11 October 2006

All I Want Is My Duct Tape, Paper Clips, WD-40...

We've been e-mailing for years and all the time more people start sending emails, so those urban legends and jokes that people started sending to one another when e-mail became more ubiquitous never died. There are good ones about how to resist telephone scams, and there's the hoax one about the kidnapping scam in Wal-Mart. Some of them take me back to those terrifying tales my aunt and her pals used to tell each other and me when I was little about girls killed in dramatic scenarios ("...and 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' was her favorite song!"). Urban myths and legends, some cautionary and true, some not, always seem to surface in one medium or another.

That said, I'm not even sure if it fits the same category as an e-mail chestnut but I just opened the WD-40 e-mail, which calls out some of the cures and problems for which people have used it: removing old tape, stripping dried bugs off the front of your car, attracting fish (for some reason this was the paragraph called out in red in the e-mail that came to me). Removing tarnish from silver, keeping pigeons off the balcony ("they hate the smell"), and cleaning shower doors. It's amazing.

Someone sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago that listed a bunch of miracle uses for different products. My hackles went up, though, when the list spelled out specific brands for every product. I'm cynical enough to believe if you traced all the products up the conglomerate tree, you'd probably find one behemoth corporation at the root of it and some brilliant PR wiz kid who came up with the notion of writing and disseminating it. (It wouldn't take so much effort to come up with one unusual use each for several different products.) Yet there's something more organic about the WD-40 one, more mythical. It has the ring of a cliche we all know because it's true.

WD-40 is, after all, a very cool product. It was named for the formula created to displace water (its name stands for "Water Displacement perfected on the 40th try"). Its uses are myriad, tested, and widely accepted. People use it, however, for more than anyone ever intended. Even the WD-40 Web site acknowledges that this product has fans far beyond the expected mechanics and do-it-yourselfers everywhere.

There are enough promises in the WD-40 mythology to incite that tingly, snake-oil salespitch or gold-rush itch, enough to make you wonder: "What if it were really that easy? What if really could help me with all those things -- catching more fish, keeping my shower doors clean, eliminating my arthritis?" Like some magic lantern, we want to ask and ask again, "How much more can you do for me? What would that world look like if you could really do all that?"

The truly magical part about this: All you have to do to find out is go out to your garage or if you don't have one, go buy yourself a can of WD-40, available practically anywhere. Let me know whether you find any truth in the rumors.

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