My last post to the Dictionary before Costa Rica’s unbelievable performance at the World Cup wiped every other thought from my head for a full month was about how to hacer un macgyver, the Costa Rican phrase inspired by the ’80s TV icon. As I wrote, it’s used to describe a low-key way of solving most any problem without getting your proverbial panties in a bunch. A Bangladeshi taxi driver and a hilarious product recall have since given me a few more things to say about this topic.
I was in New York for a meeting. As I gazed folornly at the plastic barrier dividing me from my taxi driver on my way to my hotel, I was just starting to think, I miss Costa Rica, where you can almost always count on your taxista for an interesting chat, when the driver turned around and asked me where I was coming in from that day. He turned out to be delightful and very interested in Costa Rica, which he had seen just that week on a TV show. Is it really full of volcanoes and jungle? Is it beautiful there? Are the people nice? (Yes. Yes. And they’re as nice as can be.)
As we neared Columbus Circle, we saw three fire trucks lined up. “Must be a big one,” I said.
“No, no, NO! This country,” he said, all but shaking his fist at the trucks as we lurched by. “I tell you what happens in this country. Someone drops a cigarette in a trash can here, it makes a little fire, everyone calls the firemen. You know what happens in Bangladesh? Someone throws a little water on the fire, POOSH! It’s done.”
I laughed, thinking: Costa Rica, all the way.
“The firemen in Bangladesh – they are never out,” he went on, bursting with pride. “They sleep all year round. They go through the street once a year, just so you can see them. Rest of the time? Sleep.”
Costa Rica, Costa Rica. I mean, I’m sure Costa Rican firefighters are very good, but the spirit was familiar. I wanted to tell the taxi driver about the concept of the macgyver, one I am sure he would have appreciated, but we arrived at my hotel and that was that.
Later that week, I received, by email, a product recall notice from Wal-Mart regarding the Graco carseat I bought in Maine last year. Oh, no, I thought as I opened it. Is she in danger of being crushed, annihilated, suffocated by manic buckles? Here is what the email said: This recall is due to food and dried liquids can make [sic] some harness buckles progressively more difficult to open over time or become stuck in the latched position. If a harness buckle becomes difficult to open or stuck in the latched position, a caregiver could be delayed from removing a child from a car seat in the event of an emergency.
I mean. Really. What would MacGyver do? Get out a damp sponge, perhaps.
I wanted to buy a ticket to New York and find my taxi driver and show it to him. I thought about him up there in that towering city, watching TV in a little apartment, wondering about the volcanoes and jungles of Costa Rica, wistful for the drowsy firefighters of Bangladesh. I wish I had taken an extra ride around the block to tell him about the beauty of un macgyver. Life, like certain taxi rides, goes by too fast.
*My title is partially robbed from David Sedaris, at whose pithy, poignant shrine I pray daily.