Memories of JJ, 3 — Keys


Let’s not talk about how he’d clean his ears with his keys, OK? Let’s just not.

Instead here’s a sto­ry from my days as a high-school student.

I was one of the nerds* that worked on the year­book. One day, at home, I real­ized I’d for­got­ten some­thing in the year­book office. It was­n’t any­thing of seri­ous consequence—I had­n’t left my French home­work or any­thing like that—but Dad had to go get some­thing from the wood shop, and so I went with him.

Dad had a mas­ter key to the school, because he was the type of per­son that had a mas­ter key to the place where he works. (I asked him one time why that was; he shrugged and told me “Peo­ple trust me” with a lit­tle lop­sided smile.) Once he’d retrieved what he need­ed from the shop, we stopped in next door at the year­book office… where his mas­ter key refused to work.

After a cou­ple min­utes of jig­gling the key and jig­gling the door­knob, he pulled out the key, exam­ined it up close (rais­ing his glass­es up his fore­head to do so), and said, “Huh.”

Then we went back into the shop, where he fired up the met­al grinder nor­mal­ly used to sharp­en chis­els. He filed off a lit­tle bit of his mas­ter key. Sparks flew, briefly.

The new­ly-reshaped key worked, and I was able to retrieve my for­got­ten item.

I spent the next few weeks try­ing to decide if Dad was a lock­smith man­qué or a wiz­ard. (Even­tu­al­ly I real­ized that a wiz­ard prob­a­bly would­n’t clean his ear with a key.)

* Dweebs? Geeks? What­ev­er, we had fun. Name me anoth­er group that got high** on rub­ber-cement fumes on their lunch break.

** Well, gid­dy, at any rate.

My dad passed away recent­ly. I’m going to be post­ing lit­tle mem­o­ries of him for the next lit­tle while. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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