Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 11, 2012

"I wonder if I can ..."

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a flash drive husband Art had lost. Daughter Katie eventually found it glued by its melted plastic cover to the inside of the clothes dryer.

For most people, that would have been the end of the story. But Art, analyzing what the drive must have experienced, could see no reason why it wouldn't still work. So after cutting off the melted plastic from near the connector, he plugged it into his laptop. Sure enough, it worked like a champ.

Now for most engineers, that too would have been enough. But as Art is fond of saying, engineers seem to come in two stripes - those who always want the "latest-greatest" and those who operate on the "I wonder if I can make that work again" notion.

Art definitely belongs to the latter group. After I finished the article, he decided to make a new case for the drive and he now uses it regularly. It was only a small drive and the materials he used to fabricate a case probably cost as much as a new one. But buying a replacement would have run counter to his principle.

Sometimes this trait drives me up the wall. He will spend a week fixing something that costs almost nothing, when all I want to do is go buy a new one and get on with it.

But at other times, it has paid off. When we bought a new stove, the hood from the old one did not match. So for several days, we looked for a replacement. But the ones we found were either too large or too small and that would have required a remodeling project.

I finally gave in to Art's suggestion that he just repaint the old one. My idea was that we'd use it until we found one that went with the new stove. But it turned out great and we never did buy a new one.

When one of Mom's wireless phones quit working recently, my immediate thought was to buy a new one. But Art wanted to take a look. He discovered that a connector inside the base and hidden from view had come loose and the phone was not charging. Once the connector was pushed back into place, Mom was back in business with her familiar phone.

A few days ago, the bottom broke off my remote-entry fob for my van. I put the pieces into a plastic bag and gave it to Art. Two different glues and a few days later, I have my fob back! Not as quick as buying a new one, but a lot cheaper!

About two weeks ago, Art's 30-year-old desk chair at work broke. To my surprise, his inclination was the same as mine - to buy a new one.

But then the engineer in him kicked in.

"That is the most comfortable chair I've ever had," he said. "You cannot just go to the store and sit in a new one for a couple of minutes and know that it will still be comfortable four hours later. So it made sense to fix it."

Checking it out, he discovered some piece of metal had cracked and then bent. His plan was to disassemble the chair, straighten the piece and add a support across the broken area.

But when he went to his work area to begin, he noticed an old chair base he had rescued from a neighbor's junk pile several years ago. The back had broken, but Art had never had the opportunity to fix it. The mounting holes lined up with his broken chair and, a few minutes later, he was in business. He said he smiles every day when he first sees it after getting to work.

With more cars than most people, we have more problems. Art has one he uses for trips, but another is his "town" car. He's had town cars in which he could see the road beneath his feet.

His current town car doesn't have that problem, but it has its share of other ones. It blew a head gasket in 2008, but Art still drives it. The car tends to overheat and sometimes uses coolant like it is going out of style. At first, it was only occasionally a problem, but he said those problems always get worse ... and they have. He tells me he should junk it as the cost to fix it is more than the vehicle is worth.

Still, he loves to coax all he can out of something. So, a while back, he set a goal of getting an additional 10,000 miles out of it. It is now a habit for him before any trip to press the two controls on the dash that give him access to the car's computer. That way, he can monitor what is happening - such as extremely high engine temperatures.

For a period, it was so bad that he had to fill the car with water after a trip to town and once again when he got home. But he worked on it and now has it down to using only a quart per day.

I could never do that. I want to get in my vehicle and not think about whether it's going to make it to my chosen destination. But I must admit that getting the last bit of use from something has saved us money!

Oh, and that 10,000 mile goal? She - all his cars are "Nancy" - passed through that point this past week.

Left-to-right: (first four images from the earlier article) - drive as Katie found it; cutters and plastic parts cut away from the connector; the green light indicating all is a "go;" an image on the drive and the "reborn" drive.

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