The Zipcar door would not open. My brother and then my sister held the card over the reader and waited for it to unlock. I held the card over the reader and tried to do the same. The baby fussed. The ocean crashed. The sun burned through the fog. Nothing happened.
Here is the Public Service Announcement part of the story: If you take a vehicle loaned out by Zipcar—a rental service where drivers use RFID cards or a mobile app to open up the car—to an area without cell reception, there’s a chance the car will not work. The doors won’t open, and even if they do, the engine will not start. And because you will be in an area with no cell reception, it might be impossible for you to call for help.
It is a particularly vexing part of the give-and-take of attaching everything to everything. With services like Zipcar, your rental car becomes not just a car, but a node in a complex, connected system. The same is true for your Uber ride, or your cup of coffee made by a Wi-Fi–connected machine, or your Peloton workout. All this connection means easier access, faster service, cheaper prices, better features. But it also means that things can go very wrong.
Sometimes that means you don’t get your cup of coffee, or you need to call a cab the old-fashioned way. Sometimes it means you are stranded in the middle of nowhere, a fussy baby in one hand and a useless cellphone in the other. It means a multiday extraction operation requiring a flatbed tow truck. It means turning your weekend of hiking and forest-bathing into a logistical nightmare.