It was almost exactly 17 years ago that I bought my first car. I was a junior in college and picked up a 1982 Nissan 200SX from a Turkish grad student who was moving back home and needed to get rid of it. A week after buying it, I drove to the Smoky Mountains for spring break and managed to completely bash in the driver’s door by hitting a guardrail at 60mph. It certainly gave the car class… or something… along with the fuzzy blue seat covers I installed to hide the awful coffee stains (or whatever) that were all over the real seats.

A few months later, my friends Sarah and Nat bought me a set of baby keys to hang from my rear-view mirror. They told me the keys represented the keys of Happiness, Life, Love, Luck, and Lust. (Yes, lust… hey, I was a 20-year-old male college student.) I dutifully hung them from my rear-view mirror, and a few years later when I traded in the Nissan for a Saturn I transplanted the keys. After totaling that Saturn and getting another one, I again moved the keys.

For 17 years those keys have hung in my cars, often prompting questions from passengers. Over the years, sitting in the sun, they faded until you couldn’t really read the writing on them and the once-bright baby colors had become a uniform shade of beige.

Now I have my fourth car, and as I was cleaning out my Saturn (with a bit of a tear in my eye– heck, I’ve had that car longer than I’ve had kids) I took down the keys and decided it was time to retire them. But the idea still brings a grin to my face, so I bought a new set of baby keys and labeled them.


I figured maybe Lust wasn’t the best thing to display in my car, and now that I’ve grown older I feel like wisdom might be more useful than luck. But the idea is the same. Who wouldn’t want to have, say, the key to happiness?

So here’s my new set of keys.

They proudly hang from the rear-view mirror of my car, and remind me of two awesome friends who had (and continue to have) just the right mix of humor, goofiness, and wisdom.