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THE JUNK IN THE TRUNK

Every day, all across america and around the world, drivers hold their cars together with little more than love, duct tape, and desperate invention. This chapter is for them (and for those of us who can learn from their resourcefulness).

In most of this book, the definition of "MacGyverism" is loose by design. Almost any act of improvisational brilliance can qualify, so long as it demonstrates quick thinking, gets the author out of a tight spot, and caps a good story. But the pieces in this chapter are classic MacGyver stories, characterized by ingenious solutions using available materials. Angus MacGyver would be impressed. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that he might even learn a thing or two.

Take, for example, Amber Adrian of San Francisco, and her story about locking her keys in her car. I now keep a ball of twine in my glove box. Or Issa Eismont's tale of repairing a blown clutch pedal in the Nevada desert. I probably couldn't replicate his brilliant fix even if I had access to all the same materials, but my wife does knit, so at least I know I'd have a chance. Or former frat guy Harry McCoy's story about protecting a tire from a malevolent fender. More so than in any other chapter, these stories contain lessons that are genuinely useful.

Why is the car such a hotbed of ingenuity? Two main reasons, I think, the first of which is obvious: because so many things can go wrong, from minor inconveniences (a radio knob that won't stay on, a glove box that won't latch shut, a broken windshield wiper) to life-threatening malfunctions (a blown tire at eighty mph, an errant air bag, or a hood that pops open at exactly the wrong moment).

The second reason is less obvious but arguably more important: because people let so much crap pile up in their backseats. Old Chalupa containers. Cracked CD cases. Chewed gum. Unchewed gum. Of course, this kind of random debris is what great MacGyverisms are made of. In fact, I think it's safe to say that people who keep their cars perfectly clean are significantly less likely to be able to pull a roadside MacGyver—and much more likely to be forced to stand around on the shoulder, waiting for AAA.

Speaking of AAA (and other organizations that offer roadside assistance), I'd like to extend a special thank-you. If you were always quick to the scene—or even if you lacked your reputation for arriving a tad late to the scene—I probably would have received far fewer submissions for this chapter.

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