What’s the most recognizable status symbol in our culture?
Is it money?
That would get considerable support. As the saying goes, “Money talks.” (As the inimitable Spike Milligan once demonstrated on The Goon Show, following the previous assertion with a high pitched, “I’m a thrup’ny bit.”)
Is it a title? CEO? Head Coach? President of the “If I’m President, Then You Are By Definition Inferior to Me” Club?
Is it a private jet? The corner office? A noticeably younger and hotter spouse?
Sure. Sure. And, “That’s married to that? Are you kidding me?”
There are many recognized identifiers of “I’ve got it, and you don’t.” But let’s lower the bar a little, and consider the most identifiable status symbol, not for the fortunate few who just huge enormous breaks when the Bush tax cuts were retained, but for the rest of us.
My thesis today is that the most recognizable status symbol for people who are not picked up in a limo and driven to work is…
(Elaborate trumpet fanfare!)
More specifically: How many you have on your keychain.
The more keys, the more status. (You can hire someone to carry them around, but you’re not fooling anyone. They’re still your keys.)
How did I arrive at this conclusion? Well, sir, in my continuing effort to make myself unhappy – weighing in at 3.4 Degree of Difficulty in the “Misery Olympics”, held regularly in my head – I have noticed that I am currently down to three keys. And two of them are for the same place. (House key – front door, and side gate. ) The other key’s for my car.
Three keys. Two of them for the same place.
That’s three keys (two, if you’re just counting locations) away from no keys whatsoever.
The Big Empty. The wallet without cash. Haircuts for the bald.
I’d call that very low on the Totem Pole. How low? Below where they start carving the faces. It’s where the Totem Pole sticks into the ground.
“What are you doing down here?”
“Three keys. Two for the same place.”
“You may actually be a little lower.”
My key ring looks plague ridden. Ireland during the Potato Famine. It looks so pathetic, I have to add things, to give it credibility. Things that aren’t keys. I’ve got a silver bullet on there. An I.D. identifier from my gym. They don’t open anything. They’re simply keychain filler.
Oh yes, there was a time. I had a lot of keys. Office keys. The key to the parking garage. A key that locked up my desk. Why did I need to lock up my desk? I didn’t. But they gave me a key, and I took it. I was hungry back then. I wanted all the keys I could get.
Sometimes, I’d secretly sneak a peek at other people’s key rings, to see who was ahead. I was definitely up there. My keychain jingled with the best of them. I didn’t even have to take it out of my pocket. It jingled in my pants. I’d march spiritedly down the hall, and they knew.
That man has keys.
But as it does to all men, and more frquently today, to women, the moment comes when there’s an inevitable Changing of the Guard. Your Time at the Top is over. How do you know?
They’re taking away your keys.
It happens to everyone. My wife’s mother, age 99, lives in a very comfortable Seniors Facility. She doesn’t have any keys.
This is a remarkable turn of events. The woman was a landlady. Once, she had keys galore. She could walk into any apartment she wanted. The tenants had keys. She had Master Keys.
Now, she lives her life, comfortable but keyless. You can see the diference. There’s a less confident spring in her step.
“I used to have keys. Now, there’s no jingle.”
Also, of course, she’s 99.
My Key Guage Indicator is dropping precariously towards “Empty.” The orange “Warning Light” is flashing.
“You need more keys.”
You’re nobody without keys. Keys say power. “I hold the Keys to the Kingdom.” No keys, no Kingdom. And everybody knows it. You take your sparsely populated key ring out at the airport, and get pitying looks from Security.
“You sure a couple of them didn’t fall off in your pocket?”
“Just let me get on the plane, okay?”
I am thinking of renting a safety deposit box. I have nothing to put in it. But it would add another key.
Where’s “Rock Bottom”, you ask? I have clearly imagined it. Unkempt and unshaven, I skulk into a Key Kiosk, select half a dozen key molds of various shapes and sizes, and take them up to the cashier.
“Where’s the original?”
“No original. How much?”
“What are you talking about? Those are ‘dummy’ keys.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. How much?”
I’m not quite ready for that yet.
But I’m getting close.