Last week, on the way back home from a late lunch with my parents, my father pulled into the parking spot behind my brother’s car and shook his head.
“Tom,” he sighed. “How did you park that car?”
I could see his point. The car’s front wheels were turned out at a 45-degree angle, while the rear right wheel was pressed against the curb. It was a park job so sloppy that I would have assumed the driver was drunk.
“Oh he didn’t do it,” I answered. “I did.”
“Well that explains it,” my dad quipped.
Normally that would explain it. I have a history of car problems. But not in this particular case. In fact, that doesn’t even begin to explain it this time.
“I couldn’t help it,” I complained to my father. “There was a pile of leaves on the street so I couldn’t tell where the curb was.”
I got out of the car and, as casually as I could muster, added: “Also. The car alarm was going off at the time. So it was a very nerve-wracking situation.”
Three people heard me make that admission and not one of them asked a single follow up question. It’s almost like they didn’t want to hear the full story about how I had been the victim of a malfunctioning anti-theft system and an unresponsive key fob. They didn’t want to watch a reenactment of me driving around in circles in a second-tier wireless provider’s parking lot wondering why the alarm was going off even though the key was in the ignition. No one, not one person, was concerned to hear that the system locked me inside the car or was curious as to how I got out.
In fact, I had tried to tell my brother the whole story when it had happened the day before, but he just waved me off.
“Nova, I’m sure I’ll read about it in the blog,” he said.
And that’s true enough. By now, my brother can tell when I’m gathering quotes for my blog. I don’t fault him for not wanting to be a part of my process.
But while I was willing to let the full story slide, I still wanted to get to the bottom of the problem – mostly because I wanted to borrow the car again a few days later. Seeing as how I was literally held hostage in the vehicle earlier in the day without a working cell phone, I had tried to find some answers in the owner’s manual. Based on my initial reading, I believed the issue had something to do with the fact that I was using the valet key.
“No,” my brother said. “That’s not it. That’s the only key I have.”
“You don’t have a black key?” I asked. “The owner’s manual said that there should be two black keys and one gray key.”
“I only have one gray key,” he repeated.
“Well that’s your problem right there!” I said triumphantly.
“No, that is not the problem,” he argued rolling his eyes. “Nova, this has never been a problem before.”
I sighed. “Well this key fob is faulty. The book said that if you press any button on here, the alarm will shut off. But that’s not true.”
“Well that should work,” my brother agreed. “But you can also just start the engine.”
“I did,” I said. “That didn’t work either.”
“You mean the car was running and the alarm just kept going off?” he asked.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “I turned the engine on and off repeatedly. I was literally driving around hoping it would stop.”
“You were driving it with the alarm going off?!” he asked. “On the road?!”
“Well I couldn’t just sit there in the parking lot,” I complained. “All the employees were watching.”
He pressed his fingers to his temples. “Well where were you planning on going?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I was trying to find a less disruptive place.”
“How’d that go?” he asked.
“Not well,” I replied. “But eventually it did stop, so then I just came back here.”
“And then what?” he asked, putting his head in his hands.
“Well I set the alarm off again when I tried to get out,” I said. “Then I waited for it to stop with the door open.”
My brother took a deep breath.
“It did,” I concluded. “So that was good.”
“And then what?” he asked again.
“Then I walked to the wireless store,” I added.
The show must go on, you know?
After a little more thought, I came up with another explanation. When I first unlocked the car, I did so manually – meaning I put the key in the lock and turned it. This, apparently, is not something you do to a car in 2017.
“You need to use the button,” my brother sighed.
“Well I tried to use the button but the doors were still locked,” I told him. “So I just used the key.”
“Which button?” he asked.
“The big one,” I said.
“Well that’s LOCK,” he said. “So that explains why the doors were still locked. This is the unlock button,” he said pointing to one of two smaller buttons on the second row. The symbols or words on both had long since rubbed off, so there was no way for me to know that.
“Well that’s not clear,” I complained. “How would I know that?”
“Well I’m sorry,” he said. “But that’s what you have to do. Otherwise, the car will freak out if you use the key.”
“Yeah, I know that now,” I snipped. “That’s advice I could have used yesterday.”
By now you’re probably wondering why my brother grants me access to keys of any kind. His house, his car – if he were smart he’d draw me a map to the nearest hotel and then let me be their problem. But secretly, I think he likes the entertainment. That’s the only reason why he willingly handed over the same set of car keys to me this weekend when I wanted to visit a friend in the suburbs. It’s also the only way to explain why, after hearing that I completed the trip without incident, he responded by showing me his latest home improvement project: a homemade cat door cut into the entrance to the basement. Only someone who craves excitement would think to do such a thing.
“That door looks small,” I said, lifting the little flap he had attached with a hinge.
“It’s four inches,” he said. “That’s as wide as the opening for slats in a standard railing.”
“Well I don’t think the cat is going to go through there,” I said, pushing the little door. “It’s too small for her.”
“HAVEN’T YOU EVER SEEN A CAT STICK HER HEAD THROUGH A BANNISTER?” he demanded, throwing both hands in the air.
I have, but I don’t know what that has to do with the basement door. Before I could say as much, my brother picked up his cat and shoved her, face-first through the trap door.
“There,” he said as her tail disappeared into the basement. “See? She fits.”
And I have to admit that he was right. She was a perfect fit. Like a hand in a glove or a pea in a pod. One might even say like a key in a lock.