LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: It’s my way or the right way

Published 3:11 pm Thursday, September 8, 2022

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“You know you’re a redneck if …”

That’s the text response I received from Jimmy, my do-everythiing-by-the-book son-in-law after I told him how I did a temporary fix on my car. It was just the latest of my “chewing gum and baling wire” solutions to everyday problems.

Larry Penkava

Jimmy, you see, is officially trained in mechanics, electronics, information technology, landscaping, French cooking, martial arts, rocket science and brain surgery. OK, maybe not all of those, but he does have a knack for fixing things according to the manual.

He’s the only one in maybe the entire state who knows how to fix the Postal Service’s machine used to sort mail. It’s affectionately called the “paper shredder” because that’s what it does when it’s out of alignment, or whatever it is that causes letters to be torn apart and kicked to the floor. Jimmy is the one they call on to get the machine back into proper running order.

I, on the other hand, am trained in none of the sciences or technologies. So, faced with a mechanical problem, I tend to look for solutions outside the training manual box.

Not long ago, a strap on one of Ginny’s flip flops came loose from its mooring between the sole and the footpad. She gave it to me, saying, “If you can fix it, OK, but if not I understand. But they are really comfortable.”

I took that as a challenge. Searching my non-technical brain for a reasonable answer to the problem, I came up with a plan.

I searched in my box of assorted nails and screws and bolts until I found a couple of wood screws that seemed to be the right size. After running the end of the strap back inside the flip flop, I hammered a nail to make a couple of dimples in the side. Then I ran the screws into the side of the flip flop far enough to hold the strap in place.

It worked so well that when the strap on the other flip flop came loose, I made them a matching set. The shiny screw heads are what I call a fashion statement.

Recently, when the gearshift on my 22-year-old Corolla quit shifting, I called Jimmy because, well, that’s who you call when you have a mechanical problem. When I told him the shifter moved up and down freely without changing the gears, he said, “I’ll be there in 30 minutes.”

After removing the console, Jimmy showed me that the gearshift cable had come loose from the tab connecting it with the shifter. The bushing holding the cable eye in place had broken, allowing the cable to come free.

Jimmy said he would order a new bushing and should have it the next day. Meanwhile, he left the console off so I could keep the cable in place whenever I had to shift gears.

As long as the gear was in Drive I didn’t have to worry about the cable. But if I wanted to shift to Reverse or into Park, I would have to hold the cable with my right hand while reaching over to shift with my left hand.

By the time I got home, I had solved the problem of having to hold the cable while shifting. I quickly went into the house, rushed to the bathroom and found what I was looking for in the wastebasket.

I know Ginny likes to toss her chewing gum in the trash can after the flavor has left. There, stuck to the plastic bag liner, were two lumps of green gum. I discreetly chose the correct one and took it back to the car.
Carefully, I pressed the chewing gum against the cable where it was loosely connected to the shifter. With that done, I tried shifting from Park to Drive. The gum-covered cable held in place.

I drove like that several times during the next day. Meanwhile, I had texted Jimmy to let him know of my chewing gum solution.

That’s when he sent his smiley-faced response suggesting my possible redneck qualities.

I don’t deny my redneckedness. I’ve been practicing chewing gum and baling wire solutions for years.

On the other hand, I was glad when Jimmy showed up to install the new bushing.

I may be a redneck, but I know when I’m in over my head.
Thanks again, Jimmy.

Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189,