Lori Borgman: Are you smart enough for a smart key car?

The rental car we picked up on a recent trip was bright red, had a push button start and smart key. A smart key is more like an oversized computer USB drive than a key with teeth.

We drive old cars with toothed keys – the kind you put in the ignition and have to turn with your hand. (Oh, the exhaustion.)

Settled at my destination, I met a book publisher in a café. After a delightful conversation, we parted ways. I searched through my purse and pockets and couldn’t find the car key anywhere. I peeked into the car and saw him in the passenger seat.

I had locked the smart key in the car. Not smart.

I called my husband to announce the news. The place where we were staying was only a mile from the cafe; I started walking. Strongly. He was on hold with the rental company when I got back, so I started googling what to do when you lock a smart key in a keyless car.

It turns out that it is almost impossible to lock a smart key in a car because the car detects that the key is in the car and does not lock the doors. Clever. Very clever.

Now the husband and I were both walking (very quickly) to the cafe where our rental car sat in a busy parking lot, unlocked, with the smart key in plain view. Not smart.

I might as well have taped a big sign saying “TAKE ME, I’M YOURS” to the windshield.

The car was still there, unlocked, smart key in sight. So we went to the cafe and bought some pastries to celebrate.

To document the fun, you-know-who said he wanted to take a picture of me outside the cafe. I accepted a photo and threw my coat and purse in the car.

He broke a few. I went back to the car to retrieve my purse from the back seat and yelled, “My purse and coat are gone!”

“Impossible,” he said.

“Well, they are!”


Unless I threw them in the red car parked next to our red car. I casually approached and saw my purse and coat in someone else’s back seat. I opened their car door, got my things, and rushed to our car.

Then we looked up and saw the driver’s door open on the red car next to our red car. I had opened two doors in search of my coat and my purse. The husband casually walked over, closed the car door, and returned to our car.

“Do you think anyone saw all this?” wasn’t completely out of my mouth when a man walked up to the red car next to us looking in our direction. We both came out and asked him if he had seen what had happened. He said his girlfriend said, “Someone is getting in your car.”

We explained that I was baffled when I ‘locked’ a smart key in a rental, drove away, then found the ‘locked’ car wasn’t locked at all and wanted to take a picture, blah, BLA bla.

Either the man was genuinely nice or he just wanted to get away from two crazy jobs out of town and wished us luck on the rest of our trip.

If there’s ever a test to see if we’re smart enough to use a smart key, our qualifications could be in jeopardy.

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