Right now, I’m living my suburban parenting dreams and driving a 2019 Toyota Sequoia and, while it strongly reminds me of every U-Haul I’ve ever rented, it does have this one glorious feature I’ve recently begun to appreciate: a real goddamn key.
Why do I love the “key + ignition = CAR GO” equation? Well, in two different vehicles in the last few months I’ve found myself driving along in a button-start car, fumbling around slightly in said car, and then, after I get to my destination and hop out, I can’t find the key.
I bet I’m not alone in this. I hate purses (I’d end up losing the key fob a thousand times a day, along with everything else, in a purse) and women’s clothes rarely have decent pockets. So since in push-button cars there is no standard place to put your keys, my usual go-to is either the space below the infotainment system, if there is one, or the cupholder.
However, if you have to shift things around en route, the key can get lost in the shuffle. For me it happened in two very different vehicles: A Toyota Land Cruiser and a Volvo XC40.
I had just received the Land Cruiser and my fiancee and I were checking out all the different storage spots and pressing all of the buttons, as I do when I get a new car and need to learn everything about it in a week.
We get underway, park in front of our favorite night-out spot, and realize the key has gone for a walk. These keys are not particularly large, so they can slide anywhere they have a mind to in a car. We spent almost half an hour moving seats and looking in all of the compartments until we found it somehow underneath the plastic insert sitting in the console. We were finally able to safely lock the car. I promised myself to do better.
Well, flash forward to a few weeks later, and I securely (or so I foolishly believe) keep the Volvo XC40 car key in my jacket pocket, now attached to my house keys as well. I was prepared for anything!
Anything, that is, but Michigan’s goofy weather. Twenty minutes into a trip to visit my sister in Flint and I had to shrug my jacket off.
Once I got to Flint and pulled my jacket out from behind me, I realized the keys were once again gone. They slipped out, this time helped by the weight of my house keys, and went on a fantastic journey from my coat pocket to the crevice between the driver’s side seat and the console.
While I found this set fairly quickly, they were more difficult to retrieve. These are posh, technologically advanced vehicles. The XC40 screamed at me any time it thought I was maybe possibly heading towards a bit of danger. How could a car so set on babysitting its driver not have a proper place for a key?
Back in my day (bones crack, eyesight fades, Murder She Wrote suddenly starts playing around the clock at full volume) we had a place for the key, a little home that fit it perfectly. It was called the ignition. It was a beautiful marriage of metal and fire and air meeting to make combustion. And it was practical.
There are benefits to push-button cars: less moving parts means a more reliable starter. The General Motors ignition switch scandal is still fresh in my mind, and maybe some of yours. You can pretty much thank that for killing traditional keys. A push-start car also won’t lock the keys inside, since the car can sense its keys. But there are some drawbacks, such as being unable to get into and start your car and due to a dead fob battery or the inability to keep your jerkass kids from taking the car.
Do you miss the days of turning a real key or are you happy to push a button to get moving?