Moving means new places to live. People might walk on different sides of the street and speak different languages over meals of varying food, but doors are the things most of us keep in common.

Keys are another matter. There is no universal key. You might think so until you go and look at them closely. The keys we had in Germany, France, and Hong Kong were the big old fashioned keys we had 150 years ago—a turn tab at the end of a long shaft with an insert of some type of design. They were big and twice or three times as heavy as the old brass Yale keys I was used to from Guam. I called them jailer’s keys to my prejudice of old movies like Sherlock Holmes and Westerns. They were murder in a jean pocket, jabbing away at your thigh when climbing up into a train carriage or hanging up draperies after washing them.

In Korea, our keys were punched out from a flimsy steel, and they were rough-edged. I sometimes used the sharp part to gouge into a package wrapping or to open a letter. I managed to bend a few in locks that had frozen in Taegu’s blisteringly cold winters.

In the UK, the best part of being American was using your keys. I inserted the key into the door at shoulder height—just like they did in all those British movies I saw as a kid. Americans like their door knobs like they like their gun holsters—at hip level.

It doesn’t matter how many keys you have on your ring in Japan, your collection will always be a singular “my key.” I suppose it is rude in Japan to brag you have more than one.

 

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