8 September 2022
Go Boil Your Keys
By Robert Kilconner
Messages arrive in all sorts of different ways. If you were Moses, for example, they arrived on tablets of stone; if Elijah, in a still small voice of calm. By the time we get to St Paul, it had become slightly less theatrical with a disembodied voice on the Damascus road having to suffice. Nowadays technology has dropped a further notch and I find that most of the important messages I receive come to me in overheard conversations.
You know how it is. There you are at a drinks party, glass in hand and suffering, let us say, from a mild bout of indigestion. Perhaps it was a mistake to eat that out-of-date chicken with the green mould which was lurking in the corner of the fridge and yet it should have been all right. Six minutes in the microwave is surely enough to kill anything – it certainly did for the flavour right enough- so there may be a darker, more sinister cause. And then you hear it:
“Yes, a horrible stomach cancer; first symptom was a soreness on the right-hand side.” The speaker seems to be a doctor and as he says it you begin to notice that it is indeed your right-hand side which is inflamed. Time to put your affairs in order perhaps but, as you stride towards the door intent on going home and examining your Christmas card list – no Christmas card, no legacy, that is the golden rule – you hear another voice from the same group: “Excess wind is often the first sign of a heart attack, especially if it is followed by a temperature.” That has an unpleasantly familiar sound. You were certainly belching over breakfast and is it really normal to go out without a coat in an English September? Hmm, probably no time to get out the will. An ambulance to the heart hospital is the thing but then you catch another phrase; “Statistics show that indigestion is usually a psychological effect of stress.” My God, perhaps that is it. Have you become over-anxious? Maybe give up reading Shaw Sheet and go for something less disturbing, Gardener’s World for example. Better make the transition gradual, however. You don’t want any withdrawal symptoms from going cold turkey. We have all seen films about how that can turn the nicest person into a homicidal maniac.
But if you are a dab hand at overhearing conversations (no, not eavesdropping, of course, but overhearing conversations which are so loud that one cannot help but listen), you will pick up hints on a wide variety of subjects. Only the other day I heard someone talking about the risk of car theft and how criminals had gizmos which could read the coding on the key through the front door and then use it to unlock and start the car. The remedy – and the speaker must have been some sort of automotive guru because I couldn’t find this on the Internet – is to boil the keys. Well, they didn’t actually say “boil” but just mentioned putting them in a tin kettle, so it is possible that a temperature below boiling would suffice. Don’t ask me how that works. Maybe the keys contain a special app which switches them off at a particular temperature – rather worrying if you’re taking your car to a hot country. Or it may be some sort of physical thing like an inoculation against polio. Have your keys been boiled? If so you are entitled to a discount on your insurance. Do they have to be boiled every year or as a single boiling enough?
I tried to get the answers to these questions by asking my friends but they simply looked embarrassed and shifted from foot to foot. The truth is of course that they didn’t know and that what I had overheard is not generally known to laymen. So I will have to experiment. I think I will begin by boiling them lightly – for about 3.5 minutes like a perfectly boiled egg and if that doesn’t seem to have turned anything on or off I can try for longer periods. Is there a risk that I will overdo it and upset the electronics contained in the fob? Not really because I can always undo the process. I can move them from the kettle to the deep-freeze.