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Jessie Raymond: Finally solving the purse problem

I don’t know the correct name for it. Younger people call it a purse. Retailers call it a handbag. I think I call mine a pocketbook, although the word makes me think of my grandmother. Whatever you call it, mine is not working for me.
I throw my car keys into my bag without thinking, and I have yet to own a bag that will allow me to find them easily later. (Call me self-conscious, but I’ve reached an age where it feels undignified to dump the contents of my pocketbook on the blacktop every time I need to unlock my car.)
“Just take a moment to put your keys in the same pocket every time you get out of the car,” my more orderly friends tell me. I have to forgive them; these are the same repressed souls who put clean sheets back on the bed hours before they plan on getting into it.
I once believed an oversized bag with no interior dividers would solve my problem. I bought one so roomy that it could hold my keys, my phone, library books, a change of clothes and a water bottle, plus double as an emergency shelter. I figured the keys would simply fall to the bottom where I could grab them.
But it didn’t work out as planned. When I rummaged around in the bag, I’d come up with fistfuls of old receipts, lip balm, loose change (mostly Canadian, for reasons I can’t explain), a few expired coupons and a mini tube of toothpaste from the dentist’s office. Everything but my keys.
I could hear them jingling when I shook the bag, but they would camouflage themselves on the bottom, like a flounder, always just out of reach.
So the next time, I switched up my strategy and went small. I bought a tiny but expensive leather wallet/purse combo on a long strap. It had slots for cash and cards and a zippered compartment just big enough to hold keys and a phone (but, sadly, not snacks). My keys, with nowhere to hide, would always be right at my fingertips.
And they were. The opening at the top of the bag was so narrow, however, I could hardly get those fingertips in, and my knuckles soon grew raw from scraping against the zipper.
Despite the tight quarters, I still found room to cram in the receipts that I was too shy to tell sales clerks I didn’t want. When, with a pained but triumphant shout, I would finally manage to yank my keys out, the crumpled receipts would fly high and far in all directions, as if part of a flashy magic trick. It often drew applause from awed onlookers.
This brings me to my current bag. Neither too big nor too small, it promised to be the Baby Bear of pocketbooks. But in reality, it’s far from “just right.” In a physics-defying design, the bag measures 8 by 10 inches on the outside, while on the inside it’s the size of a modest one-bedroom apartment.
It’s technically a travel bag, with lots of pockets for stashing passports, ticket stubs and contraband, and somehow my keys always end up in whichever pocket I’m not reaching into. I can feel them through the fabric dividers, but they’re consistently one compartment over.
I need to find a better bag.
At least that’s what I thought until yesterday.
I was ranting to a coworker about my pocketbook troubles. She blinked at me blankly as I expounded on the many iterations of handbags that I have known and the difficulty of discovering a style that would allow me to retrieve my keys without a sending in a search party.
I recognized her expression. I’m always rambling on about stuff like this to people who are too polite to say what they’re thinking: “How long is she going to keep talking?” or “That’s nice, lady, but I’m just a bank teller, and there are customers behind you.”
As it turns out, however, she wasn’t ignoring me; she was just confused. She had assumed that I, like her and many other owners of newer cars, had a keyless fob, the kind that unlocks and starts your car remotely. You can toss the fob in your purse and never take it out.
And that’s when it hit me. I’ve spent years searching for a pocketbook (or whatever it’s called) that would keep my elusive keys within easy reach. But I don’t need a new pocketbook.
I need a new car.

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