Friday, March 7, 2008

Grand Theft Auto

So yesterday I’m tootling through the neighborhood and down the Central Street shopping area in the Lady Friend’s Civic. Everything’s cool, but . . .

Why are people stopping and staring as I drive by? Two small boys run out of a store and point. Shock envelops the faces of an elderly couple at a corner. As I round the next turn onto a side street an old lady flashes me a snaggle-toothed gape.

This is bad. People seem concerned and even angry. What could I have done that provoked such intense scrutiny?

Then I notice the red light winking on the dash. It’s a warning light I’ve never seen. Maybe the engine is seizing up and its dying screams are troubling the passersby. I pull over, stop the car and fish the instruction manual from the glove box. Riffling through a couple of dozen pages yields the information that the red light means the security system is resetting itself.

Oh, good, I think. Soon the reset will be completed and all will be well. I start up again and drive off.

More stares. More gapes. And the red light is still blinking.

Slowly the truth begins to dawn on me.

Two blocks later I pull over again and recheck the manual. Go to Page 127, it says. Insert the key in the outside door lock and turn it twice to turn off the alarm system.

I do so, and the small crowd that has gathered relaxes and shakes its collective head. No crime happening, folks. Let’s move along. Nothing to see.

When I get home from my errand the Lady Friend meets me at the door and smiles indulgently. “How far did you get before you realized the car alarm was on?” she says.

“Too far,” I mutter.

She had heard the alarm trigger as I slammed the door after getting in the car, and she had rushed out — too late — to try to stop me from driving away, yodeling and honking, headlights and taillights flashing merrily.

There is only one other occasion I can remember that involved a big annoying noise. Similarly, I hadn’t a clue except for the dog, who followed me around at home all day — all day! — panting and barking, a worried furrow in its brow.

Then Lady Friend came home and said, “Why is the vacuum cleaner running upstairs?”

Being deaf — deaf as a doornail — has few good uses, but one of them is for an occasional self-conscious laugh.

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