Not my finest hour: Where are my keys?


Tuesday was not my finest hour.

Towards the end of the work day, I noticed that my coat was nowhere to be seen. I distinctly remember putting it on the back of my chair, but it’s not there now. And where are my keys?

After checking all the likely places (and several unlikely ones) in my office, I realized that we had gone out to lunch in my car, and it was a warm day, so I walked outside to my car and, yup, my coat is sitting there in the back seat. Now, my normal routine when locking the car is to hold my keys in one hand while locking the car with the other. Upon further consideration, I figured that I locked the car doors, slipped the key in my coat pocket, and then decided that since it was a warm day, I didn’t need my coat, so I tossed the coat onto the seat before shutting the door.

Fortunately, this was not the end of the world. I took the bus home (which includes a bit of walking since the bus stop is a twenty-minute walk from my front door), making a point to take an earlier run than I might normally, since I didn’t want to get caught outdoors when the cold night set in. (I had a heavy sweater but no gloves.) I keep a spare house key in my wallet, so I was able to get inside. My plan was to bring my spare car keys with me when I rode my bicycle to work the following morning.

Aha, an improvement to the plan. I made plans to have dinner with a friend at a restaurant near my house. My friend picked me up at my house and then dropped me off at work. Woo-hoo! Everything has been restored to balance! I used my spare car keys to get into my car and drive home. While waiting at a traffic light, I checked the pockets of the coat in the back seat. Empty. Rats.

And then I realized, “Hey, where is the coat that I wore to the restaurant?” I must have left it at the restaurant. Well, I was headed in that direction anyway, so I took a slight detour to the restaurant and picked up my other coat. At least one problem was solved. But what about my keys?

I concluded that my keys must still be in my office somewhere, so I drove back to work, set on finding the keys and resolving the last outstanding issue. Yes, this could have waited until the next morning, but I was determined by now. I went back to my table, checked the obvious locations again, and then moved on to less obvious locations. “Maybe they fell on the floor.” I crawled under my table, and that’s when I remembered.

“Hey, wait a second, this isn’t the first time today that I crawled under my table.” Earlier in the day, I plugged my USB keychain drive into the back of a computer that hangs out under my table. I did this in order to call up a particular dialog box so I could take a screen shot. I crawled into an even more inconvenient spot under my table and, yup, there was my keychain, dangling off the back of one of my computers.

When I start to think I’m a pretty clever guy, I just have to remember the day I lost my keys, and then lost my coat while looking for my keys.

Comments (44)
  1. required says:

    Look on the bright side: at least you didn’t bump your head on the desk when you crawled out :)

    [That would have been a perfect ending. -Raymond]
  2. aac says:

    Rhat’s why it’s good to always keep the extension USB cable always plugged in the machine, with the another side on the desk.

  3. Duncan says:

    So that’s why my Dell monitor has USB ports in it – so I can hang up my keys (from the memory stick) in plain view :-)

  4. Quantumghost says:

    Glad you’re not a nurse…."Now where did I leave that thermometer again?"

  5. Neal says:

    Thanks Raymond!  Your posts usually remind me of hours that were not my finest, but today I leave your blog feeling somewhat superior.

  6. Neal C says:

    Don’t feel too bad.  I once spent a good 5 minutes searching for my glasses before I realized that my vision was quite clear…

  7. Fred says:

    And here I felt like things were set right when I dropped you at work…

  8. James Schend says:

    Smartest thing I ever did is get a copy of my car key made and put it in my wallet. The odds of both my keys and wallet getting locked in the car at the same time are extremely small. (The problem is that electronic ignition means I can’t start the car with my spare wallet-key, but at least I can get in it– which is normally all I need.)

  9. tzagotta says:

    Nice story.  We all have those kinds of moments or days when we get an extra dose of humility to remind us that we’re all human.  I know I have my moments from time-to-time.

    I’m guessing you have an older car, because I think that remote keyless entry has more-or-less eliminated the lock-out problem, since by design, your keys and keyfob are together, and as long as you rely on the keyfob to lock your car, you can’t be locked out.

    I did, one time, lock my car with the trunk open, and then caught myself setting the keys in the trunk for a moment.  I quickly realized that there was a disturbance in the force, and picked up the keys straight away.  So the system is not foolproof.

    [My car has a remote but I don’t use it because I try to keep my keychain light. -Raymond]
  10. Hexar says:

    Glad to hear you got everything worked out.  Stuff like this happens to me all the time.

    For example the other night I went with my girlfriend to a party, and a friend picked us up and drove us there.  I figured, since I’m not driving, I don’t need my keys right?

    Well, when we were dropped back off at my place around 11:30pm, the door was locked and I realized my roommate wasn’t home.  Also it was pretty frigid outside.  I called his cell phone but I heard it ring, not a good sign.  So I called his girlfriend, and fortunately they were together and nearby, so within 20 minutes they came and let us in.  

    This never used to be a problem at my previous house, because we had a keypad on our garage door.  I’m starting to think I should get a copy of my housekey made and put in my wallet.

  11. tzagotta says:

    My car won’t let you lock all the doors, when the driver door is open.  All doors lock except for the driver door.  So the fob is the only option.

    Anyway, batteries last at least 5 years and cost $5 to replace.  My car is 10 years old and I haven’t replaced the batteries yet.  Also, I just use one of the 2 fobs that came with the car, so I have a "spare" in case one fails.

  12. kcowan says:

    And that is the reason why GM created a little feature called OnStar…

  13. tzagotta says:

    The real reason GM create OnStar is because they like the magic words "recurring revenue stream." :o)

    As a consumer, I see a recurring revenue stream as a bad thing.

  14. Caliban Darklock says:

    True story.

    I couldn’t find my keys one day, but it occurred to me: if I call my keys on my cell phone, they’ll ring, and then I can follow the ring to find them.

    So I pulled out my cell phone, and realised that for some reason my car keys were not in my address book. So I tried to remember the number, but I couldn’t. I thought "Hey, my wife knows these things! I’ll call her." So I called her on the phone, and she answered, and I said "Hey, I need to ask you something."

    Suddenly I had a moment of clarity, where I brilliantly deduced that car keys are not a phone, and you can’t call them.

    I was speechless for a moment, because face it – don’t you hope you won’t go THAT far down the road of abject stupidity before you realise what you’re doing? Then I said "Never mind!" and hung up.

    I eventually found my keys the old-fashioned way. I stopped looking, and the next place I went, there they were.

  15. richard says:

    Somedays I debug like that.

    As long as we can look back in retrospect (or better yet, in the moment) and see the funny side of it.

  16. Back in the 70s my mother locked her keys inside her car. "No problem," said a 14-year-old I, and got it open in 10 seconds with a piece of bent wire.

    I then had to endure a half hour grilling as to where I learnt how to break into a car. My explanation that I’d worked it out for myself some months earlier wasn’t good enough, apparently :-(

  17. BRAMSTER says:

    I locked my keys inside my Z28 once — with the engine running.  By the time CAA (the autoclub) came along, the car had been idling for 2 hours.

    Shortly afterwards, antifreeze started disappearing, and no obvious leaks.   One of the cylinder heads had warped,  creating a small leak in the head gasket, which resulted in the antifreeze getting into the oil.

    $6001.98 later, all was well.   The $1.98 was for a spare car-door key I now keep in my wallet.

    As for the number of times I’ve had to break into my own house. . .

  18. Rowboat says:

    My solution to this problem is keeping all my keys in my wallet and being really paranoid about having said wallet on me at all times (excluding  certain sets of circumstances, such as showering and sleeping). Of course I don’t have THAT many keys and no car…

  19. Eric TF Bat says:

    One serious note: keep a house key in your wallet is a Bad Idea.  I’m presuming you also have something in your wallet identifying your address — this is certainly true in Australia, where our driver’s licenses are credit-card shaped and have photo ID and a residential address printed on the front.  Given that, any pickpocket who takes your wallet now has access to your house.  All he needs to do is make a copy of the key, or else head on over while you’re still none the wiser, and help himself to the smorgasbord of consumer goods now on offer.

    It really is the real-world equivalent of writing your PIN on a piece of paper and keeping it with your ATM card, or writing your password on a Post-It Note and keeping it next to your computer.

  20. Mikkin says:

    Not having locked my keys in my car since I was a teenager, I did it twice last year.  This reminds me of two things:

    1)  I am getting old, so I had better pay attention to what I am doing and not rely on autopilot.

    2)  How cool the 1959 VW wagon I used to drive really was.  There was only one way to lock the driver’s door … with the key.

    My point here is that sometimes automated technologies, and mental shortcuts, can make things TOO easy.  Sometimes a little inconvenience is a good thing:  the justifiable price of getting it right.

    On the other hand, as in the case of Raymond’s experience, sometimes convenience is essential to getting it right:  If little USB devices are supposed to be so convenient then why wasn’t there a port on the front panel?

    [It was an old computer, and back in those days, the fashion was to have nothing on the front of your case except a floppy drive, a CD-ROM drive, and a power button. -Raymond]
  21. Miral says:

    Though I should probably add that even with all that house key redundancy, I don’t have any backups at all for my car, so if I do lose that key then I’m screwed.  (I did have a spare once, but I lost it.  Yes, I appreciate the irony.)

  22. Mikkin says:

    "… a potential burglar would just give up in disgust and simply smash a window instead" — A long, long time ago, in a far fairer land, where nobody ever locked their house, we used to say that locks are only to keep honest people honest, and dishonest people can always find a way in.

    To follow on my earlier post:  I want a USB hub with a row of ports on the top, conveniently built into … a keyboard.  But what are we to do?  It is, after all, a hardware problem.

  23. d says:

    this could be the most boring story ever told.

  24. boxmonkey says:

    One of the first things I managed to do with my old car when it was new was to lock the keys in it. While 5,000 miles away from home, which is where the spare set was. It took the police over 2 hours to break into my car for me.

    After that I made 2 policy decisions:

    1. Keys belong on a lanyard attached to me. Whenever I am not driving. The lanyard sits on my lap so the first thing I do when I turn off the car is put the keys back on the lanyard.
    2. Lock the car with the key. That car had a nifty feature where if you locked one door, they all locked (and if you unlocked it twice they all unlocked).

    My new problem is killing the battery by leaving the dome light on. I turn the dome light on to look for something, then forget about it. I learned my lesson from that too, now I keep a portable jumpstarter in the boot.

  25. boxmonkey says:

    "To follow on my earlier post:  I want a USB hub with a row of ports on the top, conveniently built into … a keyboard.  But what are we to do?  It is, after all, a hardware problem."

    Pet peeve time: it really irks me that any remotely comfortable keybaord on the market seems to be USB, but unlike the old MS Natural Pro keyboards, they don’t have usb ports on the back. If you’re not doubling as a USB hug, why the hell are you USB? You can still get mice in PS2, or at least with PS2 adapters, and it makes more sense to have a USB mouse than a non-hub USB keybaord! When my old keybaord gave up the ghost I had to replace it with a new USB keyboard and 3 USB extensions since the cable was shorter and there was no hub. Now what used to take up 1 USB port on my computer takes up 3.

  26. James Schend says:

    Tzagotta, I have keyless entry, but I don’t use it when *exiting* the car because:

    1) The batteries will wear out quicker, and I’m cheap. Additionally, it might wear out the fob itself, meaning I have to pay the dealership $120 for a new one, but mostly:

    2) It’s just easier to hit the power lock on the door on the way out, since my hand’s basically resting atop it while I’m closing the door anyway.

    So you might be right if you’re the type of person who uses the fob to lock the car, but I’m still prone to locking keys in.

  27. Norman Diamond says:

    Tuesday was not my finest hour.

    Nor minute, nor second, nor week, nor metaphor ^_^

    I once locked my car keys in a coat pocket in my car.  I joined the CAA a few days later ^_^ but in the meantime developed a solution in order to not need them for this.  I started carrying one set of keys in my right pants pocket which might end up somewhere in use or in a coat pocket etc., and one set of keys in my left pants pocket.  The idea of putting keys in a wallet didn’t occur to me, which is just as well.

    Oh yeah, speaking of keys and wallets, one time a pickpocket stole a set of keys from me.  The pickpocket did not come back and say "oops I didn’t need these, can you give me your wallet instead".  So I still had my wallet and still didn’t have the keys.  To add to it, one particular key was a redundant one, and the other redundant copy was stolen by someone else (not by a pickpocket).

  28. J says:

    Do you ever think that you’re in a bad sitcom and when you leave something in a room that you’re going to need later in the day, the television camera pans to that location and does the triple zoom-in while the audio track goes wha-whaaa-whaaaaa.

    Ya, me neither.

  29. Ian Johns says:

    this could be the most boring story ever told.

    Apparently you need explosions & excitement in every yarn.  Go watch TV instead of reading.

  30. Miral says:

    I keep a spare key in my wallet, but I know that nothing in my wallet directly references my address (though there is at least a chance that they could try some social-engineering tricks and get my address from eg. my bank since they would then know my card number).

    I also keep a spare key outside my house, but in that case I take an indirect approach: the key is concealed and it’s *not* for my front door — it’s for an outside cupboard.  Inside the cupboard is my spare house key, and it’s concealed as well.  So I think it’s sufficiently safe that a potential burglar would just give up in disgust and simply smash a window instead :)

  31. Eric TF Bat says:

    Hey, d, you’re right.  You should demand your money back.

    Pay the man, Raymond!  Pay him double!

  32. Mirko says:

    "To follow on my earlier post:  I want a USB hub with a row of ports on the top, conveniently built into … a keyboard.  But what are we to do?  It is, after all, a hardware problem."

    My Keyboard features a USB-Port and my Desktop Computer has two right in the front along with the  plugs for earphones. Very convenient.

    p.s. nice story – been there too

  33. Cody says:

    "To follow on my earlier post:  I want a USB hub with a row of ports on the top, conveniently built into … a keyboard.  But what are we to do?  It is, after all, a hardware problem."

    They exist.  The Enermax Aurora not only has two USB ports, it includes a headphone and microphone jack.

  34. GregM says:

    Boxmonkey, neither my current nor my previous laptop had PS/2 ports.  The only way to connect my PS/2 keyboard and mouse are via a port replicator, or a nice dual PS/2 to USB cable that I stumbled across one day.

  35. James Schend says:

    If you’re not doubling as a USB hub, why the hell are you USB?

    To use the Slashdot cliche:

    "I use a Mac, you insensitive clod!"

    Some of us have legacy-free computers without PS/2 ports and therefore no use for PS/2 keyboards.

    My Dell 20" LCD had USB ports on it, but they seemed to break immediately upon use. Well, the monitor still works anyway.

  36. Raymond Chen suffers from the same disease that I do apparently, just like when I lost my lens cap while taking the pictures to demonstrate my disorganized-ness. I’m getting better though; expect a new organizational sum-up post in a couple…

  37. Cooney says:

    To follow on my earlier post:  I want a USB hub with a row of ports on the top, conveniently built into … a keyboard.  But what are we to do?  It is, after all, a hardware problem.

    So go get one. Keytronic makes some nice ones.

    When I start to think I’m a pretty clever guy, I just have to remember the day I lost my keys, and then lost my coat while looking for my keys.

    I take the brute force approach – second set of keys in my house.

  38. Igor says:

    I never, ever needed second set of house keys. What do you people do with them?

    About keyboards and USB, my Viewsonic LCD monitor has 2 analog and 1 digital input and you can connect 3 computers and switch between them by pressing a button.

    It is a neat feature but why didn’t they throw in full blown KVM switch so I could connect keyboard and mouse to the monitor and use those on 3 computers as well?

    It makes me wonder if there are any real innovators and engineers left on this planet.

  39. ericlee says:

    Perhaps it is time for man-bag?

    Eric.

  40. Hayden says:

    When I was at college, I was so lousy at finding my keys in my room, I bought one of those whistling keyrings. You whistle on the right note, at they go beep. It got so that when my friends dropped by to ask me out for a drink, as soon as they saw me start hunting, they’d whistle and find my keys for me…..

  41. Kelli Zielinski says:

    I guess on the bright side, you didn’t lose your cardkey in the process, which would make getting into the building to look for your keys slightly more annoying.

    I think keyless entry is the only thing that keeps me from locking mine in the car, personally.  I’m one of those "hit the button after exiting the car" people, probably because I used to be one of those "hit the lock button then close all the doors" people.  

  42. Stephen Jones says:

    A colleague of mine managed to get himself locked in the college one evening. He emailed his wife in Switzerland who telephoned the British Embassy in Riyadh, which called the Interior Ministry, which called the Royal Commission police who called the Academic Vic-Dean who turned up with the key. The whole process took around thirty minutes. Wonders of globalization,

  43. KC Lemson says:

    I used to keep a swiss army knife on my keychain (this was pre-9/11 of course) because I spent a fair amount of my life tinkering around unscrewing cases & otherwise needing little bits of metal to do things inside computer cases.

    One random day 8 years ago I realized I didn’t know where my keys were, and I spent a frantic two hours sending mail to my entire product team and searching around, before I calmed down and retraced my steps, went back to the graveyard of machines in the lab that I’d been working on, and opened up a case and found my keychain *inside* the computer.

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