"It will be $150 and three weeks for delivery."
I hadn't asked about a piece of jewelry or the latest electronic gadget. Only a spare key for my car.
A key. Metaphorically, it's hard to find a more simple object with deeper meaning... the key to the future, to the heart, to the city... but when you strip away those metaphors, you're left with a piece of metal and a nonsensical contrast of importance and expense between different kinds of keys.
I took a trip to the hardware store recently to have a key made to the front door of my house for my cleaning lady. The clerk asked me how many copies I needed. "One, thanks."
It cost me .89 to make a tool that would allow its user access to most of my worldly possessions... and I didn't have to show proof of ownership, an ID or anything. For the spare car key I would need a copy of the title and my driver's license... but for my house, just the original key, and I could've made 10 copies for eight bucks and change.
Then we'll turn around and spend thousands of dollars on a home security system.
I have a neighbor who always leaves his house unlocked, but has a thousand dollar talking security system on his car. If you walk too close to it you'll hear, "MOVE AWAY FROM THE VEHICLE!! I REPEAT, MOVE AWAY FROM THIS VEHICLE!!!! But... if you need anything in the house, you know, GO RIGHT IN!!!"
Ironically, most of the time my $150-keyed car is unlocked and parked in the garage of... my .89-cent-keyed house.
I also find it humorous that we lock our luggage. Those little locks, with a good firm twist, will break into several pieces. Most times, those locks are simply securing two zipper tabs together. All of our traveling possessions are being guarded by cloth and a zipper, but we feel better when we click the little padlock closed. Keep your key, just give me a sharp pocket knife and I could lay waste to most any piece of Samsonite and take whatever's inside.
Keys. Complex or simple, they give us comfort somehow. We know our things are locked up, our lives are safe and we can sleep.
Yet for three quarters, a dime and four pennies you can go right in and take whatever you want.
If there is a valuable lesson here, it must be this:
Don't piss off the cleaning lady.