Non-Starter


My car is getting old and, apparently, senile.

On Saturday I drove to the post office. I could have walked, but I had a handful of errands and we just never know what sort of packages will be waiting for us to pick up. I retrieved our mail (a small package this time), climbed back into the car, turned the key… and nothing.

Several more attempts ended in futility. There was not so much as a hint of it trying to turn over. I collected the mail and walked home.

I wasn’t ready to deal with the situation yet, so I walked to the market in order to complete my original task. (For programmers: it was a matter of priority, not simply order in the stack.) When I came back, Wendi left messages for a tow company to come give the car a jump.

Time passed, and we never heard back from the tow company. It was a snowy day, so they probably had a lot of cars to pull out of ditches. Eventually I remembered that I keep an emergency kit in my trunk, and it likely contained jumper cables. Unfortunately, being a practical matter, I haven’t the faintest clue how to jump a car. Luckily, Wendi did (although there are no cables in her station wagon).

Sometimes life comes up chocolate and peanut butter.

Wendi drove us over to the post office and sidled her wagon up to the left side of my car. I figured that we’d need keys in the ignition at some point in the process, so I slid in through the passenger seat and put the key in. On a whim, I gave the key a turn.

The engine promptly started.

I don’t put up with hijinks in car electronics. I needed this infernal contraption to get me to the airport in two days and expected it to still function on my return. So off to the repair shop it went. It’s closed on the weekends, so we left the keys and went on with our weekend.

At 8:00 AM on Monday I called the shop and explained the car’s behavior and my need to drive it to the airport at 3:00 PM. They said they’d get right on it and see what they could do. (I love our local repair shop.)

A few hours later I got a call from Wendi. They’d called her (her number’s the one listed with them, because phones and I are not exactly close). It turns out that the part of the ignition system that recognizes the key was wearing out, and we could expect it to start failing more often.

My car needs to remember the key, and because it’s grown old and forgetful it won’t let the engine start.

They got a new ignition switch configured and installed with an hour to spare. I’m appreciative, but once again a security feature has left me baffled. How is this supposed to help anything? Isn’t the whole function of a key that it “prevents” unauthorized usage? Or is this their way to compensate for the limited permutations of key designs available?

I just hope that my car doesn’t have a security feature that allows it to forget how to brake.

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