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Carl Wernicke: Gadgetry Can Be Handy


Those of a certain age remember the enthusiastic TV ads for gadgets developed by a wondrous company called Ronco. These amazing, not available in stores products did everything from catch fish to remove those stubborn stains on clothing.

Some probably did work, but probably not for long. The materials were often inferior, and the problem s you needed solved didn’t need to be solved that often.

However, the ads did offer a new form of entertainment on TV, and brought us the ultimate marketing slogan: But wait – there’s more!

It also led to the stultifying world of infomercials.

Still, I’m happy to say that the world of miracle gadgets lives. And some of them actually work. That clever pump-out device designed to make oil changes in small engines cleaner and easier does. I no longer end up with pools of dirty oil on the shop floor, and I marvel at its cleverness every time I use it.

Recently I had the immense satisfaction of repairing a faulty zipper on an insulated vest that proved useful during our recent freeze events. In the past, disposal seemed the only reasonable response to a faulty zipper, as replacing with a new one simply wasn’t worth the cost or effort.

But then on Facebook my wife found an ad for a miracle zipper repair kit at a very reasonable price, that is, less than the cost of a new vest. Partly out of curiosity, we ordered it, consoling ourselves that if it failed, the cost was minimal.

As usual, when we got it we discovered that it wasn’t quite as simple as it seemed. But the enclosed tutorial, complete with diagrams, educated us on zipper types, problems and repair, and demonstrated a variety of methods.

Of course, it didn’t quite work the way they said it would, as the zipper stop I had wasn’t like the stops in the diagrams. But, by adapting the directions with the help of several pairs of pliers and a couple of screwdrivers, I was able to remove the offending piece and replace with an identical part from the kit, all without stabbing myself in the hand with one of the screwdrivers.

And …  the zipper now works!

Ok, it is kind of hard to close or open, and getting the end into the little connector part is now harder, but it does work, and in addition to saving a useful vest, I gained the knowledge that I am, indeed, a skilled handyman.

Of course, I still have in my toolbox an impressive looking kit designed to allow you to remove stripped screws. I have yet to successfully use it to remove a stripped screw, but I can’t bring myself to throw it out, as it certainly looks as if it should work, and maybe the fault is in me and not the kit.

However, while as a skilled zipper repairman I’m starting to think the fault is not mine, my innate thriftiness won’t let me throw it out. I still remember the satisfaction of going through four or five cans of assorted hardware to find the exact right screw needed to finish a job. Or, at least, a screw close enough to work.

And, maybe, if I try again, that miracle car paint repair kit will buff out that scratch on the fender. It’s already kind of hard to see, if you squint.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.