By Mordechai Schmutter

Most people don’t think about their keys that much, except when they lie down for an afternoon nap.


What doors do I think I’m going to open, lying in bed? Am I just trying to make sure the kids don’t drive off with the car?

The thing about keychains is that they’re designed to dig into you. You’re basically carrying around a ring of tiny saws in your pocket; I use mine to cut open boxes.

Plus, everything is going in a different direction. The whole ring of keys is going in one direction, but the ring itself is perpendicular to it, attached to another ring that is perpendicular to that, attached to more keys that are perpendicular to that. So there’s no way to arrange it in a way that everything is flat, and you keep getting holes in your pockets.

At least I do. Actually, I had holes, so I got them patched. (Nobody sees that you’re wearing a patch on the inside of your pocket. That’s between you and your dry cleaner.) Now I have holes in the patches. What’s making the holes? It’s not like I’m putting in freshly sharpened pencils.

I don’t even notice when my pockets are developing the holes at first. Just suddenly one day a pen comes out the bottom of my pants leg. Almost always in public. And everyone around me stares, like, “Where did that come from? Did you have it in your sock?”

Sure, there are some people who wear their keys on the outside, on their belts or suspenders, maybe with an attachment that comes easily off the loop so they don’t have to take off their pants to open their front door. These are busy people who are always running, and you can always hear the jangle when they’re coming so you can mentally prepare yourself to deal with them.

But I won’t do that, because I find that in general there are two kinds of people. There are people who carry their keys in their pockets and people who carry their keys on their belts. And to my knowledge, no one has ever switched. You’re one kind of person until the day you die, possibly from getting stabbed in the leg by a key.

People who wear their keys on their belts are generally the kind of people who want others to know, as soon as they come jangling over, exactly how many keys they have in their lives. They want you to think they’re busy people with a lot going on, but often they’re just packrats. They have keys they found on the street, multiple copies of the same key, some blank keys, and the keys to their childhood home.

“What are you doing in my house?”

“This was my childhood home. Hey, did you make it smaller?”

The idea is that people will see all their keys and realize that they have a lot of responsibilities. Most of them involving the unlocking of doors.

We also can’t imagine those guys don’t get caught on door handles.

But the rest of us keep them in our pockets because we’re sort of ashamed of our keys. When we run, we specifically hold our pockets so the whole world doesn’t know we’re coming.

But some people have keychain situations that are too big to ever fit into a pocket. They have every item on there that they ever owned that has a keychain loop at the end, including a tiny Rubik’s cube for when they’re bored at traffic lights.

“Stop honking! I’m trying to solve this here!”

They also have that lanyard they made in camp. Even though the entire appeal of those things is making them. Once it’s made, you might as well toss it.

“No, it brings back memories!”

Of what? Doing lanyard? Rainy days in camp? The Nine Days?

You don’t even need keys to have a keychain. Rebbeim always give little kids keychains as prizes. But kids don’t even have keys. Or at least keys that didn’t come out of their parents’ junk drawer.

“Why would my parents give me keys? I keep losing these keychains!”

But the rebbeim still give them out.

“Look, it’s a mini board game! And it also attaches to your keys!”

“I know; the janitor has one.”

I have a minimalist key ring. Car keys, house keys, the key to a club I don’t use, and one unidentified key. It’s only one, but I don’t want to find myself locked out of somewhere and going, “Hey! Where’s my unidentified key?”

I also have a USB drive on a keychain, but that was something I added recently when I figured out that the photocopy machine at my school has a port for it, and I figured that this way I don’t have to keep printing out worksheets at home, which was like 90% of my printing costs. (I print out a lot of worksheets.) The logic of the keychain was so I could attach the drive to my car keys, and this way I’m never in school without it, except when I accidentally leave it plugged into the machine, and then I have to dart out in the middle of class so some student doesn’t find it and drive the copy machine away.

One reason I barely keep anything on my key ring is that I have a hard time getting things onto the ring because I have no nails because I bite them because I have no nail file on my keychain because I have a hard time getting things on because I have no nails. The only way to get things on is to wedge the key ring open with a key, which is not easy, because all the keys are on the key ring. You need a separate key for doing this that you always keep off the ring.

This is why pocketknives have a detachable toothpick.

But I don’t carry a pocketknife either, because that’s just more on the keychain. I used to when I was a kid, but then at some point I noticed that there aren’t a lot of times in my life where I’m out and I need a knife. Unless I’m a guest in someone’s house and I suddenly offer to make salad. I’m not doing arts-and-crafts in the wilderness.

So I never liked keys. But then I heard of something called a KeySmart. A KeySmart is a pretty recent invention, and it’s like a Swiss Army knife for keys. You basically buy this pocketknife frame–the press materials brag that it’s made of airline-grade aluminum–and you screw your keys in and then you can flip them open one at a time, like blades. Which is what they are.

And it’s easier to get the keys on. Instead of dealing with a messy ring, you just have to get a coin, unscrew the frame, and then you have to find a flat surface, lay out all the tiny pieces so they don’t roll away, put the keys on one at a time at opposite ends facing in the right direction so the blades aren’t sticking out and so both ends are the same thickness, put the top on, line up the screw with the hole, find your coin again, close it, and voilà! That simple!

I’m waiting for someone to hand me a key to add to it in an emergency.

“OK, I need a flat surface, a coin, and a second key of equal thickness.”

Or you can just put it on the attached ring, which is just as hard as it was before.

And yes, of course there’s a ring that attaches to your keys. Because the KeySmart sounds like a great idea until you ask, “Wait, what about key fobs?” I have two fobs, one on an actual car key. Plus I have a USB drive. So now that’s three things hanging off the KeySmart. I’m not carrying anything less, really. It’s everything I had before, plus some airline-grade metal.

I also didn’t stop and consider that if I don’t have nails, I can’t flip the key “blades” out of the KeySmart. I can’t really open pocketknives either.

It can also get confiscated if I go anywhere that doesn’t allow weapons.

“No, it’s just keys!”

“And what’s holding it together?”

“Aircraft-grade aluminum!”

That’ll go over well at the airport.

But I got a KeySmart, and my keys no longer dig into my leg, and I don’t rattle when I walk. I can sneak up on you, if you don’t count the voice recorder in my pocket that accidentally keeps turning on and playing the last recording of me talking to myself. People look very confused when that happens. They hear my voice, but my mouth isn’t moving, and I’m saying jokes. Then my voice starts traveling down my pants leg and my voice recorder pops out the bottom.

I really need to get these pants fixed.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


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