Nothing is as simple as it looks

It happens to the best of us. You go to a simple job, but before you can say, "Change that light bulb," a basic task morphs and you find yourself rewiring the entire kitchen. My latest run-in with this sort of cold, gray karma was supposed to inv...

It happens to the best of us. You go to a simple job, but before you can say, "Change that light bulb," a basic task morphs and you find yourself rewiring the entire kitchen. My latest run-in with this sort of cold, gray karma was supposed to involve a battery and garage door opener. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Like all morphing chores, this one began before it began.

I was in the parking lot of the local superstore when I found myself separated from my car keys. They were inside my locked vehicle. I was not.

The good news: I hadn't bought any ice cream or popsicles. The bad news: my two sons and I were locked out of the car. I did what I always do in such a situation. I called my husband.

He didn't answer. They never answer when you need them. So, I called a friend. As luck would have it, she picked up - both the phone and us.

Twenty minutes later, we were home. As I waved goodbye to my friend from the driveway, I realized I'd left a second important item in my vehicle in the superstore parking lot: the garage door opener.


Not to worry. My opener is equipped with a wall-mounted unit. I simply punch in the very secret code and my door opens. It's a system that works well - as long as you remember your code. I knew mine by heart. It also requires working batteries. Mine were not.

After punching in my secret code about 17 times, I gave a heavy sigh. My boys were starting to find our circumstances exciting.

"Are we locked out?" the older one asked. "Should we break a window?"

My younger son ran to the backyard and came back a moment later carrying a large brick. "We can throw this through the window!" he said.

I wasn't convinced that brick throwing was the answer; I thought cutting through the screen of an open window might be less violent.

My boys were disappointed. They'd been looking forward to throwing that brick. I was hunting for something to cut the screen; my boys were wrestling over screen-cutting rights when my cell phone rang. It was my husband.

He was on his way. With his vehicle, which happens to be equipped with its own garage door opener. My screen cutting wannabe sons were thwarted - again.

That is how I came to take on the task of replacing the battery in the wall unit of the garage door opener. It should have been an easy job.


The first battery I tried was all-but-dead, but I didn't know it at the time. It was in the battery drawer, so I had every reason to believe it was alive. I put it in the wall unit and pressed the secret code. Nothing. I pressed again. No reaction.

Next, I did what I shouldn't do. I randomly pressed numbers, stars and even the tic-tac-toe button. At that moment, my nearly-dead battery breathed one last breath and gave me three blinks of green light in rapid succession. Since I don't know Morse code, I had no idea what this meant.

I was forced to do the unthinkable: read the instructions posted on the unit. I learned that three green blinks means that you have pressed the star key and successfully erased your secret code. Oops.

Resetting my code involved reading a second set of instructions. They told me to press a button on the motor unit. It took me a few minutes to figure out that the motor unit is the big boxy object that is mounted on the ceiling of the garage. You know, the thing that a normal person would call a "garage door opener."

Reaching the motor unit involved a ladder. I am not fond of ladders because I am not fond of heights.

I made my way up to the reset button and gave it a good, long press. In fact, I pressed too long. Resetting the wall unit (I now know) requires a short, punchy press. Long, drawn-out pressing resets the entire system, which is exactly what I did.

By the time I figured this out, I'd come to the conclusion my wall unit battery was one step away from the grave. I got a new battery and prepared to mount the ladder again. I climbed. Pressed quick. Descended. Rushed over to the wall unit and reset my code within the 30-second allotted time period. Then I did the whole thing all over again with my car's remote. I was almost done. My husband came home from work and I met him in the driveway.

"Give me your remote," I said.


He was dumbfounded. He's never heard me say those words before.

"Your remote," I repeated. "I have to reset it." I tried to make my voice authoritative and filled with technological stature. My guise must have worked because he handed me the remote without further incident.

I gave a light, quick punch to the button on the motor unit and decided sometimes it's best for husbands not to know everything.

Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award winning freelance writer. She appreciates your comments and can be reached at .

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