Keys To Automotive Success

by Alan J. Claffie

My MGB is chugging along pretty well. It started right up after its winter slumber and hasn't surprised me with any unpleasantness so far this year, knock on wood (reminder: this is the car I dragged out of a barn after 12 years of 'winter' storage and got running again last year).

I don't drive it much. The biggest impediment to its not being driven much is that one tire doesn't hold air and I've been dragging my feet getting a new/used tire mounted in its place. But if I air up the tire at home and plan my trips to be small and not too far away I can get back before it gets too low.

Last Wednesday, Kate left me a couple honey-dos. It was a nice day and the MG was near the end of the driveway so I figured I'd take a chance and drive it. Aired up the tire and went on my merry way. Got to Home Depot fine, but couldn't find what I needed there so it was off to Lowe's. Scored a 50% success there so I headed home.

Reported to Kate my results and she suggested that what I needed next was at Staples. It's still a nice day and the tire was still up so I went back in the blue B and headed back into town. Got to Staples and quickly found nothing related to what I needed. Started heading back to the parking lot, reached for the keys, and... hmmm.

I had two keys with me when I left the house. The MG's key lives by itself on a simple plastic fob given to me by the shop I bought my trailer from. It doesn't even have a house key on it. Because of that, I also had my truck's key which does have a house key attached. In my pocket I had my truck key, but no MG key.

I went out to the parking lot, checked all over the car, retraced my walk to the store, and walked every aisle five or six times. I figured the key fell out of my pocket when I took my phone out to check if Staples actually carried the particular item I was looking for. I was only in the store for maybe three minutes, how could it be gone?

Eventually I figured it was time to call in reinforcements and check with the store's staff. At this point I can see the car in the parking lot and every time I do, I can see the right rear tire getting closer and closer to flatness. Store staff didn't seem terribly concerned, but called around to various registers and floor workers asking if anyone saw the key. I'm trying to explain the gravity of the situation: it's a key to a 40+ year old car from a company that doesn't exist anymore. If there's a second key to this car, it's probably at my dad's house 500 miles away and he'd have to put it in the mail... and that's the best case scenario! I certainly didn't have the luxury of being able to go to the Honda store with my registration and let them cut a new key for me then and there.

The girl at the service desk started randomly opening drawers behind the counter and finally said "is this it?" YES. With some relief I was on my merry way, although I had to stop at a gas station to air up the stupid tire. I came home, posted my little tale of woe to Facebook and enjoyed some good-natured ribbing from friends and acquaintances.

There is a chapter two to this story:

We do autocrossing, semi-seriously. This past weekend was the SCCA Washington DC Pro Solo - a pretty big deal that sells out in mere minutes and attracts drivers from up and down the east coast and all over the eastern half of the country. Even though we're local, we show up with the autocross car on the trailer just because it's easy to bring all the tools/spares/equipment we might need to the site.

Friday is setup day and tech and practice starts (Pro Solo runs two mirrored courses simultaneously, starting with a drag racing Christmas tree). Kate went early with the truck and race car. I work nights, including that Thursday night, so I planned on arriving around noon after a little nap. I made it to FedEx Field and found the race car and started undoing the straps to unload it. I asked Kate if she brought any keys for the race car and she says no. I know I didn't bring any myself.

Like I said, we're local, so I jumped back in the car and banzai'd home to get the key and banzai back. Got the car unloaded, posted my little tale of woe to Facebook and enjoyed some good-natured ribbing from friends and acquaintances.

Chapter three

We ran the Pro Solo on Saturday and Sunday and did fairly well. In our class of ten drivers, I wound up fourth. SCCA awards trophies to a certain percentage of entries in each class, and in a class of ten they award four trophies. They aren't actual trophies, but rather little trinkets that say "Pro Solo Trophy Winner." I stuck around for the awards presentation at the end of festivities on Sunday, and went up when called to accept my trophy for fourth place in class. What is the award?

A key chain.

You can't make this stuff up.

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