Keychain Tangle Theory 101

Gabi's tangled keychain

When in guy mode, I usually keep my keys safely stashed in my pants pockets. Most pants have really nice, deep pockets these days. I can fit a bunch of small things in there quite comfortably. For the most part, life with my pockets-o-stuff is pretty mundane. There is one odd mystery that I can’t seem to figure out though.

Sometimes just walking around with keys in my pocket, causes them to magically twist and tangle to the point where it seems impossible to untangle them manually. It’s like a Rubick’s Keychain Puzzle or something. At least with Rubick’s Cube, it was possible to cheat by taking it apart and putting it back together with all the colors aligned. There’s really not much that can be done with a twisted metallic concoction of keys and rings… except for maybe attacking the problem with wire cutters.

I just put them back in my pocket and walk around for a while. Somehow, that seems to untangle them just as mysteriously as they got tangled in the first place. It may take a short walk, or sometimes even days worth of walking, but they always seem to untangle on their own. It has to be relatively loose fitting pants – tight pants won’t do the trick. There needs to be enough room for the keys to move around in the pocket for it to work.

I often wonder if they sometimes tangle and untangle without ever being noticed. For all I know, my keys tangle, untangle, tangle again, and then untangle again before I ever reach for them. I think they should do a study on this phenomenon. There might even be some kind of mathematical equation they can work out to explain it all. If there was, would they teach it in school? They could call it “Keychain Tangle Theory”. Maybe Steven Hawking can come up with a formula to explain how it all works and write a nice, thick book about it.

I’ve talked to a few people about this strange occurrence. It usually gets a laugh because everyone seems to experience something similar and come up with the same solution – you have to just walk around with they keys in your pocket and let the magic take place naturally. One guy told me he tried to fool the keys into correcting themselves. Instead of walking, he stood and shook his leg vigorously for a while. It didn’t work though. I think the keys are smarter than that. They seem to know the difference between synthetically simulated walking and the real thing.

Do you ever win when it comes to untangling them manually or do you just put ’em back in there and take a walk until they’ve untangled themselves? Anyone ever get frustrated enough to take wire cutters to the rings?

6 thoughts on “Keychain Tangle Theory 101”

  1. The mystery of the keys. I can’t figure it out. Another question is this why do we carry so many keys when you normally only use a limited number for example house key,car key and possibly a key for work. The keys do continually tangle and untangle themselves. No one knows why. I carry my keys in a leather wallet like motorcycle riders carry. It originally had a silver colored chain with it. I removed that for daily use. I started using this after having destroyed numerous pockets with keys. It is a beautiful day and this weekend has been fine. Enjoy the weekend.. Nancy

  2. I’ve been thinking this same think for years! I usually am able to untangle the keys on my own (I can truly solve a rubics cube) so it isn’t much of a problem for me.

    I just started reading this site and I think it’s fantastic. I love being able to read about other people who have the same feelings as me. (Even though not everything is exactly the same). I still respect people like you a lot and people like you are some of the reason why I’ve finally started being happy with who I am.

    I would like to chat with you more if you’re interested. Just email me if you want.

    Thanks a ton!
    Love Christy. :)

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Christy. :) Isn’t it interesting how you, and many others, can solve the mighty Rubik’s cube, and yet the keychain pocket-puzzle mystery remains unsolved? I clearly remember all the books written about how to solve the Rubik’s cube back in the 80’s. There’s not a single book published about the science behind a loose set of keys on a chain becoming a tangled metallic mess of frustration via the act of walking with them in pocket.

      This seems like a good opportunity to fill in a gap. Perhaps I might be the first to publish a book on the science of Keychain Tangle Theory, and get booked on lecturing tours! There’s only one problem with that idea… I still don’t have the answer to this mystery! lol

  3. Not much of a response for keys, but my wife will let me play with the tangled glob of necklaces she gets… Takes her days to remove one. I get the mess sorted in 15 minutes or so…. just like to play with the delicate things I guess…

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