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Why keys shouldn’t be labelled with an address

April 20, 2016


If possession really is nine-tenths of the law, then for about 15 minutes on the afternoon of Monday, April 18, I was only one-tenth homeless.

The how and why of this says something about the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood in general and about the handling of one’s house keys in particular.

It all happened as I was making my way north from 12th Avenue towards a bottle depot on the other side of Broadway Avenue. Because I was traveling on the east side of Manitoba Street, which is a sort of east/west dividing line, I was making for East Broadway Avenue.

At one point I stopped to exercise the privilege given me by one of the homeowners along Manitoba Street—to go into their yard and clean out their recycling blue box of returnable beverage containers.

As I came out of the yard with my arms full of wine bottles, two 30-something guys standing on the sidewalk asked me if I had lost my keys and they showed me a pair on a ring they had just found in the street.

Perhaps the key is to have an honest-looking face

As I gingerly set down my armful of bottles on the grass beside my bike and its trailer weighted down with two big bags-worth of returnable containers, I told that that no, those weren’t my keys.

There was a tag attached to the keyring labelled with an address written in ballpoint pen. Did I know where it was, the pair asked me.

Yes, I did and I pointed to a nearby house.

Then, the man holding the keys did an unexpected thing—he handed them to me. He declared that because I knew the neighbourhood, I was the best one to look after returning them. Then he and his companion walked away. Just like that.

Maybe they wanted to be rid of the responsibility, or they were two of the most trusting lads in Vancouver, I don’t know.

I just know that they left me—a stranger, a binner and a homeless person—with the keys to someone’s house; keys that were labelled with an address, to a house where there was, quite likely, no one at home.

And there wasn’t—I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell long enough to be sure.

Then I resisted the urge to either loot the place or sell it to “real estate gypsies” who would’ve had it on a barge bound for Bowen Island before a person could say “Honey, where did the house go?”,

Instead I left the keys with one of the nearby neighbours that I know. That’s right, the same homeowners who let me come into their yard to pick through their blue bin.

Address the security of your keys before you drop them

That seemed to work out alright but it still left the outstanding issue of labeling one’s keys.

I would strongly advise people not to tag keys with their actual street address but with an email address instead—maybe even a special email address set up just for the key label. This could be a free disposable email account, or an alias to an existing account, or an extra Gmail account, or whatever.

Such an email address tagged with keys would facilitate their return without compromising the owner’s privacy or security. Any message to this email account would instantly tell a person that someone had their keys and the return could then be arranged quickly by email reply. Click the image to enlarge it.

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