And that’s exactly why I love a Swiss Army knife.

I’ve just discovered the magnifying app on my iPhone.

You simply go to Settings, scroll down, slide right, face north, turn left and double click. Or triple click?  Dead simple though it may be, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to find this app when I need to defuse a bomb. 

And that’s exactly why I love a Swiss Army knife.

With its iconic red case and deeply reassuring Swiss flag emblem, it’s a beacon of simple utility.

I may not carry one in my purse everyday but, even on just an overnight trip, I’m packing one. Someone has to. There will come, as there always does, an emergency.  And it’ll be something unpredictable, something fixable, if only – alas! – we had the right tool.

“Thunder’s got a stone stuck in his hoof!  What shall we do?”

Lucky for Thunder, my Swiss Army knife has a hoof cleaner.

Just hooked a steelhead that you’re releasing?

Step aside while I dislodge the hook with my hook disgorger.

“What?! We’re marooned on a remote island with no shelter?”

Fortunately, I have a wood saw on my Swiss Army knife. I’ll have a lean-to up in no time.

Want to combine resourcefulness with cirrhosis?

Truth be told, I use my Swiss Army knife mostly for cleaning gardening dirt from under my nails but one of these days I’m going to figure out exactly what that marlinspike feature is for.  Or maybe I’ll use my knife for one of its original purposes: opening a can of beans while in the trenches. The important thing is that I have one. I have the tools of self-sufficiency; of problem solving. And of diversion – whittling anyone? Want to combine resourcefulness with cirrhosis? That miniature corkscrew works a charm.

… an innovation involving the spring mechanism.

The Swiss Army knife wasn’t the world’s first multi-use pocket knife. Before the introduction of the Offiziersmesser – the German word for officer’s knife – there were ‘Sheffield contrivances’, British  pocket knives with rudimentary additions. In the late 1800s, a handful of companies were supplying the military of various governments with a standard issue soldier’s knife. Eventually, a Swiss surgical equipment manufacturer took a stab – pun totally intended – at producing these multi-use knives. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy when they hit upon an innovation involving the spring mechanism. Thus was born the Schweizer Offiziers und Sportmesser – Swiss Officer’s and Sports – knife that we know and love today. 

Photo by Wenger

We know these knives under the names of Wenger and Victorinox but the parent company is Victorinox. In 1909, the surgical manufacturer renamed his company to commemorate his mother, Victoria. The ‘inox’ part is based on ‘acier inoxydable’, the French term for stainless steel which the company introduced in 1921.

… two pound, 87 implement, 141 function knife …

If you want the ultimate, multi-function knife, you’ll want to get your hands on the Wenger 16999 Giant. It’s no longer being manufactured, but this two pound, 87 implement, 141 function knife does it ALL!  Amazon reviewers weigh in on the effectiveness of the Hadron Collider function, or the inflatable life raft feature. The lemon zester got lukewarm reviews and there are warnings that the amputation function can be accidentally deployed. A plus? A reviewer was pleased with his results when he affixed his 16999 Giant to his Roomba and the device went around the house performing small repairs. The toaster oven feature, however, was a disappointment.  

There’s a used one for sale on Amazon but I’m saving my $9,000. for the 17000 Giant.

It’s rumoured to feature wifi.

This week’s question for readers:


Now, in return, will you do something for me? Will you sign up for The Plain Jane, my newsletter? You can ignore it, if you want, when it shows up in your inbox every few weeks, but my rotten kids will think I’m a star if I have a decent subscriber list. 

Make sure you add to your email address book.

Here’s further incentive to sign up: PRIZES!!!

Submissions to last week’s question:

Love ’em or hate ’em? Own one? Wish you did?

Love ‘em. Something about open air motoring that wires you directly to nature. You’re linked to reality when your upper body is freezing wet in inclement weather, while your lower half remains warm and toasty. I much prefer engaging the authenticity of the environment than cosseting in an artificial cocoon. You will never discover your true character closeted in the thermal blanket of a holographic deck. I adore the unforgettable scent and scattering of autumn leaves, and the gentle caress of warm breezes as I meander through twisty roads winding into a sunset. Such is living topless with elan!

 Sam Louie

I think convertibles are best summed up by my step-daughter.  Upon her first trip in the car, she announced: ‘I have already developed an emotional attachment to this vehicle’.  When she goes on a drive with her dad just for the sake of going on a drive she says, with a huge smile on her face and hands in the air,  ‘This must be what it feels like to be a dog!’ There is a carefreeness about it, sun on your face and wind in your hair, while living in a beautiful city, it’s  a powerful combination.

Trish Jinks

Nothing was better than feeling the wind in my hair when I was 19 driving my 1937 BSA Scout 4 seat green convertible. Since then I have owned a white 1967 Honda S800, a red 1960 MGA, a red 1987 VW Golf, a blue 2005 Smart  for two and currently a blue 2018 Smart electric. All of the cars were, and are, convertibles. I still love that feeling of the wind blowing but sadly at 80 I have no hair left! Long live the convertible! I will drive nothing else. I feel a poem coming on.

Dr. Peter Munns

I bought an old convertible .So grand I almost cried. I drove that old convertible. Until, at last, it died. I didn’t get another one. Although I knew I coulda. Looking back I wonder. If perhaps I maybe shoulda.

Lionel Jinks

In 1988 my husband and I bought the new Saab convertible. It was a gorgeous car (white with navy leather interior) and rode like a dream. We took it on many road trips in BC and the US, with the top down whenever weather permitted.  People often looked admiringly at the car but the best reaction was from my six year-old niece when she came to visit.  As we exited the airport terminal and she saw the car, her eyes widened, her voice dropped two octaves as she breathed, ‘ooh, a convertible’.  She spent her whole visit riding in the back seat, sometimes with arms outstretched and sunglasses on, playing her role of Queen. My husband took it out duck hunting every weekend and one day came out of the lodge to see a bear climbing on the car roof!  ICBC got such a kick out of the story that, once they stopped laughing, they gave us full credit for a new roof. We reluctantly sold the car in 2006 but last heard in 2014 that the Saab still lived in Courtenay under Collector Status.  I hope the new owner enjoys her as much as we did.

Claire Robertson

I have wanted a convertible since 1965 when one of my close friends in Toronto bought one of the first Mustang convertibles – the 1964 1/2. suzukiI am now 78, and am delighted that I have been driving a convertible for about 25 years (NOT my ‘summer car’, but my ONLY car) – first a bright green Suzuki Sidekick, then a Cabrio, and now my wonderful dark blue WV  Beetle with a taupe roof. Summer or winter, if sunny, the top is down. There is nothing that I love more than the wind in my hair (and not on a bike, as you mentioned, Jane).

Jean Lawrence

I bought my first convertible, a used 911 Porsche, when I was 31 and had made some money from working.  I just bought my third one two weeks ago at 51. My third 911 is the most amazing car! I would never not have a convertible, there is a romance with nature driving it.  It is hard to describe … the sun, sunglasses on, the big blue sky.  I always feel young! 

Marcus New

As a 10 year old in 1949, I read of Nancy Drew flying down the California Highway, her blonde hair blowing in the wind, driving  her blue roadster on her way to solving a crime. For the next 55 years I saved and dreamed of a blue open air automobile. Finally, in celebration of my 65th birthday a metallic blue Volvo C-70 is mine. My hair is now white, but this driver is super happy to enjoy  top down  drives in the great Vancouver summertime.

Bonnie Kyle

In 1960 my husband purchased our first car — a second hand Karmann Ghia convertible previously owned by his employer.  Over the moon we were, and over our budget, but what a thrill to own a car as special as this little two door. As I recall it was equipped with only one seat belt, but what the heck, passengers were always replaceable, I guess.  In those days there were no rules governing infant car seats either.  I learned the hard way a few years later that if you braked sharply in an emergency, the hinged back of the passenger seat flew forward, catapulting said infant seat and occupant forward into the footwell beneath the glove compartment!  To this day when I brake suddenly, my arm automatically flies out to save my passenger.  With the arrival of our third child we had to say goodbye to this much loved car, but not before a wonderful road trip to Los Angeles that cost us a mere ten dollars in gas!  It was hard to believe even then.  Those were the days!

June Macdonald

I love my convertible. The car is garage-kept over the winter and I bring it out when the weather turns to summer and there is no rain in the forecast. I have a rule that the top MUST be down if the outside temperature is 20C or above, and I always have a spare hat for any unprepared passenger. I have learned to drive slower and enjoy the ride – and to use all my senses on the journey. You can appreciate (and occasionally dislike) the smell of your route while also admiring the sights along the way! Happy Summer!

Sandra Gore

On my way to California, 1983, blew a rod on my Suzuki jeep. Came home and borrowed my brother’s big car. If it wasn’t a convertible, it would have been what we called a beer wagon. My best friend and I had the most fun that summer because of that car. Men were totally impressed with the red leather interior. It was a crappy car, but it was a convertible. Enough said.

Terry Malakoff

Our family had a Pink Cadillac convertible, no mind to a Prairie winter.  In the late fifties, our big summer holiday, besides the Calgary Stampede, was a visit to the Badlands at the Red Deer River. Our Dad would flick the switch, the black convertible top would fold up, roll down, and Elvis Presley would blare throughout the valley.  Pink Cadillacs have survived through Mary Kay and Elvis. In April, 2022, two local senior residences joined together to produce an Elvis concert tribute headlining Steve Elliott, aka, Elvis. Three hundred excited seniors toe tapped and reminisced. Outside the church I had my photo taken with that Pink Cadillac.

Vivian Jervis

Growing up in the 1960’s and 70s my sister, brother and I enjoyed the convertible experience. Lucky us! Jump ahead to 2018, my husband bought me a Mercedes convertible. The look on our granddaughters’ faces as the three of them sat in the back seat, hair blowing wildly, wind in their faces, and their squeals of laughter was priceless!  They enjoyed being picked up from school with the top down. Ambulance attendants once chatted it up with the three of them at a stop signal! Crossing guards would comment, “Nice chauffeur gramma!” My hat is always under the front seat; you can’t worry about your hair  driving with the top down!

Janice Brown

I loved my early 70’s candy apple red VW beetle convertible.  Seeing an ad in the paper, I went with my dad to Kitsilano and said, “I want this car”.  Lo and behold when I popped the trunk it had 20 empty beer bottles inside. When putting the top down the soft top was so high that I couldn’t see when changing lanes. After hearing a honk, I would slowly move back into my lane. Finally, I had enough and decided to sell it.  A young girl and her dad came to see the car,  and she said “I want this car”.  Away they went.  Just like when I bought it.

Mary Montague

My love for convertibles started in high school when I was lucky enough to get a used, orange 1975 MGB.  It wouldn’t always start, and when the engine made strange sounds, I would just turn the stereo up. Eventually, that was replaced with a burgundy 1979 MGB, which would drip water on my left thigh whenever it rained. Needing more reliability, I endured a long convertible hiatus, with sunroofs being my only view of the sky. Several years ago, I thought it would be nice to get another rag top.  Various old TR5s, TR6s and 560SLs tempted me, but I wisely opted for a used 328 BMW hardtop convertible … because they work!  All of these convertibles had another thing in common – they all had manual transmissions. Stick shifts are another vanishing luxury, but they are good anti-theft devices.

Adam Brosgall

I have owned my 2002 Inspiration Yellow retro Thunderbird for 17 years and for those who have never driven a convertible, you are truly missing out.  Our air-conditioned and sound-proofed SUVs insulate us from the sounds and smells experienced by convertible drivers.  That being said, I do not drive my convertible when the outside temperature is above 25C as this is akin to sitting in a lawn chair on hot asphalt with no shade!  And yes, driving through the Massey Tunnel at rush hour is harrowing, at best, but try it with the top down for a real terror inducing experience.  My daily driver now sits for six months of the year as I wait for the sunny days  to return and I can once again enjoy top down driving.  

PS: I do own a SUV for the rain and snow seasons.

Geoff Fairfax

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.