Have Yourself an Ambivalent Little Christmas


The Golden Age of Spam

Will the Real Renaissance Please Stand Up?

My Life of Crime

My Life of Crime, Pt. 2: The War of the Dandelions

Black (and Blue) Friday

Going Home

How Not to Celebrate a Holiday

Traffic Report Fall Down
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O, Holy Weekend

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?

Side Disorders

Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught By Example in Raleigh, North Carolina

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?, Pt. 2: Are They Gone Yet?

The Last Reality Show

It Builds Character

Sink the Flu

WTF (in C Major)

Intruder Alert

Kneel before Za

I Got Your Breaking News Right Here, Pal

Christmas in July...or April...or maybe even December


Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"

Intruder Alert

For the most part I'm quite fond of my car. Not that I'm a gearhead or anything like that, but my car does have many features I like: it gets roughly 42 miles to the gallon, it seats four adults comfortably, it has a tight turning radius (useful when parallel parking, which I do surprisingly often), and most of all, the stereo has an AUX jack so I can easily hook in my iPod and not be subjected to the horrible radio stations in Raleigh. But I could do without its paranoid tendencies. My car has on a couple of occasions found someone sitting in it, decided this person was a thief, and attempted to contact the authorities by blaring its horn in an irritating rhythm (a dotted half note followed by a quarter rest in a vivace tempo). Both times, that person was me.

This is obviously some kind of security system, and I suppose that on some level I should be thankful that it stops people from trying to steal the thing. I probably would be if I actually believed anyone had ever tried to steal it, but I don't, which means that I'm the only person inconvenienced by this.

What has happened both times is that I opened the door, got out of the car, realized before closing the door that I needed to do something in the car, and therefore gotten back in the car and closed the door. This should not actually cause a problem. It should, as far as I can determine, be possible for a person who is inside a car to get out of the car under any circumstances not involving physical damage to the door. But this is not true. Once the doors close, you can not unlock the car from the inside. You can press the door unlock button all you want and nothing will happen. (The design of the locks also makes it impossible to manually unlock them the way you can on most models.) You can even have your key with you and press the remote door unlock button on it, and it will do absolutely nothing. Mind you, a person standing outside with the exact same key has no such problem. The ability of the car to determine where someone is standing and conclude that anyone inside is a prisoner who should not be released is as impressive as it is frustrating.

There is, under this circumstance, only one way to get out. You have put the key in the ignition, which in a just world would cause the car to realize that the rightful owner is the person in the car and thus let him get out. But we all know that we do not live in a just world, right? Instead, the car starts blaring its horn at the aforementioned vivace tempo. (Couldn't it at least play something cool, like the bass line to "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"?) But while the horn is blaring, the previously immovable windows start working. You still can't open the doors — that would be too easy — but you can open the windows. It's a start. Of course, you're quickly developing a headache and everyone in the grocery store parking lot is looking at you funny, but at least you're no longer trapped.

Once the window is down, you have two choices. First, you can climb out. Climbing out of a car that keeps blaring its horn is probably going to draw some unwanted attention (which, as far as my car is concerned, is the point). It's also not particularly easy when you're in a parking lot and there's only about a meter between your car and the car in the next spot. The second option is that you can remove your key from the ignition and put it into the keyhole on the door. This can be a bit tricky (the keyhole is not designed to be easily accessed by someone sitting in the driver's seat, and that's putting it mildly), but it can be done. Once you do this, the car will finally shut up. You can then put the key back in the ignition, put the window back up, and exit the car with whatever shreds of dignity you have remaining.

Here's the part I don't get: You put your key in the ignition, and it decides that you're a thief. It does not decide this before you put the key in the ignition; you can sit in the car indefinitely if you don't put the key in the ignition, and it won't say anything. Only once you put the key in the ignition does it start blaring the horn. Then, after performing various contortions to reach the door lock (my friend Sherry takes yoga; I'll have to ask her if they have a "mortified driver" position), you can make the horn stop by using the exact same key that made the horn start in the first place. So basically, the exact same thing that pisses the car off also placates it. It reminds me of a girl I dated in college.

I admire the fact that my car has enough of a self-preservation instinct that it will take steps to prevent someone from running off with it and taking it to a chop shop. I really do. I just wish it was a little smarter about it. All it would have to do is learn the difference between someone hot wiring it and someone legitimately starting it by using the key. It can figure out whether I should be inside or outside the car based on whether I just locked or unlocked the door, so this should be within its capabilities. Then it just needs to learn the idea of "Okay, this person just tried to start me by using the key, so it's unlikely to be a thief." Is that really such a difficult concept?

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