Mother Nature meets the Father of Invention

Brian Ferry

The best justifications I have heard for winter are winter wonderlands and ‘we have four seasons.’


When the high is below 10 and the wind chill is well south of bitter, I would happily give up the winter part of the wonderlands and at least a season-and-a-half.

But, for reasons plentiful and dubious, I live in Warren County.

This morning, because the major snow fell two days ago, I didn’t have much to do to get my vehicle ready for the day. I did some cursory brushing, hopped in, turned on the seat warmer, and rolled down the mostly-navigable driveway.

I glanced at the fuel gauge and realized I would need to stop on my way in. In my line of work, having just enough gas to get home from work at the end of the day is asking for trouble. If something important happens 15 miles away, I had better be able to get there without a stop for fuel. And, I also want to be able to drive back.

So, I did the smart thing. I went to my local fueling station.

The cold weather and the problem it caused struck me at about the same time. I open the door, step one foot out, reach down and pull the little handle thing. Other than the wind brutalizing me, nothing happened. Nothing visible anyway. I don’t know what actually happens inside the hidden places in the car — whether they be window movers, engine, transmission, or gas door latch mechanism. I turn a key, or rotate a circle, or push down on a pedal and I have a good idea of how the vehicle will respond. What happens in between might as well be magic.

With the gas door, I pull a little handle, the door pops open a little bit. That’s all I know. When that doesn’t happen, I don’t know the magic words. I didn’t actually try my go-to magic words — Open Sesame, Hocus Pocus, or Abracadabra — maybe they would have worked.

What I did do was channel MacGyver. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

I don’t keep duct tape in the vehicle. I may rethink that position.

I thought about putting a key between the painted metal gas door and the painted metal on the part of the body that’s around the gas door — probably named something less than a full panel.

It occurred to me, despite my vehicular knowledge challenges, that I could scratch the paint. I don’t like that idea.

So, I look for something less metal.

I find a comb. I’m not sure why there’s a comb in my vehicle. It’s not mine. But, it was handy, approximately the right shape, and non-metallic.

It took me a while to realize it wasn’t going to work. I believe it was about 7 degrees out with a -20 or so wind chill. It was not a pleasant while.

Back to the interior of the vehicle for more plastic. I saw a pen. Probably too thick. But, it had a cap with a pocket-holder thingee. The holder thingee was the kind that doesn’t extend past the cap — it clips cap to the pocket, not pen to pocket.

Plastic breaks really easily when it’s cold.

Using a flat, rigid, slightly barbed piece of plastic, the gas door came right open.


Now, where’s my wallet?

Brian Ferry is a reporter with the Times Observer. He does not like cold weather.