When I was a teenager, I felt that I made my fair share of MacGyver-esque moves. I could do a complete carburetor replacement on the side of the street using duct tape (in-a-pinch gasket replacement) and pencils (for the vacuum lines, of course). I circumvented the security on my high-school’s teletype machine using a paperclip and a telephone cord and I made a canon that fired potatoes using a plastic tube, an old barbeque igniter and a can of aerosol antiperspirant.
My moves always paled in comparison to what my friend John could do, though. John had and has the ability to diagnose a problem and then take an almost instantaneous inventory of the tools he has at hand to deal with it. This was never more clear than when the two of us hopped into a rental car late one night in a San Francisco parking garage. When I turned the key to start the car, nothing happened. We could see that there was plenty of power – lights and accessories worked great – but there was not even a hum from the engine compartment. We popped open the hood and saw . . . nothing.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, John diagnosed that the solenoid that engages the starter motor wasn’t moving into place. He then went at how to fix it with the tools we had at hand which, in a rental car, don’t amount to much. John then – don’t try this at home – pulled out the oil dipstick and used it to short the starter motor directly to the battery (you only need one connection because the starter motor, like most of the car’s electronics, is grounded through the chassis), routing the roughly 1 zillion amps of current through a skinny piece of metal that although wiped fairly clean, was still covered with a layer of flammable liquid. The car started, we didn’t die in the process, John saved the day.
I thought of John when I was pointed to this YouTube video by a post on Toolmonger. It demonstrates how you can create an emergency light source out of just a pencil and a couple of pieces of wire. Very handy.
Did I ever mention how I once used my then girlfriend’s pantyhose as a fan belt replacement? I’ll leave that for another post.