I have never had a warm and friendly relationship with cars. I never know whether they are Fords or Chevrolets, Mazdas or Toyotas. I know only there are red cars, green cars, gold cars, two-door or four-door cars. I have trouble opening and closing doors on today’s cars and opening and shutting windows. Once, there were handles to turn inside when one longed for fresh air. But no longer — at least on the Toyota Camry that I have just inherited. There are only unmarked gadgets in the door handle to open and close the windows. And no longer, I discovered at the Gay Head Cliffs on a recent weekend, do keys open car doors or trunks. Now there are black, circular, battery-operated gadgets that more efficiently (presumably) do that. But while enthusiastically showing off the Vineyard to visitors from Rhode Island and Illinois, I found out differently.

Being city dwellers, my guests locked the doors when we left the car to visit the cliffs. They happily admired the cliffs and the Elizabeth Islands in the distance and listened patiently to my tired old tall tale of how Bartholomew Gosnold discovered the Vineyard. I told my guests about Noman’s Land once being used to graze sheep, but after becoming a bombing range in World War II how it is now a federal migratory bird refuge. I told them about the wreck of the passenger steamer, the City of Columbus off Gay Head in January, 1884 and how Gay Headers had braved stormy seas to rescue passengers. I recounted how the French-designed Fresnel lens that was installed in the lighthouse in 1854 made the Gay Head light the strongest one on the eastern seacoast for decades. After listening patiently to my apocryphal (and some true) tales, we had scrumptious blueberry pie and coffee at the Aquinnah Shop.

Our next stop was to be Menemsha where I said — even though they would be eating backwards since they had already had their pie — they could indulge in lobster rolls overflowing with lobster or rich, homemade clam chowder made with fresh Island quahaugs at the Menemsha Fish Market or Larsen’s. Afterwards, I said, we would stop at Chilmark Chocolates so they would have something tasty to munch on the Quonset ferry they were taking back to the mainland.

But when we got to my newly-acquired gold Camry and tried to put the car key into the driver’s side lock to open the door, the door wouldn’t open. Nor would the door on the passenger side. Nor would either of the back doors. The car has a sun roof on top, and it had been opened for air. One of the smaller of my guests said he could see if he could climb through that way, but I visualized how he might get stuck and not be able to get in or out and that would only make matters worse. I said I thought we should ask a policeman for help. A week earlier, I said with a sigh, when I had been showing the cliffs to off-Islanders from Germany and a tire had looked too flat to get to Menemsha Texaco for air, a kindly Aquinnah policeman had volunteered to supply air to the car at the Aquinnah fire station and had us follow him there.

So sheepishly, I asked the policeman directing traffic (he didn’t look like the one from the week before), if he could open my car doors. He said of course, and further explained that I just didn’t understand that the battery-operated gadget on the key chain was what I should use. Such devices were designed to prevent car theft, he patiently explained. But when he tried using it, it didn’t work either. Obviously, its battery was dead, he said. He would have to pry open a window to get inside. Did I mind? He gave me papers to fill out that explained that I didn’t.

Next, with some push-me-pull-you device, he pried open the top of a window and slipped some other gadget with a hook on it inside to turn the door handle. (I was still engaged in filling out forms and didn’t look too closely). But it all brought back the long-ago time of simpler cars when my husband and I lived in the West Tisbury parsonage. The late George Manter, West Tisbury police chief, had come to the house to corral a horse that had arrived at our back door. He quickly captured him and took him home to the Everett Whiting Farm where he lived. But when Chief Manter got back to his cruiser, there was no getting inside. His impatient dog had pushed down all the lock buttons. The chief had sheepishly asked us for a coat hanger so he could open the cruiser door.

In any case, I thanked the Aquinnah policeman profusely for his help (as I had his kindly colleague the week before). It’s a good thing the summer sightseeing season is over, however. I’m not sure how welcome I and my state-of-the-art gold Toyota Camry would be if we showed up at the cliffs a third time with a car problem.