Saturday, April 30, 2016

Keyless Car Leaves Drive Feeling Adrift - Columbus Dispatch April 30, 2016

I recently rented a car for a business trip to West Virginia.
After filling out the paperwork, I walked around the vehicle with the agent to inspect it for damage. Finding none, I began to reach for “the keys.”
The agent asked whether I had driven a car with a keyless ignition. I said no.
He explained that the car didn’t have a key. To start the car, he said, I just needed to have the fob inside the car and push the start/stop button; to turn it off, I had to push the button again.
What could be easier?
I hopped in and got on my way. Three hours later, I arrived in Charleston without any problems.

The next morning, I drove to the office building where the meeting was to take place. I thought I had left the hotel plenty early, but I ended up on the wrong side of the Kanawha River, barely making it to the meeting on time. Fortunately, the building has an attached parking garage.
Seven hours later, I was back in the car, ready to drive home. With the fob in my pocket, I pushed the start/stop button. I tried to put the car in gear, but it wouldn’t let me. So I pushed the button a couple of more times. I finally felt the slight vibration of the engine starting and backed out of the parking space. (The car ran very quietly.)
I drove to the exit, paid by credit card and waited for the gate to open.
I heard a shout, and an elderly man hustled over. Explaining that he was the parking attendant, he paused. I asked him whether there was a problem. He asked me whether the car I had was mine.
“I am sitting in it, obviously,” I thought to myself.
Aloud, though, I politely replied that it was a rental. He asked whether it had a keyless ignition. Curious, I told him that it did. He chuckled and said the engine had been running since he had arrived at work!
He continued talking cheerfully, telling me that he knows a man who drives his wife’s keyless car to the parking garage occasionally and always leaves it running. But he knows where the man works and calls there to let him know.
I forced a courtesy laugh and drove away.
The rental agency was closed when I returned to Columbus, so I kept the fob when I dropped off the car. I planned to return it on my way to work the next morning.
I told the leaving-the-engine-running-all-day story to my wife, Lisa, and the kids. We all had a good laugh.
They know I am no technology aficionado; I am perfectly content with my flip phone.
When I stopped to drop off the fob the next morning, the young agent behind the counter said he had seen the car in the lot when he arrived but didn’t have the keys. I explained that I had left the car the night before, after the closing hour.
He looked at me hesitantly for a few seconds — as if he had something else to say or was waiting for me to say something more.
Finally, he thanked me and encouraged me to return.
When I got to work, I listened to my voicemail messages.
The first one explained the awkward encounter I’d just had with the agent: “Mr. Imwalle, this is Enterprise. We have the car you rented from us, but it is locked and running. Please return the keys.”
Randy Imwalle, 54, lives in Hilliard.

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