Since I was little I've been fascinated by keys. I've never really known why. I never questioned it either - I have plenty of weird obsessions (subways, maps, pandas, penguins). I'd encounter keys and keep them. Discarded keys that no one remembered what they unlocked, or were lying on the sidewalk, or were to an old car, or lacked a background story and so needed me to make one up for it. They'd all go on my keychain. Up until no more could fit on that one keychain, so another was started.
(Yes, I still have the keychains, and yes, one of them is unrotatable now that there are so many keys.)
I've also been in love with the city of New York since before I can remember and really, can you blame me? I'm a bit biased because I've never lived anywhere else, and would love to travel much more, but I'd be so much more bitter about my lack of travels and so much less me if I wasn't a true New Yorker. (I don't put too much stock in the phrase "New Yorker"; if you've lived here a certain length of time, you are by standard definition a New Yorker. Encountering more and more people who have migrated here however, the truth that I have always called New York home puts me in a different category to them. I was raised by a single mother; New York is probably the closest thing to a second parent I have. THAT'S how much this city is in me.)
I'm still fascinated by keys. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I have a skeleton key necklace that I've worn everyday since purchasing it two years ago. People bring me keychains to compliment the keys I value so deeply. And I am still undoubtedly in love with the city. Even when it's getting things wrong (the M is turning orange? What?), I love it. And so it doesn't really surprise me when my mother tells me about this art project where people are being given a key to the city. I need to be one of those people. There is no question about this.
I pick an amNY (a free newspaper distributed here) on my way to work that morning and read the brief blurb. The kiosk is in Times Square, not even four blocks from my job! My determination has grown. I need to have one TODAY.
I am twenty minutes late for work. Not really a surprise since I am often late for everything, but something that has now grown to be a concern to people in positions of power. We;re only allowed an hour for lunch, and I need to dock twenty minutes off of it due to the morning tardiness. And I've read enough about the project to know that you need to have a partner to exchange keys with, so I call a best friend, Holland, to wait in line for our keys. Holland lives also not four blocks from the kiosk, which I now only refer to as the Key-osk. This will be imperative to the success of the Speedy Lunch Key Obtaining.
Holland agrees, and holds up her end of the bargain, and is in line by the time I join her (some seven or so minutes into my lunch break). Apparently everyone has read amNY this morning, or paid attention to the various outlets the project was being reported on, because the line is obnoxious and lengthy. It is not a forty minute line. It may not even be an hour line. But it is a line for the Key to the City. I must have one.
Somewhere during the wait, we run into my mother, a messenger, who has just delivered in the area and wants a key as well. We are now a trio, and it is now an hour into my lunch break. I am running the risk of being written up - or fired - but I could care less. It is a Key. to. the. City. I call the receptionist at work and tell her I am deeply sorry but I will be another fifteen minutes. This is before we get to the "20 minutes until your key" sign. As much as I don't want to, I need to be a responsible adult and return to work. A volunteer reaches us and sees we're a trio and agrees that I should go, since the ceremony works better as a pair.
Everything sours after that.
-I skipped eating during this lunch break because the monthly office party was being held that day, and there would be bounties of food upon my return to the office with my shiny Key in hand. I returned Keyless, so naturally there was no food left to match.
-I explain the length of my break to my supervisor and apologize for taking so long, but he, being the laidback guy he is, says, "I know this is important to you. You could've stayed to get the key."
-My mother IMs me to inform me that moments after I left, a reporter from the Pix11 news showed up and selected my mother and Holland to be the pair they followed for the evening's newscast on the project. I attempted to watch the broadcast while quelling the "That could've been me" chanting incessantly in the background. I don't think I succeeded.
-Lastly, in a scramble to GET THE KEY, TODAY, I call practically everyone I know to see if the can stand in line for us to get us both a Key and since my getting out of work at 7:30 when the cutoff time is 8 is a little too close to my liking. After trying roughly 20 people, my friend Lindsay agrees and shows up at the Key-osk ready to wait for our Keys - only to be told that the line is closed for the day. Not for the guy in front of her, who apparently made the cutoff...
But I digress.
Despite my needing to be helping a friend with auditions for his play at 1, and having no partner to exchange keys with, and being tired and cranky and wondering if the Cosmos saying NO to my Key pursuits the day before isn't maybe some sort of sign, I get to the line at 11:30. I am half an hour earlier than the line opens and I am still 24th in line, but after a close call (a friend of a friend showed up to exchange with me RIGHT before I was called to the commons to exchange with my up-to-that-point-invisible partner), and a brief ceremony, I. own. a. Key.
There are 24 locations the Key grants access to. While I would've gone to all 24 regardless, there is apparently a mystery prize involved if you can prove you visited all 24. A task I was to do anyway comes with an added bonus. Or a challenge, if you will.
I love keys, and I love this city, and in addition, I love a good challenge. Bring it on, keyholders.