Life Without Keys


Little pieces of metal, each with its own secret identity.

Insignificant pieces of matter performing vastly significant tasks.

Easy to duplicate. Impossible to replace.

To many, keys are a sign of power. They denote access, authorization, trustworthiness, and respect. Custodians walk around with massive clusters of keys dangling conspicuously from their belts. Clearly they need access to many secured spaces, and it makes sense to carry the bulky masses on the outside of their clothes, but I've always had the impression that they wear them like badges of honor. The custodian, after all, is rather low on the ladder of success. Yet their keys indicate that they have power that their "superiors" don't have. The larger the cluster of keys, the more prestige the bearer has, proudly displayed for all to see. A ring of keys is to a custodian what medals and badges are to a war hero.

To me, keys are symbols of our bondage to material civilization. They are evidence of the territorial nature of man, and state clearly that we do not trust one another. I would be happy to be free of them altogether, and have made this my goal.

When I closed on my house, the previous owner handed me the keys at the conclusion of our business as if this made it official that I now possessed the property. I went directly to the house, unlocked all the doors, and tossed the keys into a drawer where they remain to this day. I have never locked the doors to my abode, and I never will. It is quietly nestled in a secluded, rural setting. The only people who bother me, beyond delivery men, are religious groups who leave pamphlets on my doorstep. I think it unlikely that these righteous men and women would violate my domicile. I figure that if I ever come home and find that I've been robbed, the only difference had I locked my doors would be that I'd have a broken window as well. Now, my friends and loved ones are free to make use of my facilities whenever they wish whether I'm home at the time or not.

One Saturday morning, I came down to my car, got in, and put the key in the ignition. To my horror, it didn't go all the way in. I had no idea why not, but with French cars I've learned never to be surprised. This really drove home the concept of how one thin, small, concisely shaped piece of metal can have such a huge impact. The car was in perfect running order, but without the ability to receive that magic talisman, it was a useless pile of parts. My solution was simple. I removed the steering column cover, analyzed the wires, and installed a bypass circuit. I used two toggle switches, one for the auxiliary and the other for the ignition, and a push button to activate the starter. I put everything back together, and marveled at the novelty of my new starting procedure. I felt like I was firing up a jet fighter. It worked perfectly. But as soon as I put it in gear for the first time, I realized that without the key in the ignition, the steering column remained locked. My friend Adrian came over with his high-powered drill and other implements of destruction, and we ripped the old ignition switch out of its setting. Of course as soon as we got it out, Adrian was able to get the key all the way in. But I didn't care, because I was much happier with a car that did not require keys. My security system is now merely the fact that it is a Renault Encore. That appears to keep all people from noticing it, including would-be car thieves.

The only key that I still need to carry is the one that gives me access to my office. Sadly, this is something I will not be able to avoid. Every morning when I depart for work, I grab that one, solitary, lonely key, dangling from a fob three times its size, and begrudgingly put it in my pocket. There it sits, poking me in the thigh, getting in my way when I reach for pocket change, and reminding me that my goal of a key-free life continues to elude me. I take solace, however, that I can make a quick trip to the store with absolutely no keys on my person. I can even take off on a weekend road trip without having to bring any keys with me, nor worry about losing them while I'm away. Considering the complexity of pre-millennial society, I guess I can't complain.

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