A memory hack for locks

Twice this year I’ve been in a hurry to get somewhere after working out at the gym, and have left my lock on a locker rather than hooking it to my gym bag. Since the folks at the gym are aggressive with their bolt cutters, that’s meant buying two new locks, and memorizing two new lock combinations. This reminded me of a convenient hack.

With a rotary lock of the “left to 33, then right to 24 …” variety, I have three sets of numbers to memorize. Since I don’t have a great memory for numbers, but can remember silly phrases, I’ll find a mnemonic for the numbers, and then string them together into a memorable silly phrase. “To be” (or “toothy”) for 23, “Too late” for 28, “free sex” for 36, and so on. A standard “improve your memory” technique. And one that works for me: I can still remember the combination of a lock I lost 12 years ago.

Sometimes, though, a number doesn’t yield itself to a memorable mnemonic. Here’s where the hack comes in: Rotary locks have sloppy tolerances. Turning the dial to within one (or one and a half) of a number is good enough to get the lock open. If you have a combination lock, try opening it with numbers that are one-off from the official combination. Cool, eh? So if you can’t find a mnemonic for a number, try the numbers on either side.