Tuesday, 09 March 2010 05:52

Early Morning De-Light and Nursing Ingenuity

Written by Gonzo Weaver

Here’s another true story from my book. It reminded me that the true sign of a craftsman is no wrinkles in the duct tape.

A few years ago a nurse dressed in her scrubs came into my Tulsa auto-electric shop early one afternoon. She had just finished her morning shift at the hospital. She told me that things were kind of tight at her house financially, and she didn’t have a lot to spare for car repairs. I told her I would help her out as much as I could.

Her problem was that her headlights didn’t work, and she really needed to take her old Datsun (Dats before Nissan) to work in the early morning hours, regardless whether or not she got a ticket for having no headlights. She explained that she had to leave for work at ‘Oh-dark-thirty,’ as we used to say in the Marines, so I was thinking she had some sort of lighted route that would keep the prying eyes of the law off her tail.

“I get the picture, Ma’am. I’ll take a look at it,” I said.

Now I’m no car snob but I was genuinely suprised at how decripit this has-been automobile she was driving was. It should have been crushed years earlier, although it looked pretty much all biodegraded already—completely rusted and dented up with not much left of the interior. But as it was, this was this nice lady’s only ride to-and-from work. Yes, she would wait to see what I found.

Rather than surveying the outside any longer than necessary, I popped the hood and got right to work on finding the problem. It wasn’t that hard to find. At the positive battery post on this type of car was a series of fusible links that powered up different systems in the car. One of them was corroded off the terminals. It just so happened to be the one that powered the headlights.

I grabbed the trusty baking soda and cleaned off the crud from the positive post of the battery. After replacing the corroded end of the fusible link, I attached it back onto its proper post. One flick of the headlight switch and she was in business.

I went into the lobby and told the nurse, who was waiting anxiously, what I had found. I told her that it was going to be a cheap fix, and not to worry about having to get a car-fix loan (as she had worried aloud to me). I then asked her how long had she been driving around with no headlights.

She told me with an air of satisfaction, “Oh, I had headlights all the time. I just wanted the factory ones to work because I was getting tired of changing the batteries in the other ones.” Say what?

Factory ones? Batteries? What other ones? Did I miss something?

I just stared at her for a few seconds. I thought that by now I was pretty good with electrical systems. What did I miss on this old Datsun’s electrical schematics that involved alternate headlights that she was aware of, but I wasn’t?

“Really?” I said. “Can you show me what you are talking about?”

We walked out to the car and there on each edge of the front bumper were two 9-volt flashlights duct-taped around the bumper with what could have been a whole roll of tape. She walked up to them and pushed the button on each of the right and left flashlights. Then she turned around to face me with both arms out stretched like a TV ad model; pointing one toe and all. And wouldn’t you know it… she’s got headlights, sort of.

“I just thought it was going to cost so much to fix them that I have been putting it off for months,” she said. “But I had to buy so many batteries I thought it would be cheaper to find out what was really wrong with the factory ones.”

Now I’ll admit I’ve never seen duct-taped flashlights attached to a bumper before. And I haven’t seen them since... But I’ll tell you this, if I’m ever in need of a nurse in an emergency, who can get the job done till the cavalry comes, she is my choice. Way to go girl. You got my vote for duct-tape engineer of the month.

You can order Gonzo’s book, Hey Look! I Found The Loose Nut, from Amazon and other sources.  Gonzo is working on a second volume now. Contact him at the banner address.