When I was a kid, anytime I ever got sick I would spend my day on the couch watching old movies and MacGyver. I was always amazed at some of the things Angus MacGyver was able to do. He was the first person who made Science fun for me. It took me a long time to realize it was actually the actor Richard Dean Anderson following a script. Even then I didn't want to admit it - I had a crush on MacGuyver for his rugged good looks and natural charm. I didn't know who this Richard Dean Anderson guy was.
MacGyver taught me that there are always things around that can be used in unusual ways in order to accomplish a task at hand. I watched him plug a bullet ridden radiator by cracking an egg into it. The egg cooked and plugged the holes. I saw him carve plaster out of a wall in order to duplicate a hand print on a biometric device. Once, he lassoed a rat with thread in order to pull a small homemade chemical bomb into a wall space and blow it up when he and a female were kidnapped. He could also kick butt when he needed to - but his brilliance insured that those moments were rare. He was smart, funny, handsome and educational... though a lot of his stunts wouldn't have worked in real life. I didn't know that, and even if I had, I wouldn't have cared.
The first time I pulled a MacGyver-ism I was fairly young, around 8 years old. I didn't want my parents to know I was up late reading, so I would sneak down the hallway and steal thread from my Mom's sewing machine and a thumb tack from the cork board. I would push the thumb tack into the wall to hold up a drawing I had done just below the level of the light switch. Then I tied one end of the thread to the door handle and wrap a rubber band around it to hold it snugly in place. If the door handle turned, so did the knot in the string. Then I would bring the string down and under the thumb tack, pull it up toward the switch, and tie the other end into a loop over the switch itself. When the door handle turned, the knot would turn on the door handle, causing the string to grow taught and pull down on the switch. The light would turn off and I would be snug in bed the whole time. The thread was thin enough to not even be noticed as it hung from the door handle. The tack looked like it's only purpose on the wall was to hold a picture I had drawn. Everything looked normal, but everything had a purpose.
Mom got an alarm that had a high piercing scream when touched. It was an interesting device... it had a metal harness that, when attached to any other piece of metal, would act as a conductor for the alarm. If she placed that harness on a door handle, any slight touch to the other side of the door handle would cause the high pitched scream to wail. It was also a motion sensor, but luckily it only did one or the other, not both at once. One Christmas she wanted to keep me in my room so they could bring down the Christmas gifts. I didn't have a bathroom in my bedroom, and I had to pee pretty badly. I knew I needed to find a way out of my bedroom without setting off the alarm. It didn't take much thought.
I loosened the brown leather belt around my waist and looped it through itself. I placed the loop over the door handle, wrapped the leather around the loop several times, and then pulled on the end of the belt, sinching it around the handle. I turned with a twist, the door handle turned with it, and I pulled. The door swung silently open.
I went to the bathroom and went back to my room - and then changed my mind. I walked straight to the Christmas tree, scrawled a note on a napkin, and tucked it into the branches of the tree, fully visible. Only then did I go back to my room, take the belt off of the door handle, and go to bed. My parents couldn't figure out how I had done it.
When I got older I found ways of getting myself into more trouble than I could dream of. I was a rebel at heart. Each time something was taken away from me, I would repeat the offense and have something else taken away. I knew that eventually it would get to where there was nothing left to take away. I was eager to make it to that point because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it - and I did.
I hid my contraband in cardboard boxes in the garage for a while, but they quickly started to smell like gas. It's hard to read a good book that smells like fuel, or eat chips and dip when they taste like a mixture between oil and petrol. I even had all of my clothes taken away from me except a nightgown, one pair of jeans and a shirt, a bra, a pair of underwear, one pair of socks, and my favorite pair of boots. I was told many times that if my jeans were ever found off of my body, they would be shredded into tiny little pieces. I just made sure that never happened. I hid my clothes when I changed into my nightgown.
My parents had a few vices they always stuck to. They didn't drink alcohol, they wouldn't cheat at board games, and they never snooped in Christmas presents. I took a cardboard box from the garage and wrapped it with Christmas paper. Then I wrote on a small card "Merry Christmas Mom and Dad" and attached it to the front of the box. In the back I taped pieces of wrapping paper in two loops, where the box could be opened and closed. Then I slid a pencil between the two paper loops, holding the box closed. Each night when I got home and changed into my nightgown, I would wash, dry, fold and store my clothes in that cardboard box - right along with several other pairs of jeans, socks, underwear, bras and shirts. The box was then placed on the tallest shelf in my closet with the tag facing out, the pencil facing the back of the closet. My stash was never discovered.
Then I ended up getting too much contraband. I needed somewhere else to hide it. Back to the cardboard boxes I went. I brought in two good sized boxes and set them up light nightstands next to the twin sized mattress I had on the floor. I put a lamp on top of one and my only electronic device, an alarm clock, on top of the other. I left them completely empty for a while, knowing my parents would be checking them for items. I tested this by placing a hair over the edges of the closed cardboard box flaps and sticking it in place with a drop of water on each end. For weeks, intermittently, when I came home the hair had been moved, informing me that they had looked inside the box and found nothing. When finally that hair stopped moving after a few months, I began to store items there. That was where I kept my makeup, hair dryer, skirts, high heel shoes, artwork, pencils and paper. Those things were never discovered.
The day I moved out, two days after I turned 18 years old, my Dad handed me a suitcase.
"I know you have stuff hidden, but I want to know where it is. I'm not moving until you're done packing. Whatever you can fit into this suitcase, you can take with you. The rest is ours."
My yearbooks went in first as a flat bottom. I started pulling items out of all of the hiding places in my room, including under the bottom drawer of my empty dresser, behind the empty book shelf, under the pulled up corner of the carpet and small cache spots out in the yard. By the time I was done I had a large pile of items I was going to have to leave behind. I could have filled up the suitcase twice. Not a word was said...
Years later, my MacGyver-isms saved my life. When I was kidnapped and locked up for twenty three and a half hours, my time in front of the television as a kid teamed with the ingenuity I used in my teen years were the only things that kept me from panicking at that moment. I knew because of Angus MacGyver that there was a way out of this, just as he always found a way out of his situations. I know that sounds silly, and somewhat stupid, but that is the case. Several ideas kept me focused and sharp, paying careful attention to my surroundings, and using the items within my reach to set up possible means of escape.
I did manage to escape, or I wouldn't be here today writing this blog. It's an amazing story and one I'm quite proud of. I just don't have the time the story would deserve in order to do it justice. Not today...
but eventually I did. Find chapter 1 here.