Growing up in the late 80’s / early 90’s I was completely obsessed with MacGyver. I remember how the family used to gather in front of the TV at 7pm on a Friday night to bask in the glory of that spectacularly high-IQ’d mullet-sporting secret agent.
While I remember bits and pieces of things “Mac” got up to, I can only really recall the in-depth details of 1 specific episode. He was being chased (as usual) and found himself trapped in a blood bank. He needed some sort of ruse to lead the bad guys in the direction of a bunch of booby-traps he’d set. Strategically placed bloody hand prints down the walls and door frames worked a treat. Quite unbelievably the baddies were fooled and (as usual) he managed to escape.
This particular episode clearly left its mark on me as not long after watching it I had done something for which I was expecting to get into trouble. I knew my parents would be furious and so to avoid the inevitable disciplinary action I decided to pull a MacGyver. Without access to a blood bank, I resorted to the next best thing – a tin of red enamel paint I found in the garage. I left “bloody” hand prints all down the side of the house. Once I’d finished my trail-to-nowhere, I climbed onto the roof and hid.
Needless to say, I received two hidings that day; one for the original infraction and the second for the paint trail (which survived for years – my dad has only just recently replaced the garden gate which contained the last remaining hand print).
As extraordinary as he was, though, the one thing that stood out the most for me was the fact MacGyver could do just about anything with his trusty penknife. I wanted that thing so badly. Being only 7, the answer from my parents was an obvious and emphatic “no” (especially after the enamel paint incident). It didn’t stop the daydreams about how amazing it would be to have one and all the things I would be able to do with it.
It was during my MacGyver phase that we went on holiday to the Kruger National Park. My folks had booked a chalet in the main camp, Skukuza, which sported an amazing curio shop stocked with all variety of wildlife-related paraphernalia and outdoorsy knick-knacks – including penknives! I had been secretly saving my pocket money for months to make my dream of owning my own knife a reality.
Perusing the shop, I was on the hunt for one that resembled his – traditional deep-red with the famous gold shield-and-cross emblem stamped on the one side. The model I had in mind sported several blades and various other fold-out implements which would undoubtedly come in useful in the plethora of spy-related adventures which awaited me on the other side of the purchase.
Counting my handful of coins, I came to the stark realisation that I was not going to be able to afford the one I desired. With my parents having just entered the shop, my window of opportunity to make the purchase without their knowledge was closing. I hurriedly settled for a 1-blade model, the handle of which was decorated with a printed zebra-stripe.
Knife in hand, I excitedly ran back to our chalet and disappeared to the bedroom. The silence alerted my parents that something was afoot and mom appeared suddenly to witness me flipping the knife into the air and catching it again. This discovery was met with “if you cut yourself I’m taking that thing away”.
Inevitably, just a few minutes after the warning, a nice deep slice appeared on two fingers. I remember being stunned into silence, more terrified of the fact that my brand new blade was about to be confiscated than the fact I was spouting blood all over the floor. So I did what MacGyver would have done – I came up with a clever plan!
There was an almighty crash as I slammed the bathroom door closed and started crying. Mom glided back into the room and asked what was going on. Between sobs I managed to tell her that I’d caught my hand in the door. In my 7-year-old brain the story seemed plausible but as the saying goes, “a mother knows”, so it was goodbye penknife.
It was returned to me once we’d got back home; however once I had it I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Despite my various attempts, I somehow never found myself in the situations that my hero got himself into and the knife was relegated to performing 2 main functions – sharpening pencils because I couldn’t find my regular sharpener and one time I cut an orange in half. (If you’ve ever tried to clean dried orange pulp out of the inside of a penknife you’ll know why this was a “one time” occurrence).
Wait! There was, in fact, a third function – stick whittling. One can never have enough pointy sticks… Although I guess pencils are essentially just pointy sticks… So I revert to the original count – the knife had only 2 functions. (In full disclosure though, I once threw the knife at a target I’d made and hung in a tree but then realised I would obviously need a tomahawk to achieve the desired effect. Tomahawks are incredibly difficult to source and make secret purchases of as a 7 year old. But I digress…).
Eventually the knife was dumped into a drawer where it lived until it was stolen in a burglary several years later.
Unfortunately it’s not the only pointless purchase I’ve made during the course of my life. I guess that’s how these things work – you convince yourself that you desperately need something and come up with all sorts of arguments justifying the usually expensive purchase, only to discover once you have said item that you didn’t really care for it too much in the first place. It then lives in a junk drawer while you wallow in buyer’s remorse until you eventually forget about it and move on to your next pointless purchase. If only I could start over and rather put all the money I’d spent into my pension! I could probably have retired early…
Then again if I had done that, I wouldn’t have a really long story about a penknife to regale you with!