Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Foiled by the Fob

We’ve had a problem with key fob play in our house. Okay, a huge problem. At about a year of age, Riley pressed the panic button on the fob of our burglar alarm. When the company called to verify that there was in fact, no emergency, I must have had my phone out of earshot, or on vibrate or silent, and missed the call.  Several minutes later I heard a siren. Then the doorbell rang.  It was the Chicago Police.  

I tried to assure the officer that all was fine.

That would not do.  "I need to come up," said the officer.

I stood at the door holding Riley.  My mother and J sat in the living room.  

"Is everything okay?" asked the officer, peeking in our apartment.  

"Oh, yes, Officer. My son got hold of the fob and pressed the button."

He wasn't so convinced.  He beckoned me into the hallway.  "Everything's okay? You sure? No domestic abuse or anything?"

I almost laughed.  That guy in there?!  He won't hit spiders!  "Oh gaaahhsh, no!" I said, hoping the Fargo-esque drawl would make his question all the more ludicrous.

I closed the door feeling somewhat encouraged by the officers persistence in determining if I living with some kind of white collar Mike Tyson.  I wondered what would have happened if I'd said, "Yes, officer.  He's a lunatic! Please help me!"

We seemed to have a false alarm monthly. Sometimes it was Riley's fault.  Sometimes in juggling a stroller, a toddler, a baby, groceries and bags, it was mine. Usually I was able to take the call so as to head off the po-po.  The police did show up once again, when the alarm company didn't get to the cops soon enough.  That time, the female robocop only wanted my address and passwords.  She wouldn't have cared if my husband practiced UFC fighting with me nightly.

Apparently we've got a few more false alarms before the security company levies a fine on us.

Since the car fob doesn’t involve law enforcement, I'd begun to let 19-month-old Aria play with it.  It beeps and we know the car is locked.  Or it doesn’t and the car is open. It's a little noisy, it might annoy passers-by or our neighbors, but as all parents say at some time, perhaps using more genteel language, "f--k it."

Two mornings ago, I received my car-key-fob comeuppance. When I opened the car door to take Riley to school, my olfactory senses were assaulted by the smell of a dirty nicotine addict - the smell of someone who smokes too often and washes his clothes too seldom. No one in our household smokes, nor had we transported any smoker passengers.

Clearly, someone had been in our car.  

Furthermore, our uninvited guest had left our glove compartment open, revealing our Music Together and Raffi CD collection.  He had looked through our trunk, but apparently had no use for baby clothes en route to a second home, or Anthropologie and Calypso dresses circa 2003.  Luckily nothing was missing, including the car itself.

Nonetheless, I felt violated, not to mention sick at the odor.  My nice new car smell - gone in one night because of some miscreant. I wanted to throw up.

"Someone's been in our car.  It smells gross in here." I told Riley.  I didn't want to alarm him, but I couldn't be stoic.

"What's that smell? I don't like that smell," he said.

I tried to keep calm, as I strapped him in and proceeded to drive him to school. Staying calm was tough - every breath I drew made me nauseated and enraged.  I was shaking.

After drop off I went to the local health food store to buy some organic room freshener.  It was 9:15.  The place was closed until 9:30.  I began making phone calls. Hubby - unavailable.  Same for Bestie.  So I called Nicole http://www.momsnewstage.com/2011/10/unthinkable.html.  She talked me down, and told me about some drunk who had slept it off in a mutual friend’s car, only to try to enter her house!  Such was Chicago these days.

In typical Hyde Park fashion, at 9:35 the place opened.  But by then I realized that Mr. Nastyperson Smokestench could put lil’ Miss Organic Freshener in a headlock.  This was NOT toddler pee on a mattress. I needed heavy duty, just shy of toxic, chemicals.  Off I went to CVS to buy Lysol and Febreze.  

In the parking lot I doused my car down like a mugger being pepper sprayed. 

At the suggestion of Bestie, whom I eventually talked to, I went to talk the cops. Two of Chicago’s finest happened to be sitting in their marked SUVS in the parking lot.  I felt silly saying, "Um, someone was in my car last night? They didn't take anything, but I know they were there, because we don't smoke and my car reeked of cigarettes. I just thought you should know..." 

I might have sounded like a little white twelve year old, but I did it. 

Wasn't it my right to make the authorities aware of how I -  how the car in which I transport my wee babes hither and yon - had been summarily violated?  To shine a light upon the nefarious inconvenience I had just suffered?  To spare others the similar shock of discovering they’d been the victim of a carsitting?

Indeed it was.

After determining that yes, my car might actually have been left unlocked, the officer who actually gave a crizap informed me that people will go down the street checking car doors for one that is open.  They also told me that many of the crimes, I think they called it Apple lifting - stealing laptops, Ipods, Ipads, Iphones etc. - are being perpetrated by kids who look rather clean cut - wearing skinny jeans, etc., as opposed to the more stereotypical thuggish look.  

He asked me where I lived said he’d make a note of it and check it out. As if.

Duty done, I got back into the car only to find Mr. Smokestench still hanging out with a vengeance.  It took several ferocious hose-downs of the car before I couldn’t SEE him in the passenger seat. 

The next day, he was finally gone. 

Suffering only a stinky car, we got a free pass on this one.  I am now obsessed with locking the car door.  And guess who’s now the one indulging in a key fob free-for-all every time she parks?

(I hate saying this, but it is sooooo freaking fitting right now…)

This mom. 


  1. Okay, I can't even begin to tell you how skeeved out I am for you! I would be horrified. Sitting in that front seat, you must have felt so uneasy, right? Ick. I have to admit, your crack about the po-po had me in tears. Any word from them yet? When my P went through a key fob phase, I tried finding used ones online to purchase and let her play with. Those things are expensive! And you know, once the kid sniffs out a fake, they aren't going to take the bait.

  2. Funny about your key fob free for all for you - lol. I never even thought about re-checking to make sure my doors were locked when my little one was playing with my keys - ugh! I can't imagine. Glad nothing was missing though!!!
    Have a great weekend!!!


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