know anything about American locks. I had learned from the master in Russia where my main job was opening safes.

Everything is very different here. For example, there is combination locks here, and in Russia it is only mechanical. Also, the pick set, to pick locks, is very different from Russia. Here, everything is made by the factory and they redesign all the time to make it better.

I learned very much from the Hudnall Davis locksmith company, but I wanted to start my own business. The manager and the owner [at Hudnall Davis] did many things for me — it is not everybody who can do the things they did for me. They changed my life.

I told my boss after one year and eight months that I think I know about 50 percent of the job, and I think it's enough to begin with. As you know, you never stop to learn on anything, and that is how I manage.

My brother, he give me money to start my business. I bought a used van and some tools. I put an ad in the Yellow Pages and in the red book, and my mobile business took off.

I had a problem with my accent in the beginning and I lost customers because we do not understand each other good, but now everything is OK. I have a friend, he is called Louis, from Dixie Lock & Key. He helped me a lot. Every time I don't understand something, I call him. When there is news for the business, he tells me because reading locksmith magazine in English was not easy for me in the beginning.

I tried to stay in New York because there is more money there, but I did not like it. In New York, they pay $150 to $250 a key and here it is $65 to $85. Three years ago, I was robbed after my first week in there — they took my navigation system. How can I do my job without a computer to tell me directions? I was only there for eight months. and I say it is better to make less money and to have peace of mind. I don't want to sleep with half-open eyes. Those eight months were a nightmare.

Of course there is danger here too, especially because I work 24 hours, but now I have my dog Brandy, a Doberman pinscher, with me all the time, and I carry Mace whenever I go to a job. You never know people and I have to be careful.

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