K is for Keys

I tend to lose my keys. I’m convinced that it is some sort of deep psychological antipathy regarding the need for them. Surely, one would not even need keys if one did not require locks and we would not have locks but for the dishonesty of some. At least I know it’s not just me; just last week, someone giving me a ride to work couldn’t find HIS keys; they got thrown in his gym bag but, wrapped around some clothes, failed to make any noise.

When I was younger, I used to be impressed with the number of keys on the key chain of certain people, such as my elementary school custodian. Only later did I find out that the keys were not only a physical burden – a bunch of keys gets heavy over time – but an annoyance as well, having to rifle a couple dozen pieces of metal usually of similar shape, size and color to find the correct one.

My curiosity as a child required me to take off the lock from the front door of my house, as I needed to see how the key worked. Unfortunately, I was unable to put the lock together. Well, technically that’s not true; I did put it back together, but there were parts left over, and it no longer worked properly. Interestingly, I don’t recall getting in trouble for this act. Apparently, my father was more impressed with my curiosity than annoyed the the inconvenience and expense of getting a new lock.

The early automobiles did not even have keys. It wasn’t until 1932, I recently discovered, that Henry G. Key invented the first automobile key. Even then, locking the cars was a sporadic exercise at best in many locales.

I grew up in the upstate New York city of Binghamton, near the Pennsylvania border. It rained quite a bit more than the average city in those days, and cars would often leave their lights on. One particularly dreary day walking home from high school in the late 1960s, I recall going into 22 different cars, opening the door without benefit of a key and turning out the lights. Of course cars are now more sophisticated, and the issue of lights staying on is largely moot. But I couldn’t open these cars without a key, even if the need were there.

Of course, like so many other words, key takes on different meanings. Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State since shortly after 1800. From state historic website: The word “keystone” comes from architecture and refers to the central, wedge-shaped stone in an arch, which holds all the other stones in place. The application of the term “Keystone State” to Pennsylvania cannot be traced to any single source…At a Jefferson Republican victory rally in October 1802, Pennsylvania was toasted as “the keystone in the federal union,” and in the newspaper Aurora the following year the state was referred to as “the keystone in the democratic arch.” The modern persistence of this designation is justified in view of the key position of Pennsylvania in the economic, social, and political development of the United States. Note the different meaning of the word key in the previous sentence.

Conversely, the Florida Keys are comprised of an archipelago of about 1700 islands in the southeast United States. I would never want to live there in hurricane season (June through October), because, from what is pictured on television, there appears to be but one egress from the islands.

The singer Alicia Keys took her last name from the keys on a piano, which she learned to play when she was seven.

As is often the case, I’ll end this with some music, not Alicia Keys, or “Brand New Key” by Melanie, or that song by Francis Scott Key, or even the blues standard Key to the Highway. Instead, based entirely on a Twitter post from someone who claims he isn’t religious but that Stevie Wonder’s Have A Talk With God is just about a perfect song. From the 1976 award-winning album Songs in the Key of Life:

Friend Leah, Albany bus activist, writes:
I popped into KeyBank today to take care of some personal finances when the teller I know gave me the 411. Here it is:

Through [Tuesday, 3/31], you can still purchase a 10-trip pass for $9.50 — they are definitely available at the KeyBank on State Street between Broadway and S. Pearl Street [in Albany].

Starting April 1, KeyBank will have to sell the exact same passes for $13.00!! Buy [today] and save. Pass it on.

Leah’s also cited in All Over Albany.


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