Who Has the Key to Room #32?

69B098B3-2E67-4CC9-A114-1DF56F445D69Show & Tell. Everyone knows what this means and remembers it from childhood. Typically though, it’s not an activity for grown professional adults. But that was before the new remote work lifestyle of 2020 turned normalcy on its head…

So the other day I participated in Show & Tell to kick off a video meeting with my coworkers. It was Jake’s idea. He’s the fun one. He encourages us to play a little in between a lot of work. Hopefully all of you out there have a Jake at work.

The challenge to everyone was to bring something we own with an interesting backstory. This is when I realized I don’t possess many things that fit this criteria. But the meeting was about to start, and I hadn’t settled on an item, so I grabbed a key from the hooks on my kitchen wall. But it was no run-of-the-mill key.

When my turn came, the story went like this:

My dad gave me the key a year-and-a-half ago when I visited my home state of Nebraska for his 80th birthday. We were in his big basement full of books and stamps and historic Omaha postcards – all the things he would bring for Show & Tell. He was sifting through some items when he came across the unique key. It looked like something from Hogwarts, and it came with a yellowed hotel receipt that detailed its background. From the Hotel Stadion in Vienna, Austria, dated November 10, 1969 – a full three years before my birth.

Apparently, my dad had stayed there for 5 nights, as the receipt showed and as he recalled, and it had been a pleasant experience. After enjoying his time in Vienna, he decided to take what sounded like an impromptu side excursion to Budapest, Hungary – a mere 2 ½ hours by train. He asked the innkeepers if he could leave his luggage behind in a storage closet for a brief time while he traveled, and they gladly obliged.

Upon return to the hotel to pick up his belongings, he paid his bill and discovered an unexpected surcharge for storing them. No one had mentioned a fee to him previously. He felt wronged. He paid the extra, but he wanted to send a message against the grievance, so he snatched his room key, as both a statement and a souvenir.

His gesture caused no one harm, but it likely resulted in an inconvenience. His action was rich with principle, yet caused no true pain. The innkeepers should have been open, honest, and transparent rather than seeking to make an extra Euro-dime from their energetic and friendly young traveler.

What would you have done? Kept a blind eye to the injustice, complied, and turned in the key, according to protocol. Or might you have kept it, too? (Remember, it’s a beautiful Old World key!)

Regardless of how you answered, think about the keys you carry. Not the physical ones in your pocket. Not the lackluster plastic hotel keycards of modern day. I’m talking about the keys of your character.

– Are you using them to open up new, different, and foreign doors?

– Are you exploring rooms and rummaging around, starting conversations, asking tough questions, taking books off the shelves, learning new things?

– Are you passing along your experience, curiosity, and wisdom gained through those doors and from those rooms to others in the form of mentorship, encouragement, and inspiration?

Admittedly, I do not do these things enough. But I am never hesitant to provide a commentary, and I have the blessing of this blog to do so.

So let me publicly thank you, Dad, for keeping the key to Room #32 fifty years ago and giving it to me. I display it proudly on those hooks on my kitchen wall. I should frame the receipt because it’s a precious little piece of art. Your key with the interesting backstory gave me something to “Show & Tell” to my coworkers.

And now – just like life itself – the tale of that key has morphed into something new and different to me in only a matter of days…


These are the keys I want to carry on an obnoxiously oversized keychain that keeps them together and pleads “Love More.”

Ironically, I’m one who is prone to losing my keys. The Precious Pair and I have locked ourselves out of our house and my car on more than one occasion. I need to keep better track of my keys – the actual ones that let me into my own doors and the symbolic ones that will lead me to different doors that don’t belong to me.

I have The Key to Room #32 as a precious reminder – make a statement, even if it causes someone else discomfort or an inconvenience; stand for principles, not pain.

Rattle your keys,


One thought on “Who Has the Key to Room #32?

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