Last week we had a “spring fling” bbq on campus for students (in 40 degree weather -spring ain’t sprung yet). A friend was manning the hotdog grill and getting smoked out because our cafeteria didn’t have long bbq forks and she was trying to use a short spatula to turn the dogs.
Friend was complaining about the lack of the correct bbq tool. I zipped out to my car and brought back the long-ass bbq fork that was on the front seat. She was astounded. I had the fork in my car because the day before I dropped the cap of the car’s windshield washer tank into the engine and tried to fish it out with the long fork (couldn’t find the cap, I put the fork in the car in case the lid surfaced after some driving – it never did).
We’ve had some trouble with our two boy dogs fighting. We bought some bear deterrent horns (small airhorns) to carry in the yard, as this is where they tended to skirmish. BTW, this has been very effective.
Last December I walked out to my car in the lot and stopped short when I saw a black bear nosing around my car. The campus is surrounded by acres of woods and all kinds of critters are around – though this was the first bear I’ve seen (anywhere!)
I froze in place, about 100ft from the bear, fished in my jacket pocket for my phone in case I needed to call for help, and . . . yup, I found the dog/bear horn in my pocket from that morning’s doggie play session. I had forgot I had it in my jacket.
I didn’t need to honk or call 911 to come pick up pieces of me. The bear didn’t even seem to notice me and he shuffled back into the woods about a minute later.
I was in the hallway in my college apartment suite talking to my next-door neighbor, who was talking about this obscure book called Wisdom of the Desert that he’d like to find. I turned from our conversation and walked back into my room, returning with a copy and gasting his flabber. (This was pre-WWW.)
I was a day-camp counselor, and the camps director liked to do an all-camp roundup in the mornings, where we’d do silly things to wake the kids up. He introduced me and another counselor as the camp’s official toenail inspectors.
I had a nail clipper in my pocket, because my group was going to be putting together some plastic models, and nail clippers work great for trimming off the sprue-burrs so the wheels would roll well.
A printer’s pica ruler used to make a great slim jim for opening up older car doors when the keys were locked inside. I helped out some lady in a store parking lot once, and a guy told me having my pica ruler was illegal. I laughed.
I’m not counting all of the things that I routinely carry on my person because they’re just general-purpose useful (starting with a Leatherman, a Swiss army knife, and a 13-function utility pen). Yeah, sometimes a pliers, or a file, or an X-acto knife, or whatever is useful, but that’s not odd, because you expect those to be useful.
I suppose that there was one time when I was subbing for a class that was working on a project where they were making their own board games. One group wanted to do some playtesting, but didn’t have dice. I use the same bag for carrying my school stuff and my D&D stuff, and hadn’t bothered to take my dice out after the last game.
We needed something to draw a ticket out of for a doorprize. I went to my car and came back with the classic fish bowl. I couldn’t even believe it. I really have no excuse for it, a friend gave it to me for reasons I don’t remember.
So I’m at Summerfest (huge music festival in Milwaukee. Runs for 10 days, has something like over 100 bands, close to a million people attend during that time. I there with some out of town friends to go and see Tom Petty. We’re walking around and have some time to kill. One of them randomly says 'I could go for a nice big pickle right now", to which I responded “hold on, don’t go anywhere” and about two minutes later I have a nice big pickle for her.
Of course, she didn’t know that I’m friends with the owner of one of the restaurants running a booth, so it was just a matter of going in the back door and asking him for one. But, in any case, even I knew it was kinda impressive that I could magically get a pickle without any problem.
Other than that, I’m one of those guys that tends to have a lot of tools in my trunk so there’s a lot of times when someone is trying to fix something and I can say 'hold on, let me grab my [tool I have no reason to have on hand] out of my car and we can get this finished up a lot faster". I mean, it’s great to have two drills, an angle grinder and a hundred other things ready to go, but my tool bag is getting kinda heavy.
Perfect example: An employee of mind showed up at work a few days ago, one of his brakes caught fire on the way in, the friction material had actually melted. An angle grinder made quick work of cutting the caliper enough to get the car derivable again.
Backpacking round Europe, in a hostel in Berlin. The hostel internet was down, and two guys sat behind me were discussing some town, one thought it was in one country, one thought it was just over the border in the next country. One of them says something on the lines of ‘No,we just need a map of Europe’, so I hand them the folding map of Europe I had in my little bag. Not especially odd, to have a map, but they find the town on there, and it’s riiiight on the border, they still can’t tell, so they hand it me back, saying ‘Thanks, but I think we need a map with higher resolution’. So I hand them the road map book of Europe I also had in my bag… The first time they looked impressed, the second time they frankly looked a little scared.
Other good one backpacking was when at a bar in a little Aussie town with two people from my hostel, one was recommending a book to the other, and the other one said ‘Oh, that does sound great, I don’t know where I’d be able to get it from here though’. I’d not only got a copy, I’d just finished it, and was perfectly happy to pass it on. The major theme of the book was the kindness of strangers
I was at my little cousin-twice-removed’s birthday party, and they had a magician performing for the kids. He was apologizing for having left his wand at home, so I raced to my car and came back with one. Unfortunately it was a fairy-godmother-type wand, not a magician’s. And I have no idea where it came from, only that I’ve had it for years and years.
Many years ago the company I worked for was having an open house party for their new offices. Fully catered with food and drinks. Well, not quite fully catered – they forgot the corkscrew, and had to borrow my swiss army knife, with the corkscrew.
I’ve pulled all sorts of random things out of my car that surprises people but the one I pull out the most is bailing twine. Because much like duct tape, bailing twine can fix damn near anything. In the country or even areas that have been rural in the last 5 or so years, pulling twine out of your car or truck wouldn’t be to surprising. But catching a loose dog with a piece of bailing twine in the middle of suburbs? People think you are the next coming of McGyver.
Helping a friend move, I happened to have an old ratty sleeping bag in my car when I drove over that we could have used had we run out of blankets (which we didn’t.)
Once my car got a flat tire and I tried to change it on the side of the road, but the shoulder was sand and my jack kept slipping. I happened to have a tennis racket and I put it under the jack, like a snowshoe, to stabilize it. The strings deformed several inches but I was able to successfully change the tire with it without breaking any strings. I correctly reasoned that it was not that much more stress than the strings would undergo when hitting the ball because it’s spread out over multiple strings, it is not all at once like when you’re hitting a ball, and the ground would absorb some of it, and anyway, you see still shots of a tennis hit where the strings are deformed several inches anyway.
I stopped, on my way home, at an Aldi just to pick up a couple of things. I grabbed my cloth Aldi bag out of the back of the car and headed in. When I got in the door I spotted how long the checkout queues were and decided not to bother shopping, what I wanted wasn’t worth the effort. As I headed out to go back to my car two elderly women were walking in. One said, “Oh, I have forgotten the bag we will have to go back to the car to get it.” Without breaking stride I walked past and said, “Here have this one,” handed it to them and walked off. I am quite sure that it was the only time I have ever gone to a supermarket, walked in and then walked straight out carrying a recyclable bag.
On another occasion I was waiting to buy a cup of coffee and next to me a young mother was trying to talk her daughters into sharing a ride on an electric car.
“You can each have one minute,” she said. One daughter asked, “How will we know when one minute is up?”
For the first and, so far, only time in my life I had a 40 year old stopwatch on a long chain in my pocket. My father had given it to me only a couple of hours before, and many miles away; I was driving back home. I pulled it out and dangled it by the chain and said, “Maybe this will help.” The kids ended up keener to have the watch around their necks, watch the sweep hand and listen to the ticking rather than being on the ride. I’m not sure that their mother believed that I had not owned the watch before that day and had never had it on my person before.
With all modesty, I’m the champ. My family, friends, and co-workers all joke about my “magic closet.” If it’s an unusual tool, piece of camping gear, electronic gadget, or just about anything out of the ordinary, it’s somewhere around my house or in my car.
Time domain reflectometer (TDR)? No problem. Do you want a digital or analog unit? Workbench or portable?
RF frequency counter? I’ve got four.
A screw to attach the handle of an AK-47? I’ve got spares.
Legacy removable FDD drives? What diameter floppy do you have?
Video scalers? What type of input and output do you require?
LD players? Sure. CLV OK? Got both.
One and two-man tents? Four are up in the attic.
Stereo receivers? Three Yamahas and a Sony are in storage.
And so forth, ad infinitum. Of course, I get a lot of grief from my wife, but she is also the first to tell people, “Oh, need a camp stove for your picnic? I’ll let him know. Do you want propane, LNG, butane, or liquid fuel?”
The main contributing factor is that I both hate to throw away something that works and I hate to negotiate sales. If I ever had it or needed one, I kept it.
A bag of tomatoes, of all things. One of my friends is a singer who often gets something or other in his head and ends up spending a few days or weeks giving someone the cold shoulder. Might be me this week and you the next. He’s had a tough life, so most of us just wait for his storms to blow over. One of the times he was mad at me, and on the day he was to perform at a local venue, I turned a corner and ran right into him and a group of other people. When everyone greeted me except the disgruntled friend, the others realized something was up. I asked how he was, he just looked away, and I said in a louder and happier voice that I was doing better than ever, which drove him a little deeper into his silent resentment and perfectly heightened the onlookers’ expectation. I just happened to be returning home with groceries in hand, so I gave the others a quick glance and held up a bag of tomatoes, saying, “Look, I’m all ready for your performance tonight!” You could have heard the laughter blocks away.