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Front Page » April 8, 2008 » Opinion » Staff column: Keys, keys, so many keys to count
Published 2,737 days ago

Staff column: Keys, keys, so many keys to count

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The other day I put my daily set of keys down on the counter with a thud and my wife looked at me.

"Why do you have so many keys?" she asked. "Look at all those. No wonder you droop to one side."

"No," I said. "The drooping isn't due to the keys, it's due to old age."

"And the keys," she said as she walked down the hall with a banana in one hand and her cell phone in the other.

"It's just cause I carry the keys in the family," I yelled down the corridor. There was no answer, she had gotten her words for the day in.

I looked at the keys on the counter. I started to wonder what the average number of keys a person carries around with them on a daily basis is. How many keys do we really need to survive through a day?

So, because of this incident, I decided to conduct a little poll of my fellow workers and other people I would run into over the next few days and ask them how many keys they had on their key rings. I also added one more question to "how many?" It was "Can you name what each key is for?"

Before I started this basic journalistic research journey, I also started to think about all the ways we use the word key or keys.

You know, like "The keys to her heart."

Or how about "Keynote speaker."

Or maybe "You sing out of key."

And what about "Key in on that."

Or how about "That is the key to the entire thing."

I could go on and on, but it would just get me all the more keyed up.

So I started my survey with some suppositions about what might be the truth about keys.

First I supposed that on average men would have more keys on their ring in their pocket than women would on the ring in their purse. I mean we are, after all, men; men who have all kinds of things that keys go to like trucks, and extra trucks, ATV's, snowmobiles, boats, gun safes, tractors, lawnmowers, tool cabinets, garages, sheds, cabinets, cattle gates, etc. The list could go on and on...and on.

Then I supposed that many people would either have keys to a vehicle and/or a house that was someone elses, and not their own. I know I have some of those on my ring.

Finally I came up with the idea that some, if not most people, would have more than just keys on their rings. You know like those saving card things from the grocery store that you are supposed to scan to get the sale prices rather than the regular price on items you buy. Through my research I found that these extra things on key rings are called key fobs.

So the survey began. I started with people in my office and found that to be so intriguing that I started to ask relatives and then neighbors. As I became more of a key information connoisseur, I started roaming the streets at night asking perfect strangers about their keys. Most people were cooperative; a few said how many keys they had were none of my business. I was amazed how protective people were of their keys; for some it seemed the keys were more important than the item the key accessed. I was also amused by the excuses they gave for the numbers and kinds of keys they had on their rings.

By the time I was done I had talked to and documented the information from 27 people. Not many, but I think enough to get a feel for how keys affect peoples lives and what value they put on them.

First men almost always have more keys than women. I found one guy with 24 keys on the ring he carries with him, and he had two more rings with a dozen keys on them in his truck. I asked him to tell me what they all went to. He got about 50 percent of them right the first time through and was able to raise his score to 70 percent the second.

"I just try 'em till I find one that works, " he finally told me.

That was the extreme case, but it does show a trend. Men like the power and security that keys give them, even if they can't figure out what they go to most of the time. In fact the mystery keys took on a bit of an allure as I proceeded with my research.

Women on the other hand are usually sure of what each and every little piece of metal does. Some only had two keys; one to their home and the other to their car. They don't need to broadcast they have many keys for many toys; they are comfortable with the key points of their lives. Besides, unlike men, they definitely know who holds the real power in the world.

However, when I mentioned what I was doing at a meeting I went to in Salt Lake, one woman held up her key ring with about a dozen keys on it and said "I like power, and to control power," she stated. "These keys represent power."

I also found that a majority of people do carry some kinds of keys that fit things they don't own. Many had keys to their parent's house, a kid's house or to someone else in the family's vehicle. A number had keys to non-relatives' homes, cars, storage units, safe deposit boxes and one even had a key that fit a friend's chicken coop. He said that whenever he needed a fryer, he just went over there with an ax.

One guy I surveyed had no keys to any of his relatives' houses, yet he was very close to them. I asked him why.

"I don't need keys to their houses," he said. "I live in East Carbon and nobody locks their doors up there."

Good for burglars, bad for locksmiths.

I also had to make a decision about door clickers; you know the electronic keys many people have to their vehicles. Everyone that had one of these also had a regular key for the same function on their ring. So I counted those as an extra key even though they not only usually open the door, but also open the trunk and act as panic alarms. I am waiting for the day when the clicker can be programmed to open the house door, let the dog out, feed the cat and make the kids do their homework. That will really be something we can use.

As for key fobs, I found almost everyone has one on their key ring. I found nail clippers, knives, screwdrivers, sharpeners, value cards, flashlights and photo fobs amongst other usual kinds of adornments. I found one ring with a bullet of unknown caliber attached to it. The owner said he didn't have the firearm it went to, but hoped to find it some day. On a ring of an ex-Air Force service woman I found a P-38. Not the airplane, but a portable can opener that was used years ago to open ration cans before the advent of the pop top.

"When I was in the Air Force in 1975 we were trapped because of a blizzard and there was nothing to eat except can rations that had been put together in 1956," she said. "We got through that because of those rations and I have kept it on my keyring ever since. I've used it to open all kinds of things since then."

Obviously keys and their accompanying bling mean different kinds of things to various kinds of people.

Based on my count the average man carries 11.7 keys on their primary ring, while women average 4.5 keys.

So upon finishing my research I sat down with my wife and went through all the information I had and presented it to her.

And you know what she said, despite the fact I near am right on average for the number of keys a man carries?

"You still have too many keys."

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