Joel has a habit of leaving items on the top of the car and driving off. Most of the time, it has been full cups of Dr. Pepper, but once we had to chase down a stack of mail that contained his paycheck, and another time Joel had to weave through Wichita traffic to retrieve some important registration numbers for the state track team he was coaching. He even left Clementine’s car seat on the roof once! Don’t worry, listeners, she wasn’t in it, but it looked bad, really, really bad.
My little car has push button start, which means that you only need to have the keys in or near the car in order to take off. I think you know where this is going. Yes, Joel left the keys on the roof and we drove off. They stayed up there as we wound slowly through town, but as we came up onto the interstate, we heard a clattering sound that began above our heads and then proceeded back across the roof and down the hatch.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Didn’t hear anything,” my dear heart replied.
As I have mentioned before, I should have been in the intelligence field. I have an uncanny instinct for identifying unusual smells, suspicious yet vaguely familiar people, and yes, sounds. “That, my sweet husband, was the sound of your keys sliding off the vehicle and onto the interstate. Stop the car.”
For a guy who exhibited catlike reflexes as a college basketball player, Joel has remarkably slow reaction time when it comes to following directives issued by his wife. We passed another three mile markers before we got stopped and turned around. I marveled at how much quicker he had stopped that time we passed the stranded blonde wearing cutoffs.
Joel explained his delayed response by telling me he thought the sound couldn’t have been his keys because he assumed the car would eventually stop without them. He had always wanted to experiment to find out just how far the car would go without the keys anyway. I guess he didn’t know that I had a set in my purse.
Nevertheless, we managed to spot a pile of black plastic chunks among some metal bits as we retraced our route. I told Joel not to risk his life in order to retrieve what used to be his keys from interstate, but he ran into traffic while the kids screamed from the back seat. He returned, triumphant, holding a handful of what appeared to be black licorice nibs.
Unfortunately, keys for push button start cars cost significantly more than old-fashioned ones, so the whole affair cost nearly a thousand bucks. Luckily, we had some cash set aside for our family vacation, and I, for one, hadn’t been looking forward to packing the minivan for our crew anyway. With all of the debits adding up in my mental spreadsheet, I thought I would need to find another baby grand to buy soon.
Joel loves a good challenge. He was mighty impressed when he discovered the house key, which had been bent into nearly a 90-degree angle, still opened our front door if he clipped a pair of vise grip pliers to it. Not one to be outdone on the positive attitude front, I pointed out that nine of the keys on the ruined fob had been for vehicles we no longer owned, so it was good to be starting a new key ring with a clean slate.