My annoyance at not knowing my key’s whereabouts became an acute anxiety, when I remembered that someone had gone into my car and rifled through it, looking for loose change.

The car key in the cupholder

My annoyance at not knowing my key’s whereabouts became an acute anxiety, when I remembered that someone had gone into my car and rifled through it, looking for loose change.

I had the need to use the spare key to my car the other week, and thus spent the day with that key in my coat pocket. When I remembered about the key, some days later, and went to hang it back on its hook, the key wasn’t there.

My slight annoyance at not knowing the key’s immediate whereabouts became an acute anxiety, when I remembered that someone had gone into my car and rifled through it that same week, maybe even in the early hours of the next morning, looking for loose change.

This is a thing in my neighbourhood, there on the periphery of downtown. It’s kind of disturbing when you think about it, knowing that while you’re asleep someone will be trying the doors of your car in the driveway, and if they find it unlocked they crawl in and look for loose change — or anything else they can steal.

I want to assure everyone I’m in the habit, sort of, of locking my car. But it’s an old car, and I must remember to lock it, and then go through thephysical action of doing it. It’s not automatic, like new cars. And I am in and out of my car all morning, day and evening, and sometimes I think I’m going back out in my car, and I end up staying in for the evening, or sometimes I just forget to lock it.

I can always tell when someone has crawled into the car and rifled through it. The door is not fully shut, the glovebox is open, and what they used to call the ashtray has been pulled open too. Shutting glove boxes and doors makes noise, right? Opening them doesn’t.

But that day, as I was searching for the spare key, I suddenly had a memory of tossing it into the cupholder, on the console in front of the gear shift. The kind of spot one tosses loose change until the middle-of-the-night yobbos have rifled through you car enough times that you get out of that habit, and get into the habit of locking your car.

I wasn’t sure if it was a false memory — me just imagining it as something I could have done, or if I really was remembering that key lying in the cupholder where I had absently tossed it. I tried to force my total recall to bring that memory into focus, yea or nay, but the image remained vague, and I remained unsure.

Unsure or not, the idea that some car breaker went into my car, found the spare key, and was now walking around with it fill me with horror. The fact that I was unsure about it made it worse. It almost too horrible to bear thinking about.

After some contemplation, I figured the best thing to do would be to change the ignition on the steering column. The $300 touch would be the bill for my mental lapse. But the person could still use the spare key to unlock the car, break the ignition and rewire it.

Thinking it through, though, I realized that this was unlikely. First of all, what’s the potential car thief going to do, really? Unlock the car, get in and hotwire it to start it up, then get out and scrape the ice off the windshield? Before racing away in a stolen car?

Secondly, someone who makes their living trying the doors of cars at 3 a.m. and looking for loose change is probably not a criminal mastermind — to put it mildly — or not even very malevolent, infuriating as it is to have one’s car rifled through.

Looking for loose change in unlocked cars is at the very bottom of criminal activity. It doesn’t even count as entry level crime. It’s the kind of activity carried out by desperate street urchins — maybe all they need is a hot dinner and a mattress to lie on [although they have to stop trying to break into my car before I’m willing to provide one. I’m not the priest in Jean Val Jean].

Stop right there! Never mind! I found the key. It was in the pocket of my trousers. I didn’t even have to look very hard.

But the rush of joy I felt as I pulled the key out of the pocket and held it up to the light was so intense that I wondered if I had unconsciously created this non-existant crisis in my mind, just so I could experience a rush of joy on an otherwise humdrum day. And I still don’t know where that mental image of the key in the cupholder came from.

But there’s one thing I know for sure. If you’re reading this, and you’re thinking of sneaking into my driveway late at night and trying the car door, don’t bother. It will be locked.

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