A Not-So-Cheap Laugh

Usually, when you get the keys to a new car, all its details — from the model and year to the VIN and license numbers, even its colour — are listed on a bright accompanying tag. The tag’s not for you but for keeping the dealership organized. Take it off.

Our new car’s dealership was 100km away but, halfway between, I had to drop off a Volvo S60 which I’d been reviewing for a couple of weeks over the holidays (great ride; more on that next week). So I had the sales guy meet me halfway with our new car where we signed the papers. From there, he was to ride with me back to our home to collect our trade-in.

However, being the Urban Driver, I also had to pick up a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland for reviewing over the next week.

So I had the sales chap drive me to Chrysler’s head office, where I got the Jeep, then proceeded to my home where we re-met, him with our new car, me with the new Grand Cherokee. Then he drove away with the aging Ford Escape, leaving me with two new vehicles and three key fobs.

I greedily raced my new car (the Jeep will get lots of attention this weekend up north) to pick up my wife for lunch. She wasn’t there.

So I left the car in front of her office and a voicemail on her phone. Meet me in the new curry kitchen up the road. On the way you’ll pass and marvel at this new vehicle’s beauty.

The spare key fob was resting in the cup holder, begging jonesing bypassers: break in and steal me! So I took it, along with my soft briefcase, coat, scarf, gloves and other two fobs.

The sun shone brightly, mirroring that sense of bonhomie that follows a satisfying purchase. There was no snow on the ground, so I stopped, removed my galoshes and carried them too. It was warm, so I also removed my gloves.

Very full hands now, no?

A lifelong billboard for ADHD, I regularly organize creeping clutter. In the restaurant, I put my briefcase, gloves, coat, scarf, and galoshes down on the table and began securing the two fobs I’d be using this week to a burgeoning key chain. When I noticed the spare fob for the new car was gone.

Which is bad.

Visions of the AWOL fob, colorfully trumpeting its obviously nearby license, colour, model and year, sent my blood pressure north. I scoured the briefcase twice. Patted down all pockets like desperate airline security on a tipsy debutante. Then told the waiter to watch my briefcase and galoshes while I retraced my steps.

Three trips back and forth along the 100 metres between restaurant and car — a very busy section of downtown — yielded nothing. Blood pressure went Vesusius.

Head down, scouring the ground like a hound, I retraced my steps back into the restaurant, apologized for leaving, collected my chattel, squishing the springy rubber galoshes into the front of the soft leather case, and again scoured the sidewalks back to the car.

Now what? Maybe I should call someone? Can’t do it yet.

Immediate problem: I had an important client meeting downtown an hour later. Immediate solution: If someone has the key, they’re less likely to find the car when it’s parked 5km away at the client’s office. I got in the car and drove, leaving any possibility of finding the fob on the street behind.

Suddenly, a more immediate solution! I had an hour and the client was near the local dealership of our new car. I popped in there first and calmly explained: “I’ve just bought this new car from your sister dealer and, in 3 minutes, managed to lose the key with a tag identifying all its information.”

Thankfully, he didn’t crack a smile; didn’t need to. “Any replacements take two weeks. A replacement key is about $250. But you’d still have the spare key out there somewhere.” (Translation: how would you sleep knowing that?) “To reprogram the whole computer with new fobs is $2,000.”

Your attention please, is there a doctor and qualified pilot on the plane?

My blood pressure went supernova. $2,000 was the value of our trade-in. Half an hour earlier, I’d passed on two sets of keys that lasted 7 years without getting lost, and within a 100-metre stroll, I’d given one away to some lucky junky, costing us either $2,000 or the car itself!

Have you ever buggered yourself as majestically? What panache.

Before I could talk to the original dealer (maybe we could work something out?) or even my wife, I had to attend this client meeting. Happy New Year, how are the kids, what if we tried doing this, let me see if I’m fully understanding your needs, we’ll sidebar that and circle back, etc.

All in a bit of a haze.

After the meeting, the car was still there. It was a feeling probably close to Team Canada’s after the 5-3 loss last night. I drove home, weak, and gave Pyrrhic self-congratulations for not having put my fist through the dashboard at first or crying in front of clients later.

In the kitchen, I noticed that the cleaning lady had been, and the surrounding order lifted the mood slightly. I removed the gloves from my hands, scarf from my neck, coat from my back and galoshes from my briefcase.

Springy rubber, the galoshes popped open and the second key fob launched into the air from inside one.

The fob arced gracefully — I swear it was in slow-motion — the last of the soft January sun reflecting off its shiny plastic, before thudding down onto the edge of the aging Persian rug, its informative plastic tag then slapping against the polished hardwood floor.

The neighbours heard a short, roaring laugh. It was the deepest, most expensive cheap laugh of my life.

Image courtesy of Marko D. Photography.

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