The Maiden in Distress Wins the Day

Driving straight for three and a-half hours is a long time to go without a potty break, especially if you’ve just had 3 cups of coffee before starting out.  But that is the predicament I found myself in last week.

After giving an evening presentation in Mason City, spending the night in a parishioner’s home and then enjoying a lovely breakfast spread (including the 3 cups of coffee), I eagerly hopped in the car to speed out of town on my way back to Marshall.

I wasn’t more than 20 minutes on my way when the incident occurred, sealing my no-bathroom- break fate.

The story is as follows.

An Old Car, A Cracked Remote and A Nubby Key

During my journeys around the state, I’ve been using my parents’ 2008 Ford Sedan while my mom and dad use, for hometown use, the auxiliary car — the gas-guzzling Hyundai.

My dad made sure there were new tires on the Ford and new brake pads so I wouldn’t have any major difficulties on my travels.  No hesitations about the cost.  A daughter’s safety came first; no arguments there.

What did give cause for discussion centered around the two sets of keys for the old car.  One set’s remote control no longer worked for some reason.  Our Ford dealer said it would cost $130 to get a new one.  Rather than spend the money, we all decided I’d just use the other set, which worked but with a hitch.

The plastic on the key-holding remote was giving way, pulling apart at the seams.  It was holding up fairly well when I left Marshall but during my drive up to Mason City, I could feel the mechanism crack even more every time I started up the car.

I knew it was on its last leg, but what I didn’t expect was that pitstop I took at the Russell Stover chocolate store to become the be all and end all of its lifespan.

The key snapped off in the ignition.

Fortunately for me, the car was still running at the time the remote holder attachment popped off into my hands.  I say “fortunate” because the only way to turn the car off or on was with a set of pliers to grab the key’s little nubby metal protrusion and turn it.

Effingham, Brownstown, Shelbyville 017

Using fingers definitely wasn’t going to do it (I tried – wouldn’t budge).

I didn’t have a set of pliers with me, and even if I had, I was concerned the nub might break off, creating an even bigger mess than I was already in.

Nothing to do but drive straight through, keep the car running and “hold it,” so to speak.

 Doing Battle with The Car Dealer

"You've got to be kidding!"  Connie on a mission:  getting a new key at a discount

“You’ve got to be kidding!” Connie on a mission: getting a new key and remote

As it turned out, I did make a quick dash at a Casey’s gas station with my parked car running.  I just made sure the windows were rolled down so the automatic lock wouldn’t kick in.  In my estimation, someone stealing the car was preferable to me having an accident. (For my Chinese readers, it’s not a vehicular accident I’m talking about here!)

Once safely back in Marshall, I readied myself for battle with our town’s Ford dealer.

Upon inspection of the second key, which was fine for use aside from the broken remote, I saw that the plastic was likewise cracking, giving way in the exact same place as the other one! Obviously, these particular keyholder remotes were defective.

Replacing one at $130 was understandable but two for $260?!  When it wasn’t even my parents’ fault but a product flaw?

While my father was happy to replace one, I certainly was not satisfied that one was enough.  At the least, our dealer should either give us a discount or, better yet, give us a set for free.

Thus I headed down to the dealership and asked to speak directly to the manager.

The Maiden in Distress

Armed with both key holders, including the one with the nubby key pulled out of it, I lamented my 3 ½ hour drive, far from home with a bursting bladder and a  car I was worried to turn off.  I also produced the identical cracked remotes, mentioning that I felt the Ford company needed to know this in case it happened to another person.

Our dealership owner respectfully listened to my story before carefully inspecting the keyholders.

“Mmm,” he said, turning them both over.  “Well, that is strange.  Let’s go talk to our car service personnel.”

I trotted after him, down the hallway to where those servicing the cars hang out in the office.

“Take a look at these,” he said, handing them over.

The mechanic present examined the key holders, especially the one where the metal key had popped out of the plastic.

He looked quite stunned at the condition of what he saw.

“I’ve never, ever seen remotes rip apart like this before,” he volunteered.  “And I’ve seen a lot of cars since these things first came out.  Looks like they both are coming apart at the same place, too.”

The two men stood silently, contemplating the items before them.

I waited patiently, holding my breath.

The manager weighed his final decision, then spoke.

“Well, replacing one of these is $130 so two would be $260,” he said slowly. “I think we can do Bill (my dad) a favor and pay for one of these. No reason for both of these keys to break like that, even after 9 years.”

Ah-ha!  Victory!

Of course, I thanked him profusely for his generosity.

“You know, it would be such a great relief to have two of these in working order,” I said, in true sincerity. “My dad was only going to get one of them but I just didn’t feel safe, being a woman and all, if I were stranded somewhere on my travels and no one was around to help me.  Having that second key around would be a great comfort.  I honestly appreciate you helping us out.”

I must admit, I don’t often play the maiden-in-distress card but if it’ll save my dad 130 bucks, you bet I’ll go for it!

Victory!  Two for the price of one.

Victory! Two for the price of one.

Heading Back Up North

Tomorrow, I’ll be driving back up north about 4 hours for a 5-day presentation block  in Elmwood, Pekin, Morton, Canton, Lewistown and Carlinville.

No worries about keys coming out of their holders or broken remotes not locking or unlocking car doors.  I’ve got two brand new ones in my possession, thanks to our dealership owner. . . and a little wisp of feminine wiles.

From Marshall, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your weekend and a joyful upcoming July Fourth holiday, filled with good food, good company and outstanding firework displays.


About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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2 Responses to The Maiden in Distress Wins the Day

  1. Sharon White says:

    I think you should write a book!

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Kate Lindsay says:

    Never a dull moment for you! Safe travels and shall look forward to your 4th of July notes.

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