Saturday, September 27, 2014


After years of living in a house that had no garage, and spending most of the winters hacking through ice so thick on my car it looked like an iceberg sitting in the middle of the driveway, I vowed that the next house I lived in would have a garage.

So five years ago, when we built our current house, I finally got my wish – a 2.5-car garage with automatic doors.

The automatic doors, however, were my husband’s idea.

“You don’t want to pull up to the garage in the middle of a blizzard and then have to get out in the cold to open a heavy garage door, do you?” my husband had said. “With automatic doors, you just sit in the warmth of your car and press the button on the remote, and the door opens – you know, like ‘open sesame’ in Ali Baba.”

“But what if I drive my car halfway into the garage and the door comes crashing down on top of it?” I’d asked him, not completely sold on the automatic door idea.

“That won’t happen,” he said. “The doors have sensors, so when something is under them as they are coming down, they’ll go right back up again to prevent any damage.”

So I agreed and the automatic doors were installed.  There were two ways to open them. One was a doorbell-like button for each door, inside the garage on the wall next to the house door. So the minute I came out of the house, I could push a button to open either garage door. Then there were the “his and hers” remote controls – a separate one for each door, which my husband and I each carried in our cars.

There never were any problems with the doors…that is, until this year.

First of all, on my side of the garage, water started leaking under the door whenever it rained. One night, it rained and then the temperatures dropped below freezing. When I came out of the house the next morning and pushed the button to open the door, I heard a noise that sounded like a meat grinder with a fork stuck in it, and the door didn’t budge. That’s when I realized it was frozen to the ground. I pushed the button to stop it just in time to save the motor from suffering a painful, premature death.

Then, my dog, Willow, learned that as the garage door was closing and was about three inches from the floor, if she stuck her paw under it, the sensor would open it again, and she could dash out while it still was too low to the ground for me to get underneath it to go chase her.

The first time Willow did it, I was stunned, mainly because the vet once told me, “Sorry to say this, but your dog will never be a rocket scientist.”

I was convinced Willow’s stunt had been just a fluke, so once again, just to test her, I let her out into the garage just as the door was almost fully closed. She ran right over to it, stuck her paw under it, it rose and she escaped. So now she’s not allowed in the garage unless the doors are fully down.

But recently something happened with the doors that actually had me so spooked, I was afraid to go out to the garage at all. Since my husband passed away two years ago and I sold his van, his side of the garage has been empty, so I rarely have any need to open that door.

Two weeks ago, when I went out there, however, I noticed the door on his side was wide open. I couldn’t figure out how it had opened because someone would have had to come inside the garage to push the button by the house door – or have access to my husband’s remote, which was in the house.

Three more times, the same thing happened. I went out to the garage and the door on my husband’s side was open. I started to wonder if I’d said or done anything really embarrassing and he was haunting me for it, trying to send me a subtle message.

The other night, as I was getting ready to go to bed, I stuffed a few things into my purse and put it away. Suddenly, I heard the garage door open.

I grabbed my dog, Raven (a.k.a. “Jaws”), and took her with me to check the garage. I had no idea what I’d find out there, but I prayed Raven would be bigger and meaner than whatever it was. I expected to see a bear leaning against my car…or a burglar with a crowbar he’d used to pry open the door.

But there was nothing unusual out there. Confused, I closed the door.

I began to think about a crime show I’d seen on TV where a burglar explained that certain garage-door remotes will open a variety of doors, so he’d drive through neighborhoods late at night and press his remote until a door opened. Then he’d rob the place.

Let’s just say I didn’t sleep much that night.

The next day, I had to go to the bank, so I grabbed my purse and went out to the garage. Just as I opened the house door, I saw the garage door on my husband’s side rising right before my eyes.

There was only one explanation, I thought. It had to be a short circuit. I decided I’d better call an electrician when I got back from the bank. I climbed into my car and tossed my purse onto the seat. Once again the garage door on my husband’s side moved.

That’s when the solution to the mystery finally dawned on me. The night before the door began its spell of randomly opening and closing, I’d gone out with friends, who picked me up. I’m in the habit of entering and leaving the house through the garage door on my side, but the remote for that door was clipped onto the visor in my car, and I didn’t feel like removing it. So I grabbed my husband’s remote instead, thinking it didn’t matter which door it opened, as long as I was able to get into the garage when I returned home.

I shoved the remote into a little side pocket on my purse. And after using it to get in that night, I put it back into my purse and forgot about it.

So every time I touched or hit my purse on that side, I unknowingly activated the remote.

Funny, but since my discovery, the door hasn’t magically opened again.

But Willow “Houdini” Breslin is patiently waiting for the moment when it does, even if it’s only a couple inches.



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