Horgan: Duke of Duct Tape wears adhesive like badge of honor


It was an unfortunate accident. Two teens out for an innocent drive plowed into my 1993 Honda Civic in a Millbrae parking lot late last month. No one was hurt. There was no malicious intent. Quite the opposite, in fact. The young people were appropriately contrite.

The mishap was reported to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. My car was damaged but driveable. However, the right front end was a mess. What to do before insurance kicked in? The answer was simple: Duct tape.

Yes, that was the solution. No surprise there. Duct tape can address, at least temporarily, so many challenges and problems it would be impossible to list them all.

I have used the handy stuff on all manner of surfaces. My spouse, however, draws the line on utilizing duct tape to repair clothing. So slapping it on tattered Fruit of the Looms is out. Somewhat grudgingly, I have to agree.

But the old, reliable Honda was another story altogether. Even the recent rough weather didn’t limit the duct tape’s effectiveness. It’s a strong adhesive and water-proof, so taping the auto’s damage was a no-brainer.

As a certified suburban Duke of Duct Tape, I continue to swear by the helpful stuff.

Driving a vehicle that’s taped together is a perverse badge of honor in one way because it gives the lie to the canard that everyone who lives here on the pricey Peninsula must be a millionaire by definition.

A duct-taped car is also an unlikely target for potential thieves. Why bother breaking into a heap that’s being held together with what amounts to a bunch of tacky gray bandages?

The auto is actually an ancient jewel, getting about 40 mpg under optimal driving conditions. Duct taping it merely preserves it gently in anticipation of insurance-funded repairs, assuming that comes to fruition, and relatively soon.

A dicey marriage

In spite of all the weeping and gnashing of teeth on display last week when the Trump Administration put an indefinite halt to plans to electrify the Caltrain rail line along the Peninsula, backers of the proposal had to know they were taking a bold gamble when they conveniently hopped into bed with another far more controversial and disruptive project some years ago.

That would be high-speed rail, of course. The fateful decision to allow what were supposed to be super-fast trains to use Caltrain’s tracks from San Jose to San Francisco has proven to be a potential disaster.

The idea was a grand tradeoff: Share the existing commuter line’s tracks in return for the handy use of what turned out to be $647 million in potential federal high-speed funds to assist the move to electrify the Peninsula system.

The agreement also would prevent HSR from constructing its own, separate set of tracks parallel to Caltrain’s that would, by necessity, widen the corridor and create the need for what was said to be a preferred _ and unsightly and divisive _ viaduct/berm option right through much of the Peninsula.

The uneasy marriage was a worrisome arrangement right from the start.

And then there was the tender matter of the sheer cost of the massive HSR project itself, currently said to be $64 billion, and counting. That was the real elephant in the room.

Adamant conservative foes of the proposed fast-train system, which has been slated to link Los Angeles and San Francisco, have long argued that the setup would be a fiscal black hole. Now, with skeptical Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and White House, the flow of federal cash to a dubious project has been stopped.

It was not a shock. Caltrain boosters were cautioned that there could be undesired ramifications if they became locked in a high-speed embrace. And here we are.

John Horgan’s column appears weekly. You can contact him by email at johnhorganmedia@gmail.com.or by regular mail at P.O. Box 117083, Burlingame, CA 94011.