Monday, March 21, 2005


The quandary over how to spend my Surprise Freezer Money came to an end sooner than expected. I spent it, and a little bit extra, on getting into my house.

The whole tale of woe began around lunch time on Friday, when I realised I couldn't find my keys. I'd had them when I left the house (you can't get out the front gate without them), but now they'd vanished. In searching for them I realised that what I'd thought was a tiny hole in the pocket of my suit was actually a fairly sizable hole in the pocket of my suit, and my keys must have fallen out sometime after I'd left the house.

And caught a bus to work.

And taken a little stroll around the city to fill in time waiting for my connecting bus.

I left work early and retraced my steps between my house and the bus stop, but if the keys were ever there they were long gone. I phoned the bus company and asked them to look in their lost and found bins, but the keys weren't there. Finally I spent $77 getting a locksmith to pick the locks on the gate and the front door so that I could get inside and get the spares. It took him all of sixty seconds to get through a normal lock and two deadlocks.

"Crikey," I said to him. "Why don't more burglars use those little lockpick tools?"

"Because they're idiots," he said, with a sanguine air.

I had spare house keys, but I didn't have spare keys for the car. I rang the local Volkswagen dealership, and the man at the other end told me that it was no simple matter getting a new set of keys for a '94 Golf Cabriolet. There was a transponder inside the plastic key housing that deactivated an immobiliser behind the dash, he said. I had to get down to the dealership somehow with ID and the car's VIN to prove that I was the owner. Then new keys had to be ordered from Volkswagen's Sydney office and shipped over to Perth. Then the Golf had to be towed to the local dealership, where the keys and the car could be re-coded to match each other. Then the keys could be cut, and I could dole out the several hundred dollars needed to complete this process.

All this sounded sort of wrong. I asked him if he was sure, since the '94 Golf Cabriolet used an older body type than the '94 Golf hardtop. He assured me that this was the case. I recalled my old key - it didn't look big enough to have a microchip embedded in it. He explained to me, in words of few syllables and in a conciliatory tone, that the microchip is very small and is sealed inside during the manufacturing process.

I hung up and looked in the owner's manual. I noticed that the car originally came with a spare key, (not included when I bought it last year) apparently made entirely of metal. I rang back and asked the man about this. He explained, with great patience, that they key wasn't really 100% metal - the picture in the manual just didn't have the resolution for me to see the plastic inset. I hung up again, feeling chastened.

I got a friend to give me a lift down to the dealership, and met the nice man in person. He declined to look at the picture in the manual I'd brought with me. Instead, he sent me over to the parts office, where I spoke to another man. He deigned to look at the picture, and of course the key isn't a transponder key. It pre-dates transponder keys. The car doesn't have a built-in immobiliser. The spare key is indeed solid metal. The '94 Golf Cabriolet is a substantially different vehicle to the '94 Golf hardtop, and it uses the older style of key.

Getting a new key made was a matter of getting a profile code from Volkswagen Australia and some blank keys from the spare parts counter and scooting off to the nearest locksmith. Total cost - $34.

"Why did they tell you all that crap about transponders and immobilisers and towing the car?" my friend asked me when we got outside.

"Because they're idiots," I said, with a sanguine air.


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