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Peterson: Just lock the doors, keep the beep

Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 11:24 p.m. CDT

I like a car that doesn’t announce me, or worse, have gas. Yeah, that kind of gas.

We picked up a second car in May, and overall, we have to say we are satisfied with it.

It’s a match of the car we already had, a 2003 Chevrolet Impala. This one is a 2002 Impala. And it continues our history with mates. Our previous vehicles were Plymouth Voyager minivans, the original a 1996 and its mate a 1997 Voyager.

Neither was planned this way. The second Voyager was a complete surprise.

I had been driving a Ford Taurus, which I bought from a private party outside Marengo who said the car belonged to his dear mother who died that summer, and he couldn’t bear to have the car around any longer, especially with Christmas approaching.His mother’s car? Of course it had to be in good shape. He wouldn’t let Mom out on the road in a junker.

Well, I came to find out rather quickly that he would. The last straw was pulling out of a gas station on Route 14 in Crystal Lake at the height of rush hour one spring evening. Something in the front wheel section broke, and I was stranded on Route 14 during rush hour, not something those behind me appreciated.

The car wouldn’t budge, not forward or backward. A Crystal Lake police officer pulled up behind me, assessed the situation and offered to call a tow truck. She was incredibly helpful.

Rather than put another dime into the car, I sold it to the junkyard in Woodstock for $100.

That very night, we found the Voyager’s mate in a used car lot for a good price. It was serendipitous.

The best feature of the Voyager’s was the alarm that sounded when you turned the minivan off, left the keys in the ignition and opened the door. It made it pretty much impossible to lock your keys in the minivan. I can’t begin to count how many times that little feature saved me from locking the keys inside.

But it was a personal sound, between you and the car.

The mate of the 2003 Impala has the same key-in-the-ignition feature – I don’t think I’d buy a car without it – but it also announces to all the world that the door has been locked by issuing a short beep, kind of an electronic passing of gas.

I don’t want that announcement made.

I don’t need an audible reminder that I pushed the right button on the remote-lock key fob to lock the doors. On the 2003 model, the only sound you hear when pushing the button on the key fob is the latching of the locks. That’s all you really need to hear.

The 2002 Impala isn’t the only model on the road that makes the announcement. Go into any department store parking lot, and you are bound to hear all sorts of sounds – many of them even louder than mine – announcing that the vehicle in Aisle 5 has just been locked. I can’t help but turn my head.

The announcement apparently is a common standard feature in many vehicles.My personal paranoid feeling is that it announces to the bad guys that someone is nearby who just locked his or her car, and all you have to do is match the people to their vehicles, grab their keys before they slip them into their pockets or purses and steal the car.

I’m not sure this is tracked in the Uniform Crime Statistics. In fact, I’m not sure this has happened outside the confines of my mind, but the threat seems real enough. Oh, push the panic button on your fob to draw attention to the thief. Right.

While the announcement might alert the people a couple of cars over that someone has just locked his or her car, and it is not intrusion on their personal silence, the loud beeping and honking of the panic button is sure to annoy 99 percent of the people in the parking lot, as in, “The idiot hit the panic button by mistake. Hit it again to make it stop! Please!”

The panic button has been sounded inadvertently so many times that it has become the voice of the boy who cried, “Wolf!” There’s nothing to be panicked about. It’s just another annoying misfire.

I’m not sure why auto manufacturers attached a beep, or a similar sound, to the locking of doors. Have we become so irresponsible about locking our doors that we need to be comforted by a second beep 50 feet away – just in case? That’s sad. Or is it a kind of “Hail to the Chief” that I’ve arrived? All the more sad.

When I lock the door, I keep my head down and hope no one notices that I made the equivalent of an auto fart. The shame of it all.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at dickpeterson76@gmail.com.

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