My car key has a “clickerdoo.”
I don’t know the real name for a "clickerdoo," but it’s the black plastic teardrop-shaped fob that you point toward the car, click, and yellow parking lights flash, then the driver’s door unlocks.
Press it again and the other doors unlock. I tell you, it’s a magic wand.
Even half a parking lot away across a small inland sea of cars, if I click it over my shoulder backwards several times in a row as I walk toward the produce stacked in front of , my car beeps congenially in reply to let me know its doors are locked and all is well.
How does it know?
I count on that clickerdoo because I’ve had it for several years now. We’re on autopilot; it’s an extension of my hand. You can imagine my shock the other night when I clickerdoo-ed my car and nothing happened — no clicking locks, no flashing lights. Nothing but dark silence.
Let me set the scene. After 25 years, I am an acclimated Alamedan and, like many fellow citizens, I rarely go off island at night. But this was a special occasion. My niece’s husband was performing at Yoshi’s on Fillmore in the City, and I am a big fan.
Back to our regularly scheduled program: I sat on a comfy couch next to his wife/my niece, Louise, listening to great music and sharing sushi until well past my usual bedtime.
By the end of the concert, it was past midnight and my car was parked in the cold concrete underground garage beneath the club.
Compared to when I was a girl in the 60s, San Francisco’s Fillmore district is gentrified. Back then it was somewhere I never went, wasn’t allowed to go, and certainly not alone after dark. So needless to say, the little girl in me was scared witless heading down in the elevator all by my lonesome.
So just imagine when I got down to my car, clickerdoo-ed and my Subaru sat there lifeless in the cold, damp garage. I froze. My heart hammered as I tried clicking again and again with no luck. No matter how hard I pressed that plastic fob, nothing happened, no reassuring car reply whatsoever.
Then I it hit me … I had a key!
I could walk up to the driver’s door, insert the key into the lock, turn it and open the car! Overwhelmed with relief, I let myself in, closed the door, locked it tight, started the car and giggled in embarrassment as my pulse returned to just above normal. I headed out of the garage, back across the bridge and through the tube to good old Alameda.
We creatures of habit tend to take things for granted. I count on my ATM card just as much as my clickerdoo. When we were in Oregon in May for our daughter’s graduation, I needed cash. (Traveling with daughters, one tends to need cash.)
I put my red card in the flashing slot, entered my PIN, and the screen message indicated that the machine was temporarily plumb out of cash. I muttered something similar to “Gol-darn-it,” and then jumped clean out of my skin when a male voice on the bank side of the ATM said through the wall, “Sorry, ma'am, I am doing my best and will have it working again as soon as possible.”
You don’t expect ATMs to talk back when you swear. You just don’t. Between the dark garage and the talking ATM, I am truly grateful for my blood pressure medication. I apologized to the bank wall, it wished me a good morning, and I was off to find a different ATM.
Once upon a time there were no clickerdoos, no ATMs — not even a PC. If you wanted to revise something, you had to rip the paper from your typewriter, roll in a fresh sheet and retype completely from scratch. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in the '70s, it often took me longer to type a paper than to write it. Editing a weekly column while holding down a fulltime job would have been completely out of the question.
The things we have. The things we get used to. The things we take for granted…