#tbt: Car Alarms

Last night I had the true privilege of being awakened from my slumber at 4:05 am to the harmonious honking of a car alarm. This abrasive racket continued, on and off, for an unnecessarily long time, preventing me (and probably every living thing within a three mile radius of the vehicle) from sleeping as well as causing stress, anger, and general discomfort.

As I lay awake listening to the frightful din, I remembered another harrowing experience I had with a car alarm many moons ago. In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I will share it with all of you today. 

It all began on brisk fall day at my dear alma mater, Lewis & Clark College. As students at this environment-loving institution were discouraged to have cars on campus, the school provided a car share system where you could reserve either a Ford Focus, a Prius, or – brace yourselves – a Nissan Cube. The Focus and the Prius were all well and good and I frequently used them for off-campus expeditions. However, the Nissan Cube was a whole other ball game. For those lucky enough to have never seen a Nissan Cube, let me enlighten you:

A picture is worth 1,000 words, so I’ll just provide you with ten more: THE NISSAN CUBE IS THE UGLIEST CAR IN THE WORLD.

Now, a couple friends of mine had been doing some work with a local artist and wanted to go to NE Portland to see his show. I was also interested, so we all decided to rent a car and make the trip together. To our chagrin, the only car available was the infamous Nissan Cube. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this particular Nissan Cube was decorated with garish U-Haul decals in pumpkin orange and lime green. My comrade Megan and I bravely entered the car, praying for forgiveness from the gods of aesthetics and beauty. (We were, after all, going to an art show.)

As we opened the doors using our legitimate access code, the car alarm began sounding its fateful cry. “Strange,” we thought, “car alarms aren’t supposed to go off when you unlock the car in a proper fashion.” We tried flipping the lock/unlock switch a few times to no avail. Luckily, when we started the car, the alarm turned off and we were on our way to pick up our friend Kyle.

The ride to the art show was uneventful. We arrived at the gallery space, saw the performance we wanted to see, and then, since it was a school night, decided to head home. The night had a festive air, and as we left, many of the hip Portland-y artists were out in the parking lot enjoying a brewski and a cigarette (smoking is unhealthy, stanky, and bad for the lungs). We were quite humiliated to be driving the U-Haul branded Nissan Cube, so the goal was to jump in and speed off into the night before we could be associated with such an atrocity. However, as I pushed the “unlock” button on the key fob, our greatest fear was realized: the infamous car alarm was back in full force. “Quick!” I whisper-yelled, “Get in so we can start the car!” We all piled in and I turned the key – but the car alarm still sounded!

The assembled artists observed the scene, giving us a level of judgment that could come from only the finest of Portland hipsters. We drove out of the parking lot, U-Haul logos blaring almost as loud as the alarm, and began our arduous trek back to campus. (Please remember that when car alarms go off, the emergency lights also flash, so that really added to the beauty of the whole thing.)

Eventually, the car alarm turned off on its own and we all heaved a sigh of relief. “Maybe our troubles are over,” we thought. “Maybe, just maybe, we’re in the clear.” As we neared downtown, Kyle requested that we drop him off to meet up with a friend. We pulled over on a moderately busy street to let him off, completely unprepared for the terror that was to come.

As Kyle opened his car door from the inside, treachery was again upon us. The frightful car alarm had again reared its ugly head! In what instance is a car being broken into from the inside? The answer to that question is: in no instance is a car ever being broken into from the inside.  As Kyle ran off down the street, hoping to avoid the disapproving and mildly suspicious glares from onlookers, Megan and I again floored it with hopes of escaping our humiliation. I will forever remember careening around the streets of downtown Portland in the ugliest car known to humanity, alarm honking and flashers shining away. Eventually the alarm stopped as we climbed our beloved Palatine Hill to return to campus. And, of course, when we parked the car and opened our doors, Mr. Alarm was right back at it. We gathered our things and ran away from the Cube. While the alarm’s ghastly cacophony gradually faded into the night, the trauma of that adventure continues to live on in all of our hearts.


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