Q I was alarmed to read the story about the woman accidentally driving the wrong car. It reminded me of an incident years ago when I accidentally unlocked the door of someone else's car of the same model and color that was parked a couple of spaces from mine. My key also fit in the ignition switch, but it would not start the car. That is when I realized I was in the wrong car! I called the dealer to complain and they said that while rare, it was possible to have a close enough key cut that it would work in another car.
A Boy, did Priscilla Peters' story unnerve many people. She is the Scotts Valley woman who thought she was opening her new Prius in a parking lot when she eventually realized she had driven off in someone else's Prius. I had never heard of that happening before, but it has.
Q I worked bagging groceries in college back in 1969 or '70 in Century City near Beverly Hills. While helping a customer to her car, we walked up to a black Cadillac. She put in her key and opened the trunk and said, "This is not my car." And she was right.
A And ...
Q Toyota is well-known for the interchangeable key issue back to the days when the real keys were needed. About five years ago, my friend asked me to get information from a document
A And ...
Q The same thing happened to me around 1976 or so. I parked my Mercury Marquis in a parking lot in Los Angeles, went inside a building for a while and when I came out, I found "my" car in the parking lot where I left it, opened the door with a key (back in those days they were mechanical keys, no remote controls), started the engine and backed out of the parking space.
Just as I was about to leave the parking lot, I noticed that my sweater in the back seat had been "stolen." The windows were closed and the car was locked and there was no sign of breaking into the car, but my sweater was not in the back seat where I left it.
So, I returned to the parking spot and got out of the car to check for any signs of forced entry. That's when I noticed that two spots away, on the other side of a larger vehicle that blocked my view of it, was an identical Mercury Marquis, same color, model year, everything. Except that there were two differences. That car had my license plate number and my sweater in the back seat! Because the two cars were parked so close together, yet could not see each other because of the larger vehicle in between them, and because they had the identical key, I almost drove off in the wrong car! My sweater saved the day.
A Another sweater story coming up.
Q About 30 years ago, I had an experience similar to that of the woman who drove off in someone else's Prius. When I unlocked and opened for my girlfriend the passenger side of my folks' car (also a Toyota), we both saw an unfamiliar sweater on the seat. My folks' car was actually parked a few spots over. This one was the same make, model, and color. And it had the same key.
A Back to the Prius mystery.
Q I suspect the woman was able to drive away in the wrong Prius because the car's actual owner didn't fully turn it off. I have a hybrid and have done this many times -- walked away from my silent (but still running) automobile, only to return later to hear the engine humming, because it kicked on to charge the battery. My car doesn't alert you that the engine is still running unless you try to lock it while it's running.
Mystery solved (right?).
Jan Blair Hardee
A Anyone else?
Q I noticed that the whole stretch of North Capitol Avenue in East San Jose has LED streetlights, which are much brighter and definitely better for visibility. My question: Are we switching all of the streetlights to LED or just down North Capitol?
A Eventually, over the next couple of decades, all city lights will be LEDs. San Jose has so far converted about 2,600 streetlights to LEDs, thanks to $10 million in stimulus funds. Go to www.sanjoseca.gov/transportation/ledstreetlight/LEDLocations.asp for a list of streets.