About six months ago, I did something that I'd regret for quite some time to come.

I didn't check my pockets before throwing my jeans into the washing machine.

Didn't even realize it until I'd pulled everything out of the washer to move to the dryer. There laid all my keys, wet and cold, in the back of the washer tub.

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Electronics are famously not happy to be submerged in water, much less sent through multiple wash and spin cycles. But was the built-in fob on my car key going to protest the experience, or was it hardy enough to survive?

I took it to the window, pointed it at my car, and tried to lock the doors. Nothing. Not even so much as a beep or blinking taillight. I tried again, pushing the button harder. I knew it was in vain, but... UGH!

I took the fob apart and let it dry out. Still wouldn't work after a couple days. The key itself still worked in the ignition, so I dealt with it for awhile. Manually unlocking the doors with the key proved to be a nightmare, because it always set off my car alarm until I could turn the key in the ignition. So I just made sure never to leave any valuables in my car, and usually left it unlocked.

Fast forward to a pleasant visit from my new neighborhood welcoming committee overnight one night last week.

I got into my unlocked vehicle, ready to head to work, only to find my glove compartment open and its contents strewn about. The console had been rifled through as well, although it appeared nothing was taken.

Time to do something about the key.

I'd priced getting a new key and fob from the dealership, but the estimate was close to $300! I didn't want to go that route if I didn't have to.

I'd seen the key counter during a previous visit to Great Lakes Ace Hardware in Frandor, so I figured I'd try to see if they could do anything.

I explained my problem to Wendy, who was working the key counter that morning. I told her about having dried out the fob and replacing the battery, and how it still wouldn't work. She thought that maybe the key just needed reprogramming, and set about to make that happen.

Wendy worked on the key inside the store and outside at my car to no avail. Back inside, she pried the fob open and dismantled its electronics. Got out a bottle of cleaner, and began to carefully clean the film of washing detergent off of all the delicate parts. She asked if I was sure I'd replaced the battery. As I started to say "yes", I stopped myself. Wait. Had I? Hold on! No. I didn't. All I did was dry out the fob then put it back together! (The film on the battery had already answered her question; I really didn't have to.)

We found an appropriate new battery, she installed it, and we walked back out to the car to test the fob to see if it worked.

"Beep-beep!" Click! Doors locked and unlocked just fine.

$9.11 and half an hour later, I was on my way. Relieved on so many levels.

It feels like we live in a world that has more complaints about customer service than compliments. Here's to Wendy at Great Lakes Ace Hardware in Frandor and everyone else who truly goes above and beyond to help their customers.

Thanks, Wendy.

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