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Muscle memory is a heckuva thing

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Finding car keys

I did the sensible thing that all of you would do in such a situation, which was to go around and try every door three times, and the trunk twice. No luck.

I wrote a while back about getting a new trash can that has an automated lid that opens when you wave your hand over it.

It’s a swell device, but we found that when we put it in our previous trash can’s home – inside our pantry – every time we closed the door the trash can sensor saw that as a hand waving over it, opened every time we closed the door. And then, after several-seconds of staying open, it would close. And then it saw the closed door as a hand opening it. It was basically on open, shut, repeat, while making a creepy “whirrr” sound ad nauseum.

So we moved the trash can to a different spot in our kitchen. It’s been about six weeks, and we all still periodically find ourselves robotically going to the pantry to throw out trash.

That’s just a mild inconvenience, but one that we will eventually work through with new muscle memory. And fortunately, doing it does not cost $65, like my last muscle memory mistake did.

I was at an appointment, and was gathering my belongings to head inside. As I got everything together, I received a phone call. I answered, as it was someone I knew, and not a random unknown number that, had I answered, would have most likely tried to extend my nonexistent car warranty. I exited the car, hit the lock button on the door as I always do, and headed to my appointment.

As I returned to my car, I fished around in my pockets for my car key. Nothing. No worries, I thought. My car has this feature where if your keys are left in the car and you lock it, it doesn’t actually stay locked. You pull the driver’s side handle, and voila. Car unlocked again. I do not know how it knows this. I assume magic.

Now I know that some of you may be thinking, “But Mike, what if someone takes something valuable out of your car?” And that’s a good thought. You SHOULD lock your car. I always try to. But it’s nice to have the safety net of my car, because (a) I am often forgetful about my keys and (b) I don’t have anything of value in the car. And yes, I get that the car COULD in fact, be considered of value. Not the point.

And then it occurred to me. I was not in my car. My wife had gone out of town and took my car, and I was driving our daughter’s car. Which absolutely does not have that safety net.

I went to the car and peered in. And there were the keys, sitting on the passenger’s seat. I am guessing I got distracted taking the phone call and accidentally left them sitting there, since I live without fear of locking my keys in the car, and just pushed the door button robotically when I exited.

I did the sensible thing that all of you would do in such a situation, which was to go around and try every door three times, and the trunk twice. No luck.

I had to be back at my office in a bit, so time was of the essence. Thus, I did the only reasonable thing: I smashed the window and opened the car.

I kid. I called a locksmith, and about 30 minutes and $65 later, my car was unlocked. Of that 30 minutes, 29 minutes and 30 seconds was the locksmith’s commute time. The rest was the very frighteningly short amount of time it took to open a locked car.

Even when I am back driving my car, I will try and retrain my muscle memory to only lock the car via the key once I am outside the car. It may take a while, just as it has taken a while to relearn how to throw out trash in my house. But I think it is probably a smart thing to do. Especially if I want the car to be there when I get back.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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