Wednesday, April 02, 2008

In Praise of Duct Tape

Once, when I was a stupid kid, I had no respect for duct tape. I was hardly introduced to its prowess before my freshman year of college and even then, I made fun of my roommate, Cracker, for using it to construct a crude cabinet system out of cardboard and abandoned pieces of particle board.

But soon, I came to see duct tape's value. That cabinet system held up, and although it was ugly, it got the job done.
I’ve retained exactly two things I learned in college; one, A-1 and tuna make for a good low-budget sandwich and two, duct tape is the bond that holds our fragile society together.

Soon, I found myself using the tape to better objects in everyday life.

I've always carried around a folder in which I keep all the tools that help me as a journalist - phone numbers, notes, pencil and such - but whenever the folder started to deteriorate because of the rugged use, I always had to buy another.
But not so with the folder I received as a birthday present in 1997. Three months after I started using the folder, a rip opened up the middle of it. I sealed it with a smooth piece of the sturdy, metallic adhesive.

Other rips and tears sprouted up in the folder and I covered each one in turn. The folder was ugly, but the duct tape got the job done.

Now the folder is actually more duct tape than paper. Scientists estimate that my folder will be entirely composed of duct tape by the year 2012.

But recently, I realized that I've been using duct tape blindly all these years. I had absolutely no knowledge of who invented the stuff so I decided to find that answer myself with field research. I wasn't going to use fancy tools like "the Internet" or "encyclopedia books."

This is what I discovered: duct tape was invented by the great Dutch explorer Alexander VanDucTappen, who collected the ingredients from each of the Seven Seas in 1585, on the very same voyage in which he became famous for discovering Portugal and for taming the women of the Amazon.

The legend says that one stormy August night, the oceanic phenomenon which would later become known as "El Ni¤o," severely ravaged VanDucTappen's boat, causing a gaping hole in the side.

Amazingly, the ship didn't sink. But, VanDucTappen's crew who considered their captain an incompetent drunk, turned to mutiny because there was no way to fix the ship. But just as VanDucTappen was about to walk the plank, he pulled out a roll of his then-experimental roll of "DucTapp."

He could have easily used the tape to fix the boat and win back his crew's confidence, but VanDucTappen was a vengeful and foolish man who instead tried to use the tape roll as a bludgeon to beat up 30 angry sailors. Needless to say, VanDucTappen died that day. But before he went down, he made sure that his aggressors were sticky.

About VanDucTappen, well, I'm not even sure that he existed. It's just a story that I heard. Well, actually made up. But it really doesn't matter if the story is true or not. What matters is that we appreciate the magical adhesive concoction.

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