by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
May 13, 2008
KEYS TO MY KINGDOM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- A cup of hot coffee wards off the chill before going out to the still-cold poolside and getting into the not-yet-warm-enough water for an hour of "aquacizing." The exercise is invigorating and our joints and muscles thank us all day for that head start. Oh, we may not hit the floor running when we get up each morning but we leave the pool energized and ready to take on - well, whatever comes our way.
The conversation over coffee varies. Last week we talked about the government's Stimulus Package heading our way. And, I wrote about it. The week before we talked about moving the new jail to an area away from downtown close to the scenic waterfront and, I wrote about it.
For weeks the conversation was about the traffic "round-about" newly designed to ease traffic congestion but we all considered it an example of poor planning. I did not write about it because I was too afraid to venture into the circle for a first-hand account. Now I won't write about because we had really rushed to judgment. It's a smooth drive within its lanes with no traffic lights to impede a rush-hour commute.
This morning I plunked my keys on the table we sit around - and I do mean, "plunked" because there are so many keys on the ring. (My husband says I look like a jailer when I carry them into the house.) Charlie said you could tell a lot about a person by looking at his keys.
My eyes were drawn to my key ring just to test his hypothesis. What do they say? I have one house key that opens all the doors. Two sets of car keys for two cars. A key to my office. A key to a car we sold that I really should discard now. And then, the plastic "keys" identifying me as a VIP, very important person, in local shops. I have CVS earning me points for pharmaceuticals, Harris Teeter for discounts on groceries, Winn-Dixie for more savings on groceries, Books-a-Million for a 10% discount on anything they sell, and the magnetic identification card to identify me as a paid-up member of the fitness center.
Well, what would someone learn? Since they all look so scruffy, they would learn I'm careless in taking care of my keys, but beyond that? Nothing.
I was asked if the two sets of keys, each with a remote for unlocking doors and trunk and, if necessary, sounding an alarm, were a status symbol. I thought for a moment, not wanting to appear ostentatious and hoping they know me well enough not to think so, and said: "No, the keys are not a status symbol, but the two Mustang Convertibles in the driveway might be considered so. Beyond that brief notice in passing, my keys said nothing.
I've had a set of keys ever since I was 30 and finally learned to drive. As a New Yorker where public transportation out weighs an automobile and parking it, I had no need to drive, and, without a car, I had no need for keys. We didn't lock our homes whether we were inside or out. There was no need. Friends and strangers alike knocked or rang the bell. And yet, locks have always been with us. Perhaps not "always" but definitely since before Christ, and, in archaeology, 4000 years ago, albeit it was a wooden key and a very primitive lock.
I have always been more interested in keys that open the mind to enlightenment. To me, that's using a bit of knowledge in a ready-to-understand form that unlocks a more highly intellectual subject, bringing it down to the student's level of understanding. There are keys that open hearts, minds, appetites, successful endeavors, ideas, inventions and any area of personal pursuit.
To ease that passage, I first look for the key, something to relate to and then, I just open the door metaphorically, and begin with a parable. I never told a child not to fool someone by yelling "help, help" and then just say to his friends, "I was only kidding." Instead, I told them the story of "Peter and the Wolf" and they had the key that allowed them to reach their own conclusions.
The actual history of door keys is far more extensive than I realized. First came the need, then came the craftsman, then came the keys that would open any lock, then came Linus Yale, Sr. who invented the pin-tumbler lock in 1848 and then his son improved the padlock. Linus Yale, Jr. was a mechanical engineer and lock manufacturer who patented pin-tumbler lock in 1861. In 1862, he invented the modern combination lock in 1842. We all grew up with the name Yale and it's still a trusted lock in our house.
I guess you might say Charlie was on to something when he said a key ring identifies a lot about a person. Personally, I gain information looking at the shopping cart ahead of me in line. Perhaps it's a key to his personality. If he chooses paper instead of plastic, he's conscious of doing his part to save the planet. And, from what I understand, personal commitment to a cause is one of the keys to the success of an endeavor for the greater good.
Eleanor Roosevelt gave us a similar key to commitment: "If everyone lit one little candle, what a bright world it would be.