Low Battery


I am in Houston through tomorrow for the annual Texas Child Care Administrator’s Conference. The conference is hosted by the Texas Alliance for Child and Family Services. I drove in yesterday morning and arrived at the Galleria hotel before 9:00 a.m. In case your wondering, that means I got up really early.


A person asked me on Sunday why I was attending the conference if I was retired?  Actually, the General asked me the same thing.  Historically, I’ve always satisfied my need for CEUs for my professional licenses by attending that conference.  I attend other conferences and training opportunities as well, but this conference has already been pre-approved by the regulatory agencies that govern my licenses.


I figure it can’t hurt to keep my professional licenses intact. I don’t anticipate ever going back to work, but this way I have the option.  Having options is a nice safety net.  In addition, the conference is a great place to see people that I only see once a year.


As I said, the conference started yesterday. There was only one stretch of the journey that made me a little uncomfortable, but it turned out okay. I say that, but I don’t really know for sure. So far, so good is my way of looking at it. As you can imagine, early morning traffic coming into Houston was bumper to bumper and stop and go. How I ended up in the HOV lane, I still don’t know. If you live in Oklahoma you might not be familiar with the term. It is not my intent to offend, but simply to explain my plight. An HOV lane is a high occupancy only lane. If you opt to drive in that lane without a passenger or two, it is a violation.  It is not punishable by death and I doubt that the fine is over a couple of hundred dollars, but I didn’t want either. Besides that, the General controls our checkbook.  Can you imagine the lecture I’d get.  As my little brother (oops – younger brother) might say: “That’s not a hill I want to die on”.


The downside to the HOV lane is that once you are in the lane, it is not as easy as the turn of a wheel to take corrective action. There is a barricade that  separates you from the line of stopped traffic. To heighten my anxiety, I could see the flashing lights of a police car in the distance up ahead on my left. Intuitively, I knew the patrolman was there to stop, ticket, arrest and haul me to jail because I didn’t have another person in the car with me.


Call it magical thinking, but I looked to my right thinking another head might appear. I was busted. There was no mistaking the fact that I was the lone occupant of my vehicle. To add insult to injury, the other lanes were all in stopped in a gridlock a and I was moving past them with the speed of the wind.


Even that made me uncomfortable. How could I enjoy flying past stopped traffic when I had no legitimate right to do so? Guilt can take the joy out of any experience. I had a flash back to the level of frustration I experience when there is ample notice that the “right lane” is closed ahead and people from behind continue to speed past you in the right lane knowing they are going to edge in front of someone far in front of you before the lane abruptly ends. It makes me a little crazy.


I grit my teeth, grip the steering wheel a little tighter, and ensure there is only twelve inches between the front bumper of my car and the back bumper of the vehicle in front of me. Despite my resolve, when push comes to shove, I always let the people in the car to my right cut in front of me. I let them in, but it is not because I want to.


I managed to get past the police car with the flashing lights on my left without incident. Actually, there were two cars pulled over. Was it for being the lone occupants in their vehicles? I don’t know. I looked the other direction. Maybe my logic was “if I don’t look in the direction of the policeman, he won’t look at me.”


Trust me, I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally came to the place in the stop and go traffic on my right that I could inch back over. It was stop and go traffic, but I was grateful to be out of the HOV lane. Even with that, I was at the conference hotel by 9:00 a.m.


Did I mention you know it is going to be a good day when the display on your car alerts you that the battery is low on your smart key? So what did that mean? For starters (pardon the pun) I didn’t know I had a smart key. On the other hand, it is smart enough to stay in my pocket when I press the start button on my car and the vehicle starts with the key out of sight. Yeah, I get it. I guess you could call that a smart key?


So what was the projected time frame for the “smart key” to become the dumb key (inoperable) and I’d find myself stranded. Stranded is not a good term. I went inside the hotel and picked up my registration packet and went back outside to the parking lot. As I walked, I talked to Siri. He’d know where to send me for a battery for my smart key.


Okay, so the first Toyota option I was provided was less than two miles from the Galleria. Could that really be right? I knew that it wasn’t, but I followed the “yellow brick road” that led to an office building two miles away. So what’s wrong with me? I knew there wasn’t a Toyota dealership that close. Despite that knowledge, I followed the verbal directions I was provided and wound up exactly where I thought I would (aka – somewhere other than a Toyota dealership).


Everybody is entitled to one mistake. I’m not just saying that because I inadvertently drove in the HOV lane. Making mistakes is the common denominator of mankind. I decided to let Siri off the hook. He usually gets it right. Besides that, he always asks: “Don – Is that the one you want?” Foolishly I said yes.


Of couse, Lilian, my granddaughter (on my twin brother’s side), had Siri change my name from Don to Granddad once. It was a very awkward hearing Siri say: “Granddad – Is that the one you want?” Of course, I had no idea how Lilian changed my name. I wasn’t present when she did so. Even if I had been present, I probably wouldn’t have figured it out.


The good news is that the battery for the smart key wasn’t expensive. Could I have replaced it myself? Not on your life. I would have had no idea how to do that. I watched the guy at the parts counter do it and I still would try it myself. It only cost $5.36 to have the battery replaced. Had it cost $50.36, I probably would have paid more attention to how the man behind the counter disassembled the device, removed the panel with the circuits and found the battery.


The upside to getting to the conference two hours early is that you have plenty of time for things like that. Of course, I wanted to get there early for the “meet and greet” time shared with old friends. That too, was magical thinking.  With the exception of folks at the registration tables, no one was there two hours early.  I even took a handful of business cards with me to pass out.


Later in the morning after I returned from the Toyota dealership and was still early for the conference, I got into my meet and greet mode. One friend said as I handed him my card: “When I saw you standing over here, I almost went the other direction. I don’t want any pressure to join the organization your working with in Washington”. It was subtle, but I took the warning to heart. I don’t want the reputation of having just discovered “Amway” or “Mary Kay” and being on my road to wealth and success with the intent of taking all of my friends down that road with me. Besides that, I don’t want to drive a pink Cadillac. The old Toyota with the smart key works just fine.


All My Best!