Here we are!

Here we are!

Last week, Christine and I took a week-long trip to the American Southwest. She’d never been before, and I hadn’t visited since a 1996 trip with my grandparents – man, I loved that motorhome and I’m sure 1996-level gas prices were a good deal for my grandpa. We had a noon flight out of Milwaukee, so we figured we’d leave at 8am and have plenty of headroom in case of issues. As it was Friday the 13th, I’m glad we did.

Christine pulled her Fusion into the driveway in order to load up our bags and her two meowing, irritated cats as I was inside, determining what in the fridge would keep, what could be frozen, and what needed to be “emergency donated” to her parents so it wouldn’t go to waste. Finally, at 10 past 8, she climbs into the driver seat, I get in next to her, she pulls out the standard Ford Focus key and…we stare at it incredulously for 5 seconds as we realize she’s just holding the plastic fob. The metal piece, the actual “key” itself, is missing and it’s not in her pocket.

So, cue the next fifteen minute hunt all over the street and driveway and cushions to hunt for a 2 inch long chunk of glittering metal. There’s no luck, and the cats are getting more affronted by the delay. Not too much panic yet; I tell Christine that we have time and we can always take my car if we need to; it’s in our garage at the moment.

With a burst of insight, she remembers her dad always had spare keys made for his cars. She gives him a ring and with his direction, is able to find the tightly plastic-wrapped and sealed key hidden where it should be. I don’t like the looks of it though. It looks like a valet key. Her car is a 2009 Fusion and I’m pretty sure they all have little chips on them to prevent hotwiring. She puts the key in the ignition, turns it and…sure enough, nothing happens except the little “theft deterrent light” flashes red on the dash. We hunt through the manual to verify that yes, sure enough – this key is essentially useless for actually starting the car. Her dad, still on the phone with her, recommends putting the car in neutral and we gain about two feet of extra space.

At this point, I’m ready to get my car out of the garage, reload everything, and just get on the road. This time the sad trombone in my head plays immediately – it’s a single-width driveway and the Fusion is stuck exactly where I need to be backing out. But Christine doesn’t want to go into neutral and roll her car onto the street for a week – and she’s right, too; ordinance for the street prevents anyone parking on it on Thursday morning. Okay, so it’s time to practice my very, very careful turning abilities as I slowly pull the Camaro out and painstakingly try to sneak past the Fusion, still taking up the vast majority of the driveway space. Out across the lawn I go, trying not to leave too many tire marks.

Not pictured: me sweating profusely in the driver's seat

Not pictured: me sweating profusely in the driver’s seat

I finally get out to the street, and Christine opens the trunk to start grabbing our bags…where she immediately sees the metal key chunk, fallen into the lower part of the trunk’s rubber seal/gasket. What perfect timing. She jams it back into the plastic fob and I pray that whatever sensors and connectors are inside the fob still work. And for the first time that morning – things go right. The car starts. She backs out onto the road, and I can put the Camaro safely back into the garage. We’re finally on our way to her house to drop off the cats, and we’re only an hour later than intended. Good thing we got an early start!

Fast forward to the end of the trip (which itself was great; seeing an old friend from high school, hiking in both dry desert and snowy environments in the same day, etc) and we’re ready to return our rental car in Phoenix, Arizona, and fly back home. Now at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, the rental car area is just in the lower parking garage/basement right next to the airport. I figured that this was standard – I should have done my homework. I had no idea we’d have to take a 15 minute long bus ride from the rental car dropoff back to the terminal itself. Not to mention the fact that Christine and I got sidetracked by a brand-new C7 Corvette that Budget Auto just had sitting out, and that a friendly Budget employee would fire it up for us and allow us to sit in the vehicle and acknowledge its raw, beautiful power. We probably shouldn’t have done that, in retrospect.

Don't mug for photos as you miss your flight, kids.

Don’t mug for photos as you miss your flight, kids.

As the bus pulled away from the curb at 11pm, and our flight was at 11:30 pm, we were pretty sure we were going to miss our plane. But for once – thank goodness for Delta being late, because when we arrived at the correct gate (after flying through a skeptical TSA security team who said “aw honey, you ain’t gonna make it.” (thanks, lady)) they were still loading the last 10 passengers in line.

I’m totally ready for teleporters to beam us to wherever we want to go.