One of the great inventions of the Industrial Age comes for sale in a little blue can and a red cap and a little straw attached to the side by a piece of tape. I'm talking, obviously, about WD-40, that amazing uber-lubricant that penetrates and displaces water and gets rusted-together parts to free up and move again. WD-40 saves my life on the job on a nearly weekly basis. (Well, not literally, but it ends up allowing me to fix things that would otherwise be unfixable. How awesome is WD-40? Well, here's a contrast for you: when I tell people I'm a maintenance/handyman guy by trade, they will usually say something speculative about how often I use duct tape. In all honesty, I almost never use duct tape - I remember using it one time in the last six months – but I use WD almost weekly.
I used to always lose the little straw that came with it (I suspect that future alien archeologists, when digging up the remains of our civilization, will be baffled when they find thousands of WD-40 straws in the places where our cities used to lie), until I realized that WD's cap now comes equipped with two little divots, not unlike the indentations in the side of an ash tray, into which one is supposed to snap the little straw. But even that's no longer an issue because a while back the fine folks at WD redesigned their can so that the straw is now attached to a separate nozzle so it can't come off; and what's more, that nozzle can be flipped up into position to use the straw, or it can be flipped down so you get the "wide dispersal" spray pattern, if that's what you want.
I've got WD-40 on the mind right now because I just got done fixing the hood latch on my car with it. At some point the latch trigger mechanism – the business end of the little cord that is tensioned when you pull on the hood release in the passenger compartment – became so rusty that it wouldn't spring back into place when I opened the hood once, earlier in the year. So I was in the unenviable position of having my hood secured by nothing but the secondary latch, the one you reach under to open the hood the rest of the way after you've popped the hood release from inside. I tried coating that mechanism with WD, to no avail, but my problem there was that I needed fairly specific application of WD, and wouldn't you know it – my WD can at home was missing the damned straw! So I made a mental note to pick up one of the new-fangled cans of the stuff (I have a few at work, but none at home) for fixing at some point, and in the meantime, I secured my hood with three bungee cords. Ouch. That's how it went until I finally remembered to grab one of those nifty straw-forever-attached cans of WD; earlier today I got outside and liberally applied the stuff to the moving parts of my hood latch, and after letting it penetrate while I checked my oil (which was fine), I just reached in with a long screwdriver and presto change-o! got the hood latch moving again. I gave it a few opens and closes just to make sure it keeps working, and now I'm back to my hood staying shut the way it's supposed to and not using the bungee cords. This is big, as I have actually had the experience of having my hood fly open while driving before. I don't want to repeat that.
So anyway, the WD lore that always appeals to me is that its name simply comes from the fact that it was the 40th attempt at making a product that did what it was supposed to. And I end up thinking: well, geez! If WD-40 is so awesome, can you imagine what they might have had on their hands if they'd made a few more attempts? We'd have products like this:
WD-41: No mechanical effects, but when consumed counteracts the effects of alcohol in the human bloodstream.
WD-42: No mechanical effects, but when sprayed around the edges of a garden, leaves behind a residual odor undetectable by humans but which completely repels rabbits and groundhogs.
WD-43: No mechanical effects, but you know those beer commercials on teevee that show a humdrum suburban backyard morphing a tropical party paradise at the mere opening of one can of a certain brand of beer? WD-43 does that.
WD-44: Spray it into water, and it turns into wine cooler. (More research is needed on this one, obviously.)
WD-45: Spray it into water, and it turns into Zima. (This formulation was laughed out of the laboratory.)
WD-46: Spray it into wine, and it turns the wine into wine that tastes like it's been sprayed with mechanical lubricant. (Not every formulation does something useful.)
WD-47: When sprayed onto human skin, skin becomes very sticky for about ten minutes or so, but when sprayed onto cloth, the cloth becomes extremely slippery. (This formulation is secretly used by NFL wide receivers for two seasons before the league catches on and outlaws it.)
WD-48: Its only effect is to make Fran Drescher's voice sound like Kathleen Turner's.
WD-49: Spritzed onto a book, it dissolves all but the good parts. (Copies of Twilight and Atlas Shrugged are, of course, completely destroyed.)
WD-50: Makes any man's voice sound like Morgan Freeman's.
WD-51: Brings boring blog posts to a screeching halt before the blogger can finish typing his sente