Monday, January 23, 2012

The Duct Tape Lesson

Back in the late 70s, my younger brother was driving a car that was composed of around 70% duct tape.  I don't know what kind of car it was. I called it the "Death Car".

I made fun of his car a lot. But you know, he was always prepared. The car was such a piece of shit, that he kept spare parts in the trunk (hinged, by the way, with duct tape). But it was a perverse form of preparation, as it turned out that the one part he always needed in a break down was not in the trunk.

Still, the lesson is, be prepared. This past Friday, I was not.

You may or may not have heard about it on the news, as it was pretty much a local weather phenomenon, but we got a big snow in Chicago Friday afternoon. Seven inches in as many hours. Naturally, traffic sucked. Naturally, I had to go down to NW Indiana to help my niece move. What was normally a one and a half hour trip took me about five hours.

Now, that's not that big of a deal. I managed to creep through Chicago before the heart of storm turned the everything into a parking lot. And, being from NW Indiana, which is the western edge of the Lake Michigan snowbelt, this was nothing new or unusual. Take your time. Max speed 35 mph on unplowed roads. The only casualties in ditches in the meridians are the giant SUV assholes who think they are indestructible.

To borrow from Jean-Paul Sartre, "Hell is other drivers".
Chicago Skyway Bridge

So, no big deal. After getting tired of listening to the radio, I sang Beatles songs in a cat voice.

"Meow, meow, meow". I've never had a problem entertaining myself.

The only fly in the ointment was that the driver's side windshield wiper decided to become unhinged, right when I was on the Skyway Bridge (which, by the way, is next to one of my favorite bridges, the Norfolk Southern vertical lift railroad bridge spanning the Calumet River).

I am proud that I had the presence of mind to turn off the wipers before the blade disappeared into Hammond someplace. So, I cranked the defrost heater and blower to maximum, and tried to think what I had in the car I could use to secure the blade.

I like the houses
And the answer was duct tape! Too bad I didn't have any.

So, that stretch of the Indiana East-West tollroad has got nothing on it. I mean nothing. Most exits are tortuously circuitous switchbacks to the entrances, and what with six to seven inches of snow on the roads, I ain't getting off. I drove about fifteen miles without wipers in blizzard.

Really it wasn't all that bad. I've been through much, much worse.

Duct Tape to the rescue!
Finally, though, I made it to a gas stop, and I asked the guy if he had any duct tape. He jerked his thumb at the notions display, and they had some weird imitation duct tape. Which I bought. And wrapped it on the blade, and off I went.

It's still on there. The way I am, it will be on there until it falls off, sometime in June.

But I did go out and buy some proper duct tape, which is now in my car.


  1. Have ypou ever heard of a 'Bucket'?
    Not ones good car nor his truck.
    It's ones beater car - the one one drives most of the time under any conditions.
    Mine is a '97 Grand Am.
    I drive it because no one will bother to jack me while I'm in it.
    In the trunk I keep two full sized spares, some tools, changes of clothes and Duct Tape.

    1. I'm familiar with the term, never owned one. My brothers were the car guys, and therefore they had a nice car and also a beater car, or a truck.

      Me, it's just a way to get from Point A to Point B, so I buy 'em and drive 'em into the dirt. And I always pay cash.

  2. If I remember rightly it was a 1973 Olds Delta 88.
    The "Royale with Cheese" of cars.

    the repair haiku:

    trunk full of spare parts but no
    flashlight to be had
    still in search of the duct tape

    1. Ah, yes. The infamous "Incident at Martinsville".

      The only reason I remember calling it the "Death Car" was a strong and foreboding premonition I had the first time as a passenger with little bro. Fortunately, it did not pan out.

      Lesson to the youngsters: "Stay off the dope".

  3. right. duct tape. the single most important 'tool' to take on a river trip.

  4. Replies
    1. Well, thanks Judy, but if I was smart, I'd have replaced the blades at the beginning of the season.