My Kingdom for a Precision Screwdriver

2015 is off to a good start, but fate had a bit of fun with me on my journey home from work today. When I arrived at work this morning, I exited my car and clicked my key fob to lock the doors, but it didn’t work. I pushed its buttons a few times to be sure, but the little light on the fob that shows the battery is working didn’t light up. Clearly, the battery was dead. Not wanting to leave the car unlocked, I opened the door and used the button inside to lock all four doors.

When I returned to my car after work, I realized my error. The fob still would not unlock the doors, so I had no choice but to use the key in the lock itself, like people used to do, before automatic car locks and fancy key fobs. This, on a Honda, at least, sets off the alarm, because only a criminal, apparently, would use a key to open a car door. I tend to ignore auto alarms, as they’re almost always set off accidentally, but when your own car is blaring its horn at three-second intervals while alternately flashing its headlights, it seems pretty real. You feel like a criminal, and a fool.

As the only way to shut off the alarm is to (you guessed it) press a button on the (at this point, useless) key fob, and as my car’s battery was low from sitting parked over the holiday break (and getting lower with each rapid cycle of honking and flashing), and as it was already 5:25 PM and I had to pick up my son, Haden, by 6:00 PM, I did what any reasonable non-criminal would do: I jumped in the car and drove it anyway.

Turning on the headlights eliminated the flashing. After about five minutes, the honking stopped. A red light on the dash continued to pulse, and I wondered if this signaled some impending doom. Was there a doomsday device? Was there an automatic kill switch that engaged after a mile or two? I didn’t know; I pressed on.

I arrived at the Fayetteville Athletic Club, where Haden was spending his last day of winter break camp. Once I killed the ignition and removed the key, I opened my door to step out. The horn and lights started again. Since I was still concerned about the battery, I left the car running, honking, and flashing, as I went inside to retrieve my son. By the time we returned, all the commotion had stopped. I explained to Haden what was going to happen as soon as we opened the car doors. He very calmly asked me why, and I explained it was the alarm, meant to protect the car, should someone try to steal it. He nodded along. So I opened the door to a third round of honking and flashing, though this time in a packed parking lot during what must be gym rush hour.

As we were driving home, and I was explained to Haden, in rather too much detail, about car batteries and how they’re recharged by alternators, I hatched a plan. When we got home, if we could climb out of the car windows, Starsky and Hutch style, we could at least avoid the embarrassment of setting off the alarm in our own neighborhood. Haden loved this idea, of course. I expected I’d have to get out first and lift him through the window. But it turns out his lithe and nimble frame fits through car windows far more easily than mine does. He was out of the car and heading inside to pet the cat and get started on some iPad time while I was still extracting myself.

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