As a man living in the year 2014, I recognize that I spend far too much time staring at screens. Fortunately, I have an antidote to virtual excesses. It’s called the Bronco, and it regularly forces me to summon my frontiersman’s instinct for survival. Trust me that your email inbox will be the last thing on your mind when you’re driving a 5,000-pound machine that intermittently tries to kill you.
While modern vehicles flash error messages and command you to visit a dealer for an electronic colonic, the Bronco likes to fail in spectacularly analog fashion—say, you’re fueling up at the pump and suddenly realize that your shoes are wet. Or, as happened most recently, the clutch linkage falls apart 40 miles from home. At rush hour. In heavy traffic.
This fun challenge occurs as I’m slowing for a yellow light, so I wrestle the shifter into neutral and enjoy a minute or so of icy panic as I wonder what I’ll do when the light turns green. As we all know, the most reviled person on earth is the driver who sits immobile through an entire green light. If I don’t get moving, there’s a good chance that the lady behind me in the Audi will haul me from the driver’s seat and beat me with a chain. As I’m contemplating how I’ll fight her, the calm voice of MacGyver rings in my ear, telling me, “Turn off the engine. Put it in first gear. Use the starter to get it moving, and it might fire up.” I don’t know why ’80s TV adventure-handyman MacGyver speaks to me in times of duress, but it is a power that I have and I’m thankful for it.
Per MacGyver’s instructions, the Bronco starts in gear and I drive to the next turnoff, the parking lot for an Indian restaurant. Optimistically, I go inside and order a bunch of food. By the mullet of MacGyver, tonight I’m bringing home chicken tikka masala.
Back out at the truck, I crawl under the dash and discover that the problem is a small plastic piece. I don’t want to get too deep into car jargon here, but this thingie connects these other two thingamaboppers. And the thingie has a big crack in it that caused it to fall out and make the other parts not touch each other good, so clutch no work. Sorry for the technical language, but there’s no other way to explain it.
So, how do you fix a cracked piece of plastic? Eureka: You melt it back together. This seems like a great plan. I return to the restaurant and borrow a lighter to try to melt-weld my broken part. But I can’t grip the plastic without scalding my fingers, so I grab a pair of pliers from the Bronco and hold the piece in place with those. Now I’m hunched over by the curb, holding a small white object with pliers while heating it with a lighter. Nothing suspicious to see here! Just a guy in the parking lot who looks like he’s smoking crack. I’m a little worried that the restaurant proprietors will step outside to reprimand me, but evidently ordering $80 worth of naan and vindaloo gives you a temporary license to hit the pipe right there on the curb.
Appearances aside, I should’ve known this was a dumb idea since it came from my own internal monologue and not from MacGyver. And indeed, instead of morphing back into shape like the bad Terminator, the broken piece just sort of catches fire and disappears. Whoops. On the upside, I don’t light anything else on fire.
You might suggest that I need a AAA membership. Well, I have one. But it truly doesn’t even occur to me to call a tow truck. The glory of safe return shall be mine alone. That is, with a little help from MacGyver, who asks, “You got any duct tape?” Stupid question, MacGyver. I’m driving a 1993 Bronco. Of course I have duct tape.
With an improvised duct tape tourniquet in place, the clutch pedal miraculously resumes its relationship with the clutch. I grab my food and text Heather that I’ve lashed everything back together and I’m hitting the road.
She texts back, “Is that safe?” I don’t reply, because that’s a stupid question. Of course it’s not safe! I’m driving a giant truck laden with scalding-hot spicy food, and a crucial part of the vehicle is now made of duct tape. I’ve never felt so alive.
I make it home in time for dinner, flush with triumph and 10 percent more manly than I was when I left. As Jay-Z would say, I’ve got 99 problems but a clutch ain’t one. Who wants some baingan bharta? Extra spicy.