An excerpt from Winona Daily News

In three minutes on a recent weekday, Jason Stayton saved one woman from the heart-wrenching feeling of being locked out of her car — with the engine running.

“I wanna give you a hug!” exclaimed Sheila Allard after watching the door to her car swing open.

“But I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable,” she added.

When Sheila had realized her predicament, she called Tom’s Lock Service. Within 15 minutes, Jason had come to the rescue.

Trusted Locksmith

Jason has been a locksmith almost 11 years, seven of which he has spent at Tom’s.

Jason got his first job as a locksmith in June 1999 in Rochester. In the time it took him to read the training booklet, he knew it was the right fit.

“I thought, ‘Oh, this is fascinating. This is awesome!’” Jason said.

Jason, who was hired at Tom’s Lock Service in 2005, comes to work every day expecting the unexpected. It might be the slow pace of making locks and keys or breaking into safes or the rush of coming to the rescue when someone has been locked out. There’s no telling what problem someone will call or come in with.

“I just go along and do what I gotta do to help people out,” Jason said.

Jason never tires of the unique challenges, like one four years ago when he was confronted with a locked truck that refused to open using typical methods. After trying everything else, Jason had one last idea: Cut a key by looking at the real one hanging from the ignition.

To his surprise, it worked. Another challenge conquered. But not the biggest one.

Opening safes is one of the biggest — and potentially dangerous — challenges Jason encounters.

He has proof in a display case in the shop — two small tubes taken from a 6-foot-by-3-foot safe.

He encountered them about a year and a half ago when a client asked him to crack the combination.

Jason took off the backing of the safe’s door. Inside was another plate covering the locking mechanism. Just before taking it off, he noticed there was a bracket attached to the plate. On the other side were two tubes of tear gas.

Whatever the day’s work, Jason is content. His job intrigues him, whether it’s seeing new places, solving people’s problems or figuring out the how to break into most anything that’s locked.

“I can’t really imagine myself doing anything else,” Jason said. “There’s always something interesting.”