We're deviating from our normal with today's life lesson and getting right down to business. Not "handy" by trade, I'm remarkably resourceful and it's served me well. This one is all about being prepared for your life and what may unexpectedly find you...don't get caught unawares.
About two weeks ago, I was told (admittedly for the third time in a month) that my rear driver side tire was low. I'd fill it, but it would deflate again, and it was determined that the seal was broken and it was just slowly leaking air. So, one of my favorite friends on the planet, graciously changed my tire (twice) the second time patiently explaining to me the process. I paid attention, even to the little details like when he said, "Tighten the lugnuts in a star pattern" and I filed it away for a another day.
Well, my McAwesome friend left town and no more than 24 hours later I was standing mouth open in front of Starbucks holding my Venti latte wearing flip flops and a tank top in the blustery 44 degree morning air greeted by the pancake that was left of my tire. Time to retrieve the file. Many minutes later... I did not officially time the process, the spare was triumphantly mounted and I was glowing with irrational pride. I'd like to thank the man in the Chevy Equinox who shouted "Give 'er hell!" as I wrenched the lug nuts loose. His "encouragement" may have contributed to an unwise and highly emotional swift kick to my fender.
So, clearly my car maintenance skills needed the tune-up, but having some Boy Scout style survival skills and basic knowledge of the things we interact with on a daily basis is highly valuable. Let's start on the odd side of the equation and the situations you'll find yourself in on a rare occasion and the tools and tips you should have with you. I'll begin the magic that is the bandana. There are literally dozens of uses for a common bandana. For example, you can use it as a sling, say... for your arm. Or you can use it as a sling, say... to throw things. Like perhaps rocks at that rabid beaver that's attacking your Boy Scout leader. Don't laugh. It happened.
Tourniquet, trail marker, signal flag, did somebody forget their coffeemaker in the woods? The bandana makes an excellent coffee filter or pasta strainer. I realize that isn't an "emergency" per say, but it tiptoes near red alert if it means I won't get caffeine. Dust rag, cooling rag, and for those of you with delicate bottoms, it can be used as toilet paper. I would only recommend that as a one-time use but leaves (of the non poison ivy variety) are a better option. It can tie off a guy line and can also be a strap in an emergency. How better to check the direction of the wind? Yes, the bandana is your friend.
Other random facts? A professor in my seventh grade science class once told us that to calculate the rough temperature outside you simply add 37 to the number of chirps a cricket makes in 15 seconds. I've actually tested that one - it's pretty accurate. And water supplies? Well, only 1% of the world's water sources are actually drinkable so carry your Iodine tablets. Just two tablets and you can get a liter of water ready to drink in no time. Not to mention four drops of bleach can accomplish the same thing. And if you boil it, as soon as it is boiling it's good to drink. No waiting 20 minutes or 10. If it boils it's in play.
Park by a birch tree - those suckers give off dozens of water in evaporation a day. That's another way to go. And always remember that if you're in distress the number THREE is universal symbol for distress. Three whistles, taps, anything you can do... if you need help, make it known in a threesome.
Always carry a knife, a lighter, a whistle, a flashlight, a compass and some vodka in a flask. Those are just the basics. I have a few Carabiners, extra straps, and parachute cord as well - military grade cord has 550 lbs of tensile strength. Duct tape. I could spend a whole day talking about the uses. My duct tape is reflective (and covered in penguin cartoons.) And chocolate almond butter, but that's for other reasons. Snail slime can act as a stimulant if ingested (I've not tried that one) and snakes are far less a deadly threat than our winged friends - bees, wasps, and hornets. Most hikers are found within 24 hours of being lost and that's comforting because it would take three weeks without food to kill you. (Three minutes without air and three days without water. Another random aside.) But if you do run out of food, don't eat plants. Animals and six-legged insects are a better choice. Oh, and goat's have square eyes... that has nothing to do with anything except that I thought it was interesting.
Those are obviously situations that are rare, but the bottom line is to be prepared and be resourceful in an unexpected situation. Be a person who reads, learns, and is self-reliant. I may never need to know that moss actually can and does grow on all sides of trees (not just north) but I do need to know how to change my windshield wiper blades or to check if a toilet is leaking to add red food coloring and then wait for an hour or so to see if the water has turned pink. Changing air filters and unclogging drains are another skill I have come to know personally. And two wine related tips... you can open a wine bottle with a shoe and if you then spill it all over your carpet you can use a wet rag and an iron to get it out.
Now, go out into the world and do some damage. You've been prepared.