I’m With The Band – A Life in Lanyards

I made a mistake years ago. One hook on the wall was all it would have taken, and all my occasional lanyards would have had somewhere to go. Other than in the junk on my desk, under things and ultimately into the bin.

If I’d kept every one, they could have clumped together as a sizeable art installation (okay, a pretty artless art installation) or made a nicely tax deductible charitable gift to a collecting institution. (Always thinking …)

There is, or could have been, some story in those lanyards, of festivals and events and times when the guest list to something big was looking a little sparse and they dropped the bar low enough to let authors in. There was a CHOGM lanyard somewhere in this room once, from a time when the world was too scared to travel and a lot of the Commonwealth didn’t come. I’d like to say they let me pretend to be, say, Prime Minister of Antigua but no, I was just there to stop the room looking empty. And hoover up 3-4 nations worth of canapes, as always.

I know plenty of people have a work lanyard with a keying device and or security pass on it, but I left the city before all that and back in the days when the only keying devices worn on the outside were actual keys, bunched in their dozens on chains fixed to the belts of burly security guards. Security guards probably even have lanyards now.

I see the lanyard is now big in Shanghai. It’s a sign of success, of scoring a job with a multinational. Such a sign, in fact, that there’s now a cottage industry making lanyards and security pass knock-offs, so you can look just like the real cog in the mighty wheel of big business. Anyone can pick up a shirt and tie for a few RMB, but a pass on a lanyard? That says you’ve really made it.

To make up for my lack of a work lanyard and ID tag, people seem inclined to give me one most times I leave the house. Visit a school? Get a lanyard for your visitor’s pass. Go to a writers’ festival or a TV station? Get a lanyard. Put on a collared shirt? Sure, someone’ll give me a lanyard for that, maybe with a little tag at the end saying ‘wearing a collared shirt today’.

So I could map my excursions in lanyards and tags. Or I could ditch them have enough room to make it to my desk. Some I’ve kept. For example, my lanyard with the ‘access almost all areas pass’ from fronting a band at the 1999 Livid Festival. That got me beer, food and, far more importantly, access to a clean toilet. And bragging rights for having once played the same festival as Garbage, the Offspring and Powderfinger. And so what if I made a dick of myself and thought the person said ‘Duke Ellington’ when introducing me to Garbage’s bass player (Duke Erickson) – there was a band playing just outside, and way too much noise to hear clearly. We got past it. No we didn’t. He got past me, and pretty quickly.

I also kept my lanyard and pass from the Eighth Conference of the International Federation for the Teaching of English, because I complained to the organisers about being overrun with lanyards and passes, and they decided to make me a superhero with a nametag that read ‘Megaman’. Don’t ask what my superhero powers were, because you’re not even supposed to know I have any. It was a joke lost to many delegates, but maybe that was part of the joke. All would have become plain upon the appearance of a stereotypically cartoonish Iceman/Joker/Lex Luthor bad guy bent on world domination. Only Megaman could have saved the conference then. Presumably.

Early on in post-school life, a lanyard can give you a sense of importance, or belonging, but soon enough it just gives you a sense of lanyard, in the same way that cattle have a sense of ear tag. It’s just there, it’s what you’ve got, it’s what the people in charge do. And maybe they do it because you’re an author, and without some socially acceptable form of tagging device, you’re likely to wander.

That’s it isn’t it? People give us lanyards so we can be returned to them if things get vague.

But what do we do when they start crowding us out at home? I was thinking they’d be great instead of rainbow coloured plastic strips for those curtains milk bars had in the 70s separating the front of the shop from the back office. Except it’s not the 70s. Rob Payne (@RobPayneAuthor) suggested it could be time for a lanyard suit. Any other thoughts? Before we strangle this poor cluttered planet with lanyards?

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10 Responses to I’m With The Band – A Life in Lanyards

  1. Alexandra says:

    I got my first WRITER lanyard earlier this year and, despite being fairly cynical about lanyards as a fashion choice, it made me childishly excited. It’s hanging with the keys in our kitchen.

    • nickearls says:

      The first writer lanyard should always be a keeper. I think I still carry an artist’s pass from an Adelaide Writers Week in the 90s in my wallet. I tell myself it’s to stop the driver’s licence falling out …

  2. I once met a lady who was wearing a skirt made entirely of neckties sewn together. It looked really lovely. Maybe a lanyard skirt might be nice … or maybe not. I have a bit of a lanyard collection. My favourite is the one which allowed me free entry into the WACCA. Alas, I wasn’t there to watch the cricket, which just happened to be Qld v W. Aust. No, I was attending a conference on something entirely unrelated to cricket.

  3. Adam Ford says:

    Just this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EjB7rB3sWc. Billy Collins’s poem about making his own Lanyard as a gift for his mum (or mom). It’s lovely.

  4. Dimity Powell says:

    Too many spares? Simple. You have babies, wait till they’re over six months old so you can swap them to forward facing in their little car seats, then strap, snap, click on as many superfluous lanyards as you can to the front seat to dangle chubby finger tip reach in front of them whenever you have to ferry the little dears about. The colours and clanking keep them entertained for the length of most driving missions and you’ve saved yourself a minor fortune in toddler toys (aside from the initial outlay of entry fees into those events from which you originally acquired the lanyards). Hope that helps 🙂 PS Hanging them from the coat hooks works too.

  5. lanyards says:

    I’m going to have to agree with Dimity on this one. Just make more people to wear them all. To be honest, I’m not sure how it’s possible you could have so many deep thoughts about Chinese manufacturing and social power struggles just by looking at a pile of lanyards haha. If things really go south, you could just make one of these…

  6. Yesterday I taught a Year 6 class while their reall teacher was at a conference. I was given an access key on a lanyard with ‘Nausea’ on it. I had to sign the key register using ‘Nausea’ as the identifying code. Was this an omen for my day? Did it indicate the school’s opinion of their students, particularly those in Year 6? Was it a cast off from some pharmacy conference, recycled via school donation? Who’s to know?

    Reminds me of those old English Teacher assignments where students were told to write about the journey of a penny. Write about the journey of a lanyard from pharmacy conference to Year 6.

    PS: I had a good day, and Year 6 were not at all nausea inducing.

    • nickearls says:

      Brilliant. I love a lanyard with a mystery. That’s a keeper. Maybe a leftover from a Jean Paul Sartre book tour of a few years ago?

  7. Thanks for bringing back some lovely memories of Livid 1999. It *was* a very good lineup that year… and I did catch your show… You rocked it 🙂

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