Saturday, October 8, 2016

Still Life with Robin: Heavy Keys

by Peggy Robin

My keychain is both heavy and bulky. I can’t stuff it into the pocket of a slim pair of jeans. If I’m wearing a light sweater or jacket, and I drop it in the pocket, that side of the garment will droop down asymmetrically. My keychain, loaded down with everything I put on it, weighs in at five ounces –almost a third of a pound -- the weight of the meat in a decent-sized hamburger. But much as I’d like to slim it down, I’m unwilling to part with anything on it. That’s because I need or want to carry all of the following:

  1. Car key. It’s one of those big, clunky ones with a remote fob. When I was growing up, a car key was just slightly thicker and longer  than an ordinary house key. There was no electronic chip in the head of the key, and no remote door locker/unlocker. And you could get a key maker at any hardware store to duplicate your car key for a buck or two. Now most drivers carry these brick-like keys paired with electronic openers that cost hundreds of dollars to replace if lost.
  2. Tile.” This is a white plastic square with a locator chip inside it. You can read about it here: You register your Tile, put it on your keychain, and then if you ever lose it, you can find out where it is: I used to lose my keys all the time. Since I’ve had the Tile, I haven’t misplaced them once. I feel confident that as long as I have this square blocky thing adding bulk to my keychain, I won’t ever forget where I’ve put my keys. Of course, the minute I decide it’s too much trouble and take it off the keychain, that’ll be the day I drop my keys behind the radiator and have no idea where they’ve gone.
  3. Store club cards. I’ve got six of ‘em, which give me discounts or bonuses when I shop. Two are from grocery stores, one’s from a drugstore, one’s from a hardware store, one’s from the DC Library system (it can be used to check out books), and the last one is from the place that services my car. In addition to the consumer benefits, these cards also serve as ID tags. If anyone ever found my keys, they could drop them off at one of the stores, where someone would look up my customer number and notify me that they had my keys.
  4. Flashlight. It’s a bright little thing made of brass, and it’s something I never want to be without. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out walking after dark and found myself on some unlit pathway and was glad I had a way to see what was ahead. I’ve even returned home late at night after a trip to find my porch light burned out, and used my handy but tiny little flashlight to make it possible for me to see the lock. Yes, I know there’s a flashlight app on my iPhone, but I need my flashlight to help me find my iPhone first!

So there you have it: five ounces of things I am willing to lug around to save me from pounds of trouble. Though I do sometimes miss the days when I could easily slip my keychain under the laces of one of my sneakers!


Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.


  1. I used to carry around all those store club cards. But then I realized that they can just look up my number very quickly via my phone number. You could reduce some of your key chain bulk by just keeping one in the event that you want to use it as an id to help notify you if your keys become lost.

    I do feel for you. Us guys have it better, I think, since finding our smart phone means just dipping into our pocket so that we can get to it without a flash light.

  2. I go back and forth about dumping all the store cards. It’s a question of what’s faster at checkout, keying in the phone number or holding the keychain card over a barcode reader. I’ve come to the conclusion that in most cases, a second or two can be saved, especially at self-checkout, by using the card. And there are times when a cashier forgets to ask for my club card but I still want whatever discounts apply. Faster checkout speed remains one of my goals in life, even as I now inch closer and closer to the slow checkout stereotype in terms of my age as well as gender.

    As for the phone in the pocket, the difficulty there, especially for women, started when the smartphone screens grew bigger but women’s jacket pockets did not increase to accommodate them. Now with a bigger phone screen, my smartphone is very tight in the phone compartment of my purse. It sometimes is a struggle to pull it out or put it back. Got to get another bag…..but that opens up a whole new area of complaints about size and design and carrying capacity!

    Thanks for writing!