More keys than locks
Jan. 12, 2018
by Ivan Raconteur

Somewhere in the world, there’s a lock with no key.

This occurred to me last week when I received a new key to add to my key ring.

As I paused to examine this collection of keys I have been carrying around with me, I realized I only know what about half of them are for.

I spent some time pondering this last weekend as I wandered around the bachelor estate looking for locks to match my keys.

My research was not overwhelmingly successful.

I currently have 11 keys and one bottle opener on my key ring. I know what the bottle opener is for, so we can disregard that for the purpose of this exercise.

I was only able to identify six of the 11 keys, which is a disappointing 55 percent.

Now, I am more curious than I was when I started.

I’m not some sort of weird key-collecting freak who goes around picking up stray keys.

I am confident that at some point I knew what every one of the keys on my ring was for.

The problem is, I don’t remember which locks those are.

I daren’t get rid of the keys, because I’m certain the moment I did, I would discover what they open.

It is possible I no longer own whatever lock goes with some of these keys, but I can’t be certain.

A couple of them look like door keys, but as far as I can tell, they don’t fit any of the doors I own.

One of them might be for a padlock, but my search last weekend did not turn up any padlocks.

I wondered if one of them might have belonged to some wild woman I met along life’s journey – perhaps an apartment key she gave me for her convenience – but upon reflection, I decided that would be the kind of thing I would have remembered.

I don’t meet as many wild women these days as I did when I was younger.

I hate to sound defeatist, but I suspect these stray keys will meet the same fate as a key collection I have in a drawer at home.

This assortment of misfit keys has followed me through at least two new residences and several vehicles.

I’m pretty sure I could let them go, but there’s always an element of doubt.

I justify keeping them by telling myself they don’t take up much space.

There have actually been times over the years when I have hauled out my misfit keys and found a match.

One year when I was packing for vacation, I rescued a suitcase key from the drawer.

Another time, I found a key that fit a padlock that was in a gear bag of kayak accessories.

It is this intermittent reinforcement schedule that compels me to keep these keys, even though I haven’t the faintest idea which locks they fit.

I imagine someday an archaeologist of the future will uncover these strange artifacts and wonder what purpose they served among the tribes of 21st century North America.

Were they tools? Jewelry? Religious symbols? Unless the future archaeologists also stumble upon a collection of locks, they may never figure it out.

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