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Since You Never Asked: 'Take My Keys, Please'


Since you never asked…

…go ahead. Reach in my front right pocket.  You’ll find a substantial tangle of metal that’s like a yoke around my neck. Take it. Grab that ring of keys, the ones that turn over the engine of a couple of cars and open doors I often enter and exit. Now throw them off a cliff and watch as they disappear into some great void. You’re doing me a favor, trust me.

Some people think real power comes from having a gazillion bucks at the ready as walking around money.  Others might aspire to rule the land as President or Queen of the Prom.  But I know that the real secret sauce of being the ruler of your own private tower of power means that you never carry a key for anything other than opening a few hearts.

My children have often heard me say, “The day that I get rid of this car will be the happiest day of my life.” This phrase is usually uttered as I log 17,000 miles a week shuttling them between important life events like school, swim practice, and wine tastings. I will not be one of those cranky old men clinging to the steering wheel of an automobile deep into my years of collecting sweet Social Security cash payouts. You’ll never drive behind me when I’m so old that all you see are my hairy knuckles reaching up to operate a steering wheel. I intend to shed my car keys the second my youngest daughter gets a driver’s license or the moment I master balancing on a hoverboard, whichever comes first.

I want to rid myself of all keys, but I’m not striving to live in some far away hamlet where people go to sleep at night with the screen door propped open so neighbors can swing by and snatch a piece of pie off the well worn country kitchen table.  Nah, not for me. I was never that much of a fan of the Andy Griffith Show.  Instead, I dream of living in a tall, tall tower surrounded by a crush of people pounding the pavement of a concrete covered jungle. In the midst of my own personally designed dream world, I see myself befriending some mustachioed doorman named Sully or Harv.  That fella will forever look kindly upon a dottering fellow like me who somehow never seems to remember to carry his apartment keys with him.  Sully or Harve will always smile, be at the ready to open my front door, and cheerily say, “No problem my old, handsome, senile friend.” And, I will happily carry tips for Harv or Sully.  Tips fold well, and never ruin the crease in your slacks.

I have come by this fascination with a keyless entry to life because of my advancing age, no doubt.  I mean I gotta get something good from all this old man ear hair, right? I once was a strapping lad who worked as a handyman serving the needs, wants and desires of elderly condos owners.  I thought myself something of a dandy the day my boss gave me my very own key ring, a 15-pound collection that clipped on my belt and allowed me entry to every inch of the elder castle.  When I look back on those days I no longer see a young man in charge, a guy with unfettered access to Mrs. Nussbaum’s two-bedroom.  Nope.  In the rearview mirror of life I see a guy listing to one side as his slacks drag on the floor and he rushes to find which of the silver keys opens the men’s room.

So that’s it.  I’m resolved.  No more keys.  It’s gonna be great, and I’m ready to get on with my new life full of freedom and power.  Now who’s gonna give me a lift home?  I need to figure out how to jimmy the handle on my back door so I don’t do too much damage breaking in.

Lake Effect essayist Jonathan West is a writer, actor, director, and the former Pfister Narrator in Milwaukee.