Opinion » Bill Cope

The Key to My Ignition

A Meridianer learns a painful lesson


We can afford to take a little break from the big race here, don't you think? I mean, J. K.'s back in the saddle, G.W.'s still trying to scoop up his own droppings, latest polls show a majority of Americans understand--FINALLY!--that Saddam had diddly squat to do with 9/11, and for the first time, I'm actually starting to worry about what I'll have to talk about when Bush is out moldering on the compost pile with his dad. Crap, if this election turns out to make me too happy, I may have to switch to a nesting space-makeover column. Crap!

But I'll cross that canary-yellow w/teal highlights ornamental backyard bridge (only $179.99 at RCWiley's!) when I get to it. In the meantime, just once before the all-out assault on Mount November Two, I want to slip in an opinion that has nothing to do with either John Kerry or the inarticulate stumblebum he's trying to save the nation from. Consider this a public service announcement (PSA)--something along the lines of "Buckle Up for Safety!" or "Flossing is Fantastic!"--a simple message designed to benefit both red states and blue, liberals and conservatives, renters and home owners, cat people and dog people.

And here's my simple message: Don't leave the keys in your unlocked pick-up truck at night because if you do, it might be stolen.

And out of all the subjects I might have chosen to present as a PSA, why did I pick car theft?

Fair question. Actually, my dedication to this cause stems from what some kindly Meridian police officers told me about three weeks ago--the night my unlocked pick-up truck was stolen because I'd left the keys in it. I can't quote them exactly because at the time, I was too pissed-off to take comprehensive notes, but in essence, they said, "So Mister Cope, when you came home tonight, you didn't lock your truck up, and you left the keys in the ignition? Wellllll, boy-yo ... there's you're problem, right there!"

Okay, maybe. But hows come it didn't get stolen the other 15,000 nights I left the keys in the ignition, huh?

Ah Jeez, I give up. I can't keep this charade up. Here I am, working like a senior Bush campaign advisor to make myself sound not nearly as stupid as I was, but I'm not fooling anyone, am I? Every modern American knows you're not supposed to leave the keys in the ignition of your unlocked car. So I admit it. Yeah, I was stupid. Ya' happy!?

In another sense, though, I had no choice but to behave so stupidly. You see, it is my tradition to leave my vehicles unlocked with the keys in the ignition. That's right ... my good old-time Meridian-boy heritage. The blood of unlocked possessions runs in my veins. The spirit of keys dangling freely in ignitions controls my wild heart. I grew up in a house that didn't even have a lock on the back door, for God's sake, and what's more, 99 evenings out of a 100, nobody bothered to latch the front. If there were such things as bicycle chains when I was a youngster, I didn't know about them. My family's greatest asset--a slew of Holsteins--were allowed to wander unbolted down around a pasture outside our house, night and day, totally oblivious to rustlers, burglars, car jackers or pick pockets.

So, as you can see, my lax attitude towards local criminality is clearly my Mom and Dad's fault. And before them, my grandparents. Why, Grampa not only left his old Chevy unlocked when he went up town for his daily chaw, half the time he left the driver-side door wide open so he wouldn't have to mess with it when he came back. My mom would leave the car running when she went to have her hair done so's it would be warm on the way home. See? These are the people who made me what I am! This is the stock from whose loins I sprung! Dammit all, I simply was not bred to lock up a car at night and take the keys in!

Nor has harsh experience taught me any better, mostly because until my truck was taken, my experience has been remarkably unharsh. Call it dumb luck, but about the only thing I've ever had stolen was a pair of prescription sunglasses someone heisted from my (unlocked) VW 25 years ago. (I still picture that scofflaw walking around somewhere, wondering why he developed migraine headaches out of the blue--hah!) Besides, that happened while I was back east, and as soon as I returned to the loving arms of Mother Idaho, I knew it was safe again to leave my stereo out on the front porch, my life savings in a Folgers can on top of the fridge, and my keys in the ignition.

Those kindly cops who attended my loss weren't nearly as incredulous as you might suppose, and they confirmed that I'm not the only one still so optimistically-inclined (or stupid, depending on how you look at it) to behave as though I have nothing to fear from grand-theft auto. During the course of the investigation, they told me how their biggest contributors to the Meridian car theft scene are old time Meridianiters who haven't adopted to the prevailing reality. You know ... like we're old dogs who just can't seem to pick up on these fancy new tricks.

And of course, they have a point. After all, Mother Idaho ain't what she was, is she? Particularly n Meridian, 24 out of 25 people weren't even around back when we could trust our neighbors and we had a police force of two--one for night, the other to direct traffic for the Dairy Days Parade every June.

Nope, too many people have moved from where the crime rate was a constant companion and come here to where they feel safer. And gosh, am I happy they feel so much safer. Lucky them. I only wish we folks who were here to start with felt as safe as we did before they came.

And in defense of us old-time Meridian dogs, maybe it's not that we can't learn new tricks. Maybe we're just being stubborn (or stupid, depending on how you look at it) and just maybe we chose not to adopt to the prevailing reality, simply because we didn't ask for such a lousy prevailing reality, in the first place. And maybe in our own stupid old-time Meridian way, we resent and resist this lousy stinking prevailing reality, simply because we don't want it taking over our sense and sensibilities like it has everyone else's.

So, is it worth losing a pick-up truck now and then, to prolong and defend our old ways? All I can say is ... until three weeks ago, I thought it was.

Oh, and about that pick-up truck of mine ... the next morning, it was back in the driveway. Yeah! Can you imagine? The thief brought it back! Talk about your dumb luck.