We take so much for granted these days. Turn on the switch and you get light, twist the handle and you get hot water, walk into any kitchen and find a corkscrew.
I grew up camping. Partly for the tradition, partly because it makes for a cheap vacation, and partly because it makes you appreciate modern conveniences. When you have to cut the wood and make a fire to heat water so that you can wash your dishes, that becomes a great reminder to turn off the hot water at home when you’re not using it.
Last week, I found myself “camping out” in yet another hotel room. In many ways, hotels aren’t that different from camping. You have a suitcase instead of a backpack, and a microwave instead of a fire; but it’s still a version of “you” with a handful of “your things” in a foreign environment.
I had a full 24 hours off, so for dinner I elected to go buy a can of almonds, some cheese, and a bottle of wine. The one thing I did not have – and did not think to purchase – was a corkscrew.
I should probably set the stage in a little more detail. On this trip, I didn’t have a car. This meant a two-mile walk to the nearest Chevron, which took over an hour and involved two trips across a four-lane highway, which is tantamount to playing “Frogger” but with one’s self as the frog. Therefore, going back to the gas station in hopes that they might have a corkscrew was not an option.
I am a trained aviator. In flight school, they drill in the edict to “use your resources”. But unfortunately, the front desk, the housekeeping staff, and the maintenance department didn’t have one corkscrew between them. And let’s be honest here, you can only ask for a corkscrew so many times before people start offering you 800 numbers.
If you’ve never Google’d the phrase “open a wine bottle without a corkscrew,” I highly recommend it. Mankind is an ingenious – and largely alcoholic – species.
The first option was simplicity itself. I don’t know if it actually works, but apparently if you strike the wine bottle firmly and repeatedly against a wall the sloshing will gradually work the cork out. Since I was in a hotel room, several hours of slowly and rhythmically pounding a wine bottle against the wall seemed an inconsiderate choice. Amusing, but inconsiderate. All those years in Boy Scouts I carried a Swiss Army knife with what I thought was a completely useless corkscrew on it, and now here I am.
Another option involved converting a wire coat hanger into a pair of tiny claws. I also found detailed instructions on creating a six inch long, ½ inch diameter dowel, and tapping it with a hammer until you drive the cork into the bottle. Then you “up-end” the bottle so the cork will float away from the neck while pouring the entire bottle of wine into the decanter. But this begs the question: who has – or can fabricate – a six inch dowel, a hammer, and a decanter; but no cork screw?
I swear I’m not making this up.
There were ideas involving shoe horns, butter knives, and drills, but the one that caught my attention was “the screw method” – pure genius. The individual behind this must have been as desperate as the guy who ate the first lobster.
Now this method assumes you have a Leatherman Multi-Tool, which I do. In a nutshell you find a screw, twist it into the cork, and use the pliers to pull it out. The hard part is finding the right screw. You obviously need one with a pointy tip and large threads. But in a hotel room you’re only option is to “borrow” a screw from something else, and unfortunately, you don’t know what kind of screw it is until it’s out.
Take the humble outlet cover. No good. Every one of them, it turns out, has a flat end. And the “screw” that holds the handles onto the dresser drawers? Also a bust – those are actually bolts. I’d also say that 75% of the screws in the window frame, air conditioner and bed are either decorative, or have that stupid little swale (the window frames in particular) to prevent removal. The majority of the screws in the phone, TV, and fridge are either plastic, or too short to be worth a shit. And the ceramic bastards that hold the commode to the floor break REALLY easily. The little gold balls on the lamps aren’t screws at all, they’re nuts. But whatever that metallic thing is that falls off inside the lamp when you remove the nuts sounds a lot like a screw. We’ll never know. The fire detectors don’t make use of screws at all. They largely use epoxy to hold them to the ceiling.
BUT… If you look under the coffee table, those things are held together with good old wood screws.
Next time I might try tapping it on the wall for a few minutes just to see. If nothing else whomever comes to the door to complain might have a corkscrew.