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 push-button start and a smart key. A smart key looks more like an oversized thumb drive for a computer than a key with teeth.

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

Settled at our destination, I met with a book editor at a coffee shop. After a delightful chat, we went our separate ways. I rummaged through my bag and my pockets and couldn’t find the car key anywhere. I glanced in the car and saw it on the passenger seat.

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

I called my husband to break the news. The place where we were staying was only a mile from the coffee shop; I began walking. Briskly. He was on hold with the rental agency when I returned, so I began Googling what to do when you lock a smart key in a keyless-entry car.

Turns out, it is nearly impossible to lock a smart key in a car because the car senses the key is in the car and won’t lock the doors. Smart. Very smart.

Now the husband and I were both walking (very briskly) back to the coffee shop where our rented car sat in a busy parking lot, unlocked, with the smart key in full view. Not smart.

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

The car was still there, unlocked, smart key in plain view. So we went into the coffee shop and bought pastries to celebrate.

To document the fun, you-know-who said he wanted to take my picture in front of the coffee shop. I agreed to a picture and threw my coat and purse into the car.

He snapped a few. I returned to the car to retrieve my purse from the back seat and shrieked, “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 walked over and saw my purse and coat in someone else’s back seat. I opened their car door, retrieved my things and scurried back to our car.

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

“Do you think anyone saw all that?” was not fully out of my mouth when a man strode up to the red car next to us looking our way. We both popped out and asked if he saw what happened. He said his girlfriend said, “Someone’s getting in your car.”

We explained I was discombobulated by “locking” a smart key in a rental, walking away, then discovering the “locked” car was not locked at all and wanted to take a picture, blah, blah, blah.

Either the man was sincerely congenial, or just wanted to get away from two out-of-town nut jobs and wished us well on the remainder of our trip.

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

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Ryan Trares
Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist at the Daily Journal. He has long reported on the opioids epidemic in Johnson County, health care, nonprofits, social services and veteran affairs. When he is not writing about arts, entertainment and lifestyle, he can be found running, exploring Indiana’s craft breweries and enjoying live music. He can be reached at [email protected] or 317-736-2727. Follow him on Twitter: @rtrares