I learned a valuable lesson this week: how to find car keys. The method is simple. Order an expensive replacement key. Here's how I found this out after losing a key.
I can't remember exactly how much the parts guy at Portland's Mini Cooper dealership said a replacement key fob and programming would run me. About $450, my shocked mind recalls.
It used to be that you'd take your extra car key to a locksmith and get another key. Those days are long gone in the pre-electronic past. I enjoy being able to lock, unlock, and start my 2011 Mini without taking my key out.
However, we also have a 2007 Highlander Hybrid that uses an old-fashioned key that you actually turn to start the car. Compared to the pushbutton on my Mini Cooper, that feels akin to cranking a Model T.
We took the Highlander to central Oregon last week. So I did a lot of taking-my-car-keys-out, since I keep all my keys together.
During one of my many taking-car-keys-out my Mini Cooper key fob somehow got disconnected from the ring to which it was attached.
I had a depressingly clear perception of this disturbing fact when we got home. I went over to the Mini to put a pair of dark glasses back in it, and after pushing the door lock/unlock button I was met with an unsettling silence.
The silence was broken when I unzipped my hip bag, took my keys out, and uttered a fervent F__k! as I noticed that the round Mini key fob wasn't there.
I checked the floor of the Highlander in the unlikely event the Mini key had come off while I was in the other car. Nope. No key. I then thought about all the places we'd been the past five days in the Sisters/Camp Sherman area where I'd taken out my keys to unlock or lock the Highlander.
Depressing. Impossible to check all those places.
Plus, I was more than two hours away from them. The only thing I could think of was to ask the person who cleans the cabin we share in Camp Sherman to check the inside of the cabin, along with the area where the Highlander was parked.
After emailing her, she said that she'd make our cabin the first on her cleaning schedule the next day. Which I assumed meant sometime in the morning. Naturally she'd let me know if she found the key.
When noon came and went with no word from the cabin cleaner, I decided the time had come to look into ordering a replacement key fob. After I was connected with the Parts Department of the Portland Mini Cooper dealership, I said "Give me the price first, so I can start thinking about how large a second mortgage I need to get to pay for it."
As noted above, it was about $450, if I recall correctly. My brain has a way of blocking out bad news.
The guy told me that I'd need to send him copies of my drivers license and Mini registration in order for him to get started on the process of ordering a replacement key. I dutifully copied, scanned, and emailed the info to him.
Then I went into town to exercise and do some errands. Along the way I checked my iPhone for messages. There was voice mail from the cabin cleaner. I figured she was telling me she didn't find the key.
But actually she had found it!
In the cabin parking area. So it had slipped off the key ring at the very best time and place: when I was using my keys the last time in central Oregon, in an area where someone we knew could come over and look in that place.
I immediately phoned the Mini Cooper parts guy. "Hold off on ordering that replacement key," I told him. "The key has been found."
"That always happens," he said. "No, it doesn't," I argued back. "Lots of times I've lost keys that were never found."
The parts guy explained.
"What I mean is, you wouldn't believe how often someone orders a new Mini key, has it programmed for their car, picks it up, and then calls me back after a while to ask if they can return the new key, because even though they thought they had looked everywhere for the lost key, it had turned up unexpectedly. But I have to tell them that the new key is theirs now; it can't be returned, because it was made just for them."
"Interesting," I said to him. "So it sounds like if I ever lose my Mini key again, I should order one from you. Then I'll find the missing key." He laughed. "I guess."
"Does this work for everything?" I asked. "What if I lose my dog? Can I order a replacement dog from you, after which our dog will come home." "Maybe," he said.
We had a good time joking around, me especially. It felt really nice to know that I'd saved $450. Well, $430, after sending $20 to the cabin cleaner to pay her for mailing the key fob back to me, with $450 worth of USPS insurance. Plus some extra bucks for her excellent key-finding work.
And I learned something: if you ever lose one of those expensive electronic car keys, order a new one, but hold off on paying for it for as long as possible. Apparently the Jokester Key God (or whoever/whatever) will mess with your mind by arranging for the key to be found soon after you've ordered a new one.
Note: your results may differ. I'm just passing on what the Mini Cooper parts guy told me.
When we owned a Nissan Leaf with keyless entry and starting, somehow I also managed to lose that key. The Nissan parts guy told me I was the first person to ever order a replacement key from their dealership.
"I adore being special," I told him. "Thanks for letting me know." Never found that lost key. But it was considerably cheaper than the Mini key would have been, just $250 or so.
Guess the Jokester Key God only allows your lost key to be found after you've paid even more for a replacement key.