Rearview Mirror: There’s Something Funny in the Air

I was driving around today enjoying the perfect early fall weather we’ve been having. I had the sunroof wide open, enjoying the drive while listening to some raw, uncensored comedy on the satellite radio. Then I remembered that the Cubs were playing the Mets, so I switched over to AM to catch part of the game.

Inevitably, my cell phone rang while I was out; just the wife wondering when I would be home. As I hung up with her, the radar detector went off suddenly. A quick glance at the speedo assured me I had nothing to worry about. It wasn’t long before I pulled in my driveway, hit the garage door opener and parked the car for the day. A quick tap of the button on the key, and the car was locked.

When I got in the house, I grabbed the remote control and turned on the TV in time to see the last few innings of the game, which the Cubs would inevitably lose. A little while later, my wife handed me the cordless phone, informing me that my mother needed to speak with me. She asked me to look something up for her on the internet, so I grabbed my laptop and surfed wirelessly until I found what she needed.

What’s the point of all this, you may ask? Well, I certainly didn’t want to bore you to death with details of my mundane existence. My goal was to point out all the devices we use on a daily basis that rely on some form of radio wave transmission for their operation. In my example above, which is not terribly uncommon for most of us, I count ten different devices.

The reality is that we are literally bombarded with thousands, even millions, of invisible waves that make our lives so convenient. But what would you do if one day all those different frequencies conspired to make your life inconvenient? I only ask that question because I have the answer.

Several years back, I had a particularly entertaining lunch break. On that day, I found myself at the nearest Taco Bell, for reasons I can’t really explain. After finishing my meal, I returned to my car, and as I approached, I hit the unlock button as I always had. I immediately noticed something peculiar though. Anyone with a Golf III knows that the power locks are vacuum operated, making that characteristic whine as the air pressure actuates the lock. What I heard instead was the distinct “thunk” of an electric solenoid. I hit the lock button to confirm this, and sure enough, the thunk returned.

After locking and unlocking my Golf a couple more times, I realized that my remote was also operating the keyless entry system on the Olds Cutlass parked next to me. The wheels in my head were turning, and I knew this would be a rare opportunity. I jumped in my Golf and started it, thereby deactivating the keyless system in my own car. I pressed the lock and unlock button again, and noticed that the Cutlass was still responding to my inputs. At this point I also held down on the unlock button, and sure enough, the trunk lid of the Olds released and popped open slightly. This was going to be fun!

So I sat and waited for the owner of the Cutlass to return so the real fun could start. I made the educated guess that the owner would have to be back in a matter of minutes; really, how long can you stay at a Taco Bell? I sat there with the windows up and the air conditioning on, checking my mirrors for the approaching mark.

In a matter of minutes, a young lady walked up near the Oldsmobile, and with a puzzled look on her face, she opened the trunk lid, then slammed it shut, shaking her head in disbelief. I watched as she hit her unlock button and grabbed for the door handle. Before she could lift it, I hit the lock button on my remote and re-locked her door. The look on her face was priceless as she attempted to open the locked door.

With another shake of her head, she hit the unlock button again, and reached for the door handle, only to be locked out again by my remote. I could see the frustration building within her. She decided to forego the remote and instead unlock her door with the key. At this point I switched tactics, holding down the unlock button until the trunk popped open again. I can’t even describe the look of confusion and disbelief on her face as she raced to the back of the car to close the trunk.

She had no sooner returned to the driver’s door when the trunk mysteriously opened again. She dashed back to slam the trunk, looking exasperated. At this point I was having a difficult time maintaining my composure, but I still had the presence of mind to turn things up a notch. As she was closing the trunk again, I decided to alternate hitting the lock and unlock buttons, sending her lock solenoids into a frenzy.

My memory gets a little fuzzy here, mostly because at this point I was practically in tears, laughing hysterically at this poor woman’s reaction to what was happening. I know I popped the trunk at least another time or two, and relocked her doors again before finally pulling away and letting out the most incredible laugh I have ever experienced. When I returned to work, my face was red and tears were still running out of the corners of my eyes. My stomach was tight from laughing so hard; it felt like I had just done a hundred sit-ups.

I know some of you will think this was a horrible, cruel joke to play an innocent person, and you’re probably right. But the opportunity was priceless. Besides, I was merely having a little fun. Other more ruthless individuals may have taken advantage of this situation to illegally enter the car and loot it of any valuables. And indeed, many people do take advantage of all the waves beaming about to obtain access to garages, cell phones, and free satellite TV, among others.

The only point I wanted to make is that you have to be careful when you rely too much on your remote controls. You just never know when they might turn against you.

For more discussion on this story, click on the link to our discussion forums at the left.