Identi-key Crisis

By: Sandra L. Churchill

KeysSomewhere on this weekend’s to-do list is a little “key surgery.”

Two things gave this task a coveted place on my trusty notepad of action items. First, a kindly librarian in our tiny town frowned in disapproval when I hefted my numchucks-sized wad of keys on the counter in a quest to find my key-ringed library card. I’m not sure what she was thinking. What a mess? What are all those little tags? Wow—this looks like a weapon?

Second, I swear I could hear my car emit a grown when I slipped my key into the ignition—tethered, of course, to an impossible tangle of keys and the ever-popular key tabs to every store on the planet.

So what happened to a tidy little ring with a house key, a car key, and one or two spares to this or that? Retail took the rings by storm. I’m guessing a marketing team sat in a corporate boardroom somewhere, downing cups of now-cold coffee, drowsy in the late afternoon sunlight. Somebody pushed the team to find the next sales gimmick—the untapped market strategy that would reveal all about the consumer’s mindset and brilliantly steer the buying habits of moms everywhere.

Why moms? While dads certainly cram key-rings into their pockets, they’re more about carrying what’s practical instead of a portable diary of a person’s thoughts, preferences, and daily comings and goings. Not true with Mom. She has pictures on her keys—maybe even a digital photo thingy that stores favorite pictures of her family and friends. She has tags to beauty clubs, fitness memberships, her library card, and her favorite store.

Looking at mine, you could tell a lot about me. The colorful Toys R Us logo tells you I’m likely a mom—or else an enthusiastic Christmas and birthday shopper for a bevy of nieces and nephews.

The AC Moore tag tells you I’m probably crafty—as in glue and sequins and homemade Halloween costumes.

The trio of bookstore tags indicates yes, I’m a book addict and reading-reading-reading is a quiet mantra at my house.

Meineke’s yellow tab tells you where I get car work done and CVS’ tag tells you they are my main supplier of Kleenex, ibuprofen, and all-things cold-related.

A mini-club of grocery stores also reside on my key-ring, adding weight and complexity to the weaponry by competing for eye-space when I scramble to find the right one at the supermarket checkout.

What to do? I can certainly clean house—or rather clean key ring—in a brutal, no-exceptions, must-have-order way. Maybe I’ll invite a friend over for moral support—the way they suggest in the women’s magazines when you clean your closet and toss memories out with your too-tight jeans.

I picture it—a pitiful ring with a house key and a car key and a couple spares. With no way for technology to lojack my every move with the secret computer chips that could be hidden in the rainbow of retail tags. With no frowns at the library counter and no more groans from my car ignition.

With the precision of a brain surgeon, I slip each tag carefully off the ring and see silver gleaming back at me. The ring seems to thank me. Hope rising, I keep going until a pile of tags sit on my kitchen table and the de-clutter fairy is twirling her victory dance. Sliding the key-ring on one finger, I dangle it, dainty and no longer a weapon. Lots of silver, no tags.

My smile fades. No beaming children smiling at me from their cute little key-tag frames. No promise of “extra discounts” on craft supplies. No bonus points at the bookstores. No exclusive memberships to warehouses, toy extravaganzas, and blockbuster sales on everything from cotton balls and cereal to ice skates and CDs. Dispirited, I remind myself I’m still somebody even if my key-ring looks bleak and tourist-generic. I can still be a member—I’m not an outcast. They won’t turn me away at the blockbuster sales…will they?

What’s so great about a light key-ring anyway? I glance at the clock and scramble to slip the cute little tags back on my key-ring. If I hurry, I can get to the library before it closes.


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