A key issue

I was heading out the door for work the other morning, and I found myself missing one tiny little thing that was kinda critical to getting to work: The key to my car.

Now, most people would just grab their spare key and head on from there. Unfortunately, my spare key decided to head out on its own several years ago to a destination unknown, so I have been operating with a single key for quite some time. My wife and I looked all over the house, and could not find my car key. And a meeting was fast approaching.

Being the forward thinking guy I am, I told my wife, “I’ve got to take your car.” She reminded me that she, too, was about to go to work, so we found ourselves in a fun game of “Whose Next Meeting is More Important?” There are no winners in this game.

My wife, being the quick thinking problem solver she is, called a co-worker who agreed to pick her up.

Not having my key led to another obstacle, however. My wallet was in my car. As were my work keys. (Yes, they are on separate key rings. I don’t need a lecture. Again.)

I went into work for the meeting, and headed straight back home afterwards. I am a creature of habit, and I always pitch my keys in the same spot. But perhaps I deviated from my usual routine. Perhaps it was in my pocket and I pulled out something else, flinging it to the ground. Perhaps it fell into a grocery bag and got pitched in the trash. Perhaps one of my kids saw the key and said, “Hey, you know what you would be fun? Throwing Dad’s key on top of the cabinet and making him sweat it for a while.”

Guess where my key wasn’t? The trash, the cabinet, and 83,000 other places where I could have possibly passed by the night before (and that includes the dryer, the clothes hamper, and several drawers I may or may not have opened). I searched my car as best I could from the outside, but could not see every nook and cranny, so there was still hope that it was inside the locked car.

I called the dealership and explained my predicament. I asked if I could come in and get a new key. No problem, they said. Just bring the car up there and they would get a new one programmed. I had this conversation:

ME: Wait, you need the care there?

THEM: Yes. We have to program it here.

ME: But I don’t have a key.

THEM: Hmmm. Guess you’ll have to have it towed. And we will need your ID.

ME: But that’s locked in the car.

THEM: Hmm.

ME: Can you make a key that will at least open the car?

THEM: Sure! It will unlock the car, but you won’t be able to drive it. Just make sure you bring some ID.

ME: Sigh.

Knowing I could not bring my driver’s licence (let’s just overlook the fact that I was having to drive without one for the better part of a day, OK?), I gathered up as much information as I could to prove who I was. I brought my birth certificate, a copy of my car tax bill, a newspaper column with my name and picture on it, and a badge from a conference I attended a few months back. Because no one can dispute a statewide arts conference badge.

When I arrived at the dealership, I shared my story and presented my proof of who I was. He glanced momentarily at the pile and said, “Do you have the VIN?” Apparently, he didn’t think I was someone who needed intense vetting to prove who I was. And I guess most seasoned car thieves don’t bring reams of paperwork to a dealership to get a key that won’t actually start the car. I handed him my car tax bill, and about two minutes later, he returned with a metal key that would, in fact, open my car.

Alas, when I opened it, no key. When my wife got home from work, she began the search for the key and started looking in all the places I had already looked. No key.

I needed to remove myself from the search, as I was becoming just a smidge testy, and had resigned myself to getting my car towed and buying a new key. “Well, you’re not going to have it towed there tonight,” my wife said. “Just relax.” I hate it when she’s right.

I headed out to the store, and about two minutes later got a text from her. “Found it.”

My key had fallen snugly in a chair, resting against the cushion and some slats. My wife was able to find it because she has the patience of Job and the detective skills of Columbo. I, meanwhile, have the patience of a puppy and the detective skills of Inspector Clouseau.

Fortunately, the key is back now, in its usual spot. I think I will go and get a spare made at some point so I can have that backup should the need arise. Most likely, I will do this just in time to lose my original key.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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