What is a “fob” anyway? For years, the only true definition was of a trinket on the end of a watch chain, which then sat in a vest pocket and kept the chain from just dangling as one checked the time on the old pocket watch. Very 19th century. Later on, it stood for the chain itself, and even the pocket that it ended up in. Still, you don’t see too many men wearing pocket watches nowadays, and the idea of a “fob” seems like just an old word.
Alakazam, however! Another generation back in the 90’s (the 1990s, that is) assimilated the term to mean something very different. A fob became a small electronic device that was used in place of an actual key, or keypad. If one had access to a place with a fob, they would simply hold it up to the electronic pad on the door or wall, and magically, the door would unlock! Pretty soon, car manufacturers started to use “fob technology” to make it unnecessary to use a key on your car door to unlock it, and on your ignition. So long as you had the fob in your pocket or purse, you just pushed a button, and the door, or doors would unlock and then, putting your foot on the brake, pushing another button inside and the care would magically start. Now, there is a little key hidden in the fob on most cars, so that you could physically unlock the door, and find a place to put the key in and start the car, but as car technology advanced, eventually there was no keyhole on the door – just ol’ Mr. Fob to open things.
It’s very convenient – no longer fumbling around for keys in your pocket or purse, or losing them in your raincoat or something. And you can’t actually lock your door without having the fob in your possession. The past five cars we have owned, from 2012 until now, have all been “fobbed” at one level or another.
It really is a nifty piece of technology – until it isn’t, of course. You see, fobs have a tiny little Achilles heel, which you remember of the myth that the Greek hero Achilles’ mother dipped him in the River Styx, in order to make him invincible to spears and arrows and such, but holding on to his heel, it was left un-dipped, and so became the one small place on his body that was vulnerable. In one battle of the Trojan War, Paris of Troy shot an arrow at Achilles, and the god Apollo guided the arrow to stab the heel, thus wounding Achilles and eventually killing him. Ever since that time, the phrase “Achilles heel” meant the one place of vulnerability in a person or a thing that could bode danger. Just thought you might was to remember that…
So, back to Mr. Fob. Unfortunately, in our modern technology, we still don’t have fobs that run on nuclear power, or dilithium crystals. No – our fobs all have to use batteries to power the little radar device to tell the door to unlock or the engine to start. Now, in order to make the fobs all nice and neat and small to fit into your pocket, the engineers didn’t use a pair of “D” batteries which are the size of a small dog’s leg and weigh more than a small package of sugar. No, they went ahead and designed it all around little discs of batteries, all nice and flat, and rare. Of course, the little disc battery isn’t of just one size and type – oh no! You have many different ones from which to choose, with a size 1086, or a CR2032, or a cr2025, or who knows what else. What I can guarantee, however, is that when the time comes that one of those little flat batteries dies, as you go to your battery drawer, you will discover that you have a myriad of sizes to choose from, but you will not – ever – have a replacement battery that will fit the dead one in your fob.
I present exhibit A. Yesterday, after taking Cheri to work, as I turned off the car at home, a little message flashed up on my car’s screen: “Fob battery is low. Replace as soon as possible.” Now, I ‘m not a gambling man, but I had seen that kind of message before, just like other warnings that you are almost out of gas, almost anything right on the edge of oblivion, but what that means is that you have a little while, and you might want to think about stopping by the ol’ battery place, or if you feel lucky, the battery drawer, and find a new whatever-size-it-needs. Not urgent, but kind of important.
So, yesterday afternoon, I walked back out to the car, to go pick up Cheri from work, and pushed the button on the door… and nothing happened. No little beep and the sound of the door unlocking. I think I did hear a tiny little chuckle from inside the car, and an even tinier voice saying, “I told you so! But did you listen to me? Oh no…”
My fob was dead. No problem, though – I had a backup fob in my desk drawer, which I pulled out, tried to unlock the door, and it was dead as well. I don’t know if it was a suicide pact or something, but this was getting serious. I did manage to get the door open using the other fob that is part of my remote start, and the car gave me one last chance by telling me to put the fob up against the starter button, and it actually did start. The good new was, I drove to get Cheri, left the car running, and we made it home fine.
I then tried to restart the car. Well, it was really dead, then. Not the car battery – just the fob battery. After carefully disassembling the fob at the dining room table, I found that we were going to need a CR2025 battery in order to bring Frankenstein’s monster back to life. No problem – I checked the battery drawer, and sure enough, we had a zillion types and sizes of disc batteries from past campaigns. And sure enough, there was on CR2025 to be found. Arrgh.
I had parked my car behind my son’s car, and so we did have access to Cheri’s car this morning, which started up find and dandy. However, my job now is to hunt down and purchase TWO CR2025s, and maybe a few more, just to put in the drawer, so I can once again rejuvenate my fob and come back to the 21st Century. Maybe I’ll see if they have any nuclear powered CR2025s while I’m at it…
When you have no power, no matter what the situation, all you can feel is helpless. Actually as humans, we find ourselves in that situation more than we like. You see, we like to be in control, to have the power to make things do what we want them to do, and to be able to rely on some external “thing” to always assist us. Power, however, is an illusive substance, and we really don’t know when it will disappear, or go haywire, or simply go dead. And we can’t prepare for every possible circumstance. All we can really do is watch for the signs, those hints that come, those little messages that we really dare not ignore. At the same time, knowing that sooner or later, the fob will die, the situation will go out of control, we need to make and keep room in our lives to somehow overcome it. When we try to live with no capacity, where everything we do is jammed up right against the next thing we must do, we can be guaranteed that when we get stuck with the world not going according to our plan, more “worse” things than better will happen. Instead, when we make room in our lives, when we keep the good boundaries, and pay attention, say, when our car tells us to change the battery, then we have a much better opportunity to respond without crisis, and without losing our own patience and creativity in the face of things just going sour.
Make room, pay attention, buy the batteries, and leave yourself space in your life to even stop and do what is more important at this moment to get things back on track. Blessings on you as we move ahead in this world to a better future.
Word for the day: excogitate. Pronounced ex-COJ-ih-TATE. This is a pretty easy word, but has great connotations. Of course it’s Latin. How many of us learned, “Cogito, ergo sum,” meaning “I think, therefore I am.” Cogitare, simply means “to think.” However, when you add the ex to it, “out,” it becomes a deeper kind of thinking. Excogitate means to think out, to devise, to invent. When someone is faced with a problem and they say, “Let me think about this for a minute,” what they are really doing is “excogitating,” as they give themselves room and time to find the best answer.. Everything slows down for a little bit, while the brain does its wonderful job of finding the best path forward. When we circumvent or short-circuit that with a quick answer, more often than not, it’s not enough. Take time to excogitate today. Think deeply.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.