I am the recipient ? victim? ? Of all kinds of mass emails ranging from jokes to warnings to the happy news I have just won 33 trillion dollars in a U.K. lottery. I would be better off hitting the delete button but curiosity ? the same sort of curiosity that killed the cat – usually leads me to read all the emails through to the end. An end which more often than not climaxes with some dire threat to my personal or moral being if I don?t forward the message to everyone I know.

One came in today with the subject line: PUT YOUR CAR KEYS BESIDE YOUR BED AT NIGHT. Great idea, I thought, my finger hovering over the delete button. That way you would always know where your keys were, plus they would be handy in case you woke up in the middle of the night and felt like going for a drive. But this was not the message. It was even better. It suggested putting your keys on the nightstand so that if you hear someone trying to break into your house, you can press the panic button for your vehicle. Whatever the intruder?s intentions, they are unlikely to stick around with a blaring horn and flashing lights drawing all that attention to your house. It?s like having a free security system with no installation required! And in the morning, you know where to find your keys.

Your keys can also work as a personal security device when walking to your car in an underground parking lot. Or it could alert your family or neighbour if you slip on the ice, break your leg and can?t get up.

Until I read this email, I hated vehicle alarms. Mostly because mine is always going off in a crowded parking lot and it takes me forever to figure out how to shut it off. Or at least it feels like forever with the older people glaring and younger ones laughing. You might think people ignore car alarms, but I can tell you from experience that this isn?t so.

My worst incident happened with my family when we were returning home from a holiday in the city. We had all our suitcases in the back of the truck and were practically on the road, when the guys decided they wanted to stop in at a Future Shop. Since I despise technology and would rather endure a root canal than check out the latest in home theatre and laptops, I opted to stay in the truck and guard the suitcases.

Off my husband and sons went with visions of eight gigabyte scandisks and 1000 inch flat screen TV?s dancing in their heads. And the keys to the truck jingling in Darcy?s pocket. It was a beautiful summer day with the temperature in the high 20?s. With the sun beating through the windshield and the effects of the air conditioning fading fast, it didn?t take long for things to heat up. In a matter of minutes I was starting to feel like a tomato in a greenhouse. Since the windows were electronic and Darcy had taken the keys, I opened the door to let in some air.

And that?s when the truck exploded.

Well, it didn?t actually explode in flames and flying metal, but it definitely exploded with sound. Apparently Darcy had hit the lock button out of habit and the truck objected to someone opening the door without the keys.

The whole thing was more than a little alarming. As young people laughed and pointed and older people scowled and stared, my face went even redder than it had been before. Which was pretty red. Later one son would marvel to his brother that it looked like a tomato that been soaked in beets. As the truck continued to blare out its battle cry, I didn?t have a clue what I should do. Run? Hide? Cry? A combination of all three?

Before I could formulate a plan my family returned with eyes as big as Frisbees. The incident led to a fun-filled, animated trip home with the boys gleefully debating what makes a human face reddest; heat, embarrassment or anger.

I suppose alarm systems, like families, have their good points. But they also have their bad.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can reach her at