Life Hacks, Circa 1978

Posted: September 13, 2017 in Amazing and Interesting Stories, Great Ideas, Humor, Inspiration, Inventions
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Life·Hack

– a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.

We’ve all read about life hacks, those helpful bits of advice aimed at making our lives easier. And although Life Hack is a fairly new term, the actual act of coming up with better ways of doing things is as old as man himself. Or herself. You get the gist.

Hell, as a Southern Ohioan I’ve seen cars with wooden bumpers, duct taped windshields and cooking smokers made from filing cabinets, so I can relate to redneck ingenuity as much as the next guy.

Anyway, this whole “life hack” thing reminded me of a guy I knew in college we called Muggs. Dude was always bending the rules, sometimes in minor ways, other times in major ways. I’ll give you three examples.

First off, the Muggs was cheap as hell. He was so tight that when he smiled his kneecaps moved. Anyway, he never tipped and would never pay for anything, including stamps. When sending a letter, he’d put the address he wanted the letter to go to as the return address, then put his address as the main address. Then he’d go uptown and drop his letter in the mailbox without a stamp, which would then be returned to the person in which he intended to receive it in the first place. Diabolical. Incredibly, it worked. Keep in mind the cost of a stamp was 13¢ back then. Good God.

As for me, I’d always been taught you shouldn’t mess with the federal government, so I didn’t.*

*If you don’t count the mailbox killing spree I went on in high school with my idiot friends. 

Another life hack Muggs’ wild imagination came up with was the in-car bar. Hear me out on this one, because it’s ingenious, wildly inappropriate and probably illegal. Muggs went to an auto parts store and bought a new windshield washer container for his car, the one that sits under the hood. He bought new tubes that take the cleaning fluid to the windshield as well. Then he installed the new container and redirected the tubes under the dash and through the air vents in his dashboard.

See where this is going yet?

Next, Muggs filled the container with whiskey, so whenever he wanted a drink he’d simply put a cup under the vent, hit the button that turns on the windshield wiper cleaner, and let the booze poor into his cup. If he got pulled over he just closed the vent. That’s wild, man. I remember that before he told us about this I always wondered why he had a cooler of ice in his front seat with nothing else in it.

Bottom line, Muggs was an evil genius. Hell, I’m pretty sure that’s so original there’s no law against it.

Muggs was also in a frat (pretty sure it wasn’t sanctioned or anything) that held a yearly raffle to raise money for “charity”, and by “charity” I mean a big end-of-the-year bash with a live band, booze and plenty of co-eds. Of course Muggs was in charge of the raffle. I remember guys selling chances to win a used car for $5, and they’d sell these tickets for months. Problem was, nobody ever saw anything other than a photo of the car, and every year the big winner was somebody’s uncle from Bardstown, Kentucky or somewhere. Every year at the party the winner would be announced by Muggs:

“And the winner is . . .  drumroll please . . .  Charlie Starkweather of Saluda, North Carolina! That’s my uncle! I’ll see that he gets his 1973 Lincoln Continental Town Car!”

I can’t say this with certainty but I’m pretty sure there was never a car and that the big raffle was 100% profit, minus the cost of buying the tickets.

Muggs, man. God knows how much he pocketed for himself.

As for me, I was taught my own little life hack a couple years ago when I tried to cancel a hotel room in a small coastal town at the last minute. Here’s my phone conversation:

“Hello, Blue Surf Hotel. Charlie speaking.”

“Hey Charlie. This is Dave Shoemaker. I made reservations for Thursday night but I need to cancel. Something’s come up.”

Note: I could have said I had an emergency but I never tempt fate, which may have then handed me an actual emergency just for spite. Fate can be a real bitch. Anyway . . .

“Sorry old buddy, but cancellations have to made 7-days in advance. I know it’s a pain in the butt but the owners here are really strict about it.”

It was apparent to me I was talking to an older gentleman, as he had a raspy, deep voice with a slow southern drawl. Dude sounded exactly like I’d expect Old Man River to sound. Anyhoo . . .

“Seven days? I just made reservations yesterday! That makes no sense.”

“I know, I know. They make no exceptions though. Very strict folks. I’m very sorry.”

At this point I’d just kissed $155.79 goodbye since they had my credit card number and all. But then . . .

“Why don’t you reschedule, old buddy? Maybe sometime in August?”

“Not sure why I’d do that, Charlie. I’ll be long gone by then. That would do me no good at all.”

“You sure? You could reschedule ya know.”

Now I’m a little exasperated.

“Charlie, don’t you get it? I won’t be anywhere near Ocracoke on August 15th. I don’t want to reschedule.”

“Well, I’d think about rescheduling anyway, for say, August 15th. Then if something comes up you could cancel. You know, as long as you did it at least 7-days in advance.”

Realization . . . slowly . . . sinks  . . . in. My skull is a little thick, ya know.

“You know, Charlie, that’s a good idea. I  think I will reschedule. Let’s say August 15th.”

And so I did. And I also cancelled on August 7th. Life hack, man. Thanks Charlie.

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