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Caught Short Handed

Being a pint-sized adult has some distinct advantages. The stretching I do on a daily basis to reach items in my kitchen cabinets keeps me limber and flexible. My lack of height makes me appear younger than I really am. I didn’t have to pay the adult price for a movie ticket until I was 20 years old. The appalling lack of leg room on an airplane is never an issue for me. In fact, I can even stand up under the overhead compartments.

Of course, being short is not as glamorous as I am making it sound. There are some inherent problems that come with being an adult who is the height of an average 12-year-old.  In the grocery store, I often have to climb the shelves like a monkey to get items from the top shelf. This is especially challenging if those items are breakable. Because of my diminutive stature, a large portion of my life savings has been spent on buying stepstools and having pants shortened. By far, the most challenging part of being a short adult has been driving.

Since I got my license at the age of 17, I have had to sit on a pillow to drive. Go ahead. Take a moment to laugh before you continue reading. Everyone who saw my height enhancing accessory, including the inspection agents at the Department of Motor Vehicles, has had some type of wisecrack to make.  Renting a car presents a whole new set of problems. On most of our vacations, Oregano has to do all of the driving because I sit so low in the driver’s seat that I feel like I’d need a periscope to see the road.

A few months ago it was time for me to get a new car. Oregano came home with a list of cars that were better suited for petite drivers. I agreed to test drive 3 of those cars and decided on a Volkswagen Beetle. Both the seat and steering wheel are adjustable AND it’s a fun car!  Finally, I don’t need to sit on a pillow. I drive like a big girl now! With so much attention placed on being comfortable in the driver’s seat, there was one area of the car I hadn’t even considered might pose a problem; the hatchback trunk.

On the car’s maiden voyage to the grocery store, I marveled at how spacious the interior of the trunk was as I loaded in my bags. I reached up, closed the hatchback and drove home.  It wasn’t until after I carried the groceries into the house and came back out to our driveway to close the hatchback that I realized I had a problem. Because of the incline of the driveway, I couldn’t reach to close the trunk of my car. On level ground I have to stand on my tiptoes and stretch to grip the handhold of the fully extended trunk. However, there in my slightly sloping driveway, the 6 foot high trunk was a few inches beyond the ends of my fingertips. Not being able to reach something is not a novel experience for me so I didn’t panic. I weighed my options:

  • leave the trunk open, back into the street where the ground is level then close the trunk
  • ask my neighbor to come over and close it for me
  • jump

I chose the latter and successfully closed the trunk after my third leap. Hopefully, none of the neighbors were looking out their windows at the time. I would hate to find out there is some You Tube video of me floating around cyberspace.

Even the slightest incline puts the trunk beyond the reach of my hands.

When Oregano came home from work that night I told him about this unforeseen problem.

“You should keep a stepstool in your trunk,” he suggested.

“I don’t really think that’s a reasonable solution in this situation. First of all, the stepstool will take up a lot of room in the trunk. Second, standing on a stepstool on an incline is a recipe for disaster for me. Third, how do you propose I fold up the stepstool to put it back in the trunk without the hatchback popping open all the way?”

“Good point,” he conceded.

“I just need to think about it. I’m sure I’ll come up with a solution.”

I spent a lot of time crawling around in the trunk of my car with a measuring tape considering my options for a trunk-closing apparatus. The easiest solution would have been to attach some sort of pull string to the underside of the hatchback, but a thorough inspection revealed that there was nowhere to attach the string. I climbed out of the trunk and went back to the mental drawing board.

Later that week, my dad called and asked how I liked my new car. I mentioned the trunk closing issue. My clever, yet not always practical, father suggested, “Why don’t you drill holes and place screws into the plastic in the trunk so that you’ll have a place to attach the pull string?”

While I appreciated his suggestion, I was not willing to drill holes in my new car. There had to be an easier solution to this problem that didn’t involve spending a lot of money or permanently damaging my car. I just needed some inspiration to help me puzzle it out. With the measurements of the existing handholds in my pocket, I dragged Oregano with me to the local Target store.

“What are you looking for?” he asked following behind me.

“I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it. I need something shaped like this.” I held out my hand with the fingers bent.  “Let’s start in the housewares department.”

I scoured the wall of kitchen utensils and within minutes found a tool precisely shaped for my needs. “I’ve got it!” I called victoriously to Oregano .

He wandered back over to me, “What is that?”

“It’s a potato masher. It’s the perfect size and shape. I just measured it. That was easier than I thought.”

Always the analytical thinker, Oregano said, “Honey, I think you’re going to have a problem. It’s going to slip off the plastic handhold because it’s metal.”

“I already thought of that. Follow me,” I said leading him to a different aisle in the housewares department. “Voila!” I said holding up a roll of non-slip shelf liner. “This will do the trick!”

Triumphant, I checked out of Target and headed home to work on my creation. I found the duct tape and 5 minutes later I had fashioned a suitable trunk-closing apparatus. After several test runs to perfect my technique, I called Oregano out to the garage. He stood there shaking his head with laughter and disbelief as he watched me easily extend my arm, pull the trunk within reach, toss the apparatus inside the car and close the trunk.

My homemade trunk closing apparatus. A picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe I should have put this picture at the beginning of the post and saved you from reading a thousand words.

** And now a word from our sponsor**

I’d like to thank Dana the Actress and Chrissy at The Wily Hound for offering me the Inspiring Blogger Award and Peachy Teachy for the Tell Me About Yourself Award. Please take a moment to click on the links to check out their blogs. If you really have the urge to learn more about me, you can check out the Paprika trivia section in this post.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

55 responses »

  1. I have the same problem, as I may just be as short as you are. Your solution cracked me up. 🙂

  2. Brilliant! What innovation! I am 5’2″ on a good day and could relate to so much of this. Just last week I had to interrupt a grocery store worker’s conversation with a customer (that went on and on) to ask if he’d reach the top shelf yogurt for me. AND we just got a Volvo hatchback (same color as your VW!) AND I just discovered I have to stretch to close it. Not so bad but if my back starts to ache I know just what to do.

    Drill holes…that sounds like something my dad would suggest.

    • Thanks, Angie! I had a feeling that anyone short would relate to this post. I’ve also had to resort to asking strangers and store employees to get things down from top shelves. Thankfully, most people are willing to help.

      Enjoy your new car. Good luck with the hatchback 🙂

  3. You are always amusing and this blog is no exception. I have to stretch for my trunk (5’2″) and disabled. But your telling of the story was more like a movie in words instead of pictures.

  4. Can’t wait to read about the construction this year

  5. Absolutely brilliant blog! I love how you were determined to conquer any obstacle in your path. I love your style of writing – it has certainly made me chuckle and fuelled my imagination!

  6. Necessity is the mother of invention. Very creative thinking, Paprika.

  7. Yep, when looking at a car the driver’s seat and the strap/potential place for a strap pull down for the hatchback is a major point of consideration.
    Do you think shorter people are just born smarter and more creative – or become that way out of necessity?
    Funny read, thanks

  8. Excellent solution. That’s an approach that is good for many problems, now just shortness. At almost 5’4″ I am pretty much right on average, but I’m the short one in my family.

  9. Have you ever seen the plastic folding stepladder? They sell them at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I keep one in each closet at home.They’re lightweight, easy to open and close and safe to stand on.

    By some weird coincidence we met the inventor of the gadget on a trip this spring. He is the nicest man! How, do you suppose, does anyone get into a conversation with a stranger about portable folding stepladders?

    • I’ve seen those small plastic stepladders, but haven’t tried one. I do have 2 folding, metal stepladders though – one on each floor of my house. I would be in trouble without them.

      If you are the inventor of the portable, folding stepladder, it’s appropriate to have a conversation about them with strangers. However, if you aren’t the inventor and you’re still talking about stepladders, it might be time to work on your conversation skills

  10. I dated a fellow that was just an inch taller than my 5’6 1/2″ self. I found out when I met his family that he was the tall one in thier clan. I was so amazed when I went to thier house. Where I could just reach up and grab something his sister had to move around a step stool and clamor around on the counter. I never took my height for granted after that!

  11. Nice primitive adaptive aid. I dig the idea of linking to your trivia list from another blog award/chain. Luckily, I remain undiscovered by most, because I don’t think that I could come up with a regular list of seven interesting things about me, which would mean that I would have to start making things up. This would not end well.

  12. I am on the short side myself (5’2″) and I have always said that being short makes you more creative. I learned about leverage and all kinds of engineering stuff by accident just trying to do things. Looks like you have too! Great invention! Don’t you love when it all comes together just right?

  13. Ha ha ha! Quite innovative!

    Nice bug and in a very cool color – congratulations!

  14. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Thanks for the chuckles: ) and LOVE your MacGyver solution – “where there’s a will…” But, if I could make another suggestion? You might try backing the car into the drive so that you use the incline to make you taller (also much easier to see/safer when driving out… ; )

    • Actually, it was a bit of a fluke that I discovered the problem with the trunk. Normally, I would park in my garage which is level, but since I was just unpacking the groceries and heading back out, I decided not to bother pulling the car in the garage. I will definitely keep your suggestion in mind the next time I’m unloading my trunk in the driveway.

  15. You are brilliant, Paprika. I never would have thought of a a solution. I’m so naive, I didn’t even know there was such thing as a potato masher . . .

  16. Ha ha. Maybe you can sell your invention online!

  17. thankyou for posting a blog to entertain us as we drive to Maine! We are both laughing and think the story is adorable!! You are also adorable! Will show Basil pics after we arrive…..BTW, my crv has a hole in that handle for putting a rope!!! Which I need !!! XoxoMIL

    • Glad I could keep you both entertained on your ride to Maine. I had hoped there was a hole for a pull string in the bug. It’s great that your CRV has it. Standing on your tiptoes to reach gets old pretty quickly.

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody

        By don’t you make a suggestion to Volkswagen, I’m sure they’d love your input… (and surely you’re not the first person to have this problem?)

      • I’m certain I am not the only person with this problem, but I doubt there are enough of us out there to cause VW to add a pull string or some other type of method for closing the trunk. It’s worth a shot though.

  18. love it!! I’m short too!! (5’0) and when my husband and I were dating he owned a big pickup. He had to keep a step stool in his truck so I was able to get in!

  19. You should make thousands of them and sell them to grocery stores across the country. Across the world. You know, those places where they invariably put all the stuff we short women need on the bloomin’ top shelf!

  20. PLEASE post a video of you leaping to reach the door.

    I’m impressed with your solution. Very crafty!

  21. You are an absolute GENIUS, Paprika!

    I wish I could see this in action, like Dill Pickle has.

    That was such a creative solution. I am deeply impressed.

    • Thanks, Reggie. Being short has definitely forced me to be creative and have a good sense of humor.

      Everyone one of my friends and family members who have seen the apparatus in action laughs hysterically. I can only imagine what people in public parking lots must think.

  22. LOVE IT! I think you should quickly patent and market it as you are not the only short person out there who might benefit from this gadget!!!!

  23. I have seen this thing in action and the story still cracks me up! Thanks for making me laugh and being an inspiration for thinking outside the box. :0)


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