"And just as I was about to give her the
gas and go after that son-of-a-gun, I spotted the motor-cycle cop behind
me," young Braxton was saying, when a car drove up to the gas pump.
Gus Wilson, half owner of the Model
Garage and mechanic of the establishment, who had been listening to
Braxton's yarn, stepped over to the pump as the driver of the car thrust out
two hands with eight fingers extended. Gus pumped in the eight gallons,
took a bill, and handed back the change. The car rolled off, with a smiling
wave of the hand from the driver.
Meanwhile, Braxton had been eyeing the
car. As it pulled away he turned to Gus.
"What's the idea of the mirrors that
fellow has on his car?" he asked. "Did you notice them all? There was a
regular mirror inside above the windshield, another one mounted on the left
fender, and still another fixed on a long bracket on the right front door so
he could look in it through the door glass. He must be afraid a cop will
sneak up on him or something!"
"That's all you young fellows think
about." Growled Gus, "Driving like maniacs and watching for cops! That chap
needs those mirrors. He's assistant superintendent at the Vocational School
down the road a piece. He's in charge of the deaf-and-dumb classes, and is
a deaf mute himself. He has to make his eyes do what other people think
they can do with their ears. If you ever pull up behind him and you want to
pass, don't bother to blow your horn. He couldn't bear it. But he'll spot
you right away in his mirrors and pull over anyhow. He always does that
when a car comes up from behind.
"I'd feel a lot safer and surer of
staying out of the cemetery riding with him, than I would with a lot of you
speed demons!" Gus finished, with a grin.
"How do you get that way?" Braxton
snapped. "I can see what's in back of me without any extra mirrors."
"You can, eh?" grunted Gus. "Climb in
your bus a minute." He stepped over to the position behind and slightly to
the left, that would be occupied by a car that was just about to pass
"All right," he called. "I'm a car behind
you. Can you see me?"
Braxton moved his head, first to one side
and then to the other, in an effort to see Gus, but the left rear portion of
the body hid the garage man completely from the inside-mirror view.
Finally, he poked his head, out of the
window and looked back at Gus. "You win," he admitted sheepishly, "I
couldn't see much of a car in just that position."
"Now we'll try again," said Gus, and he
stepped over to the corresponding position at the right rear of the car.
Again, Braxton had to admit a partial
"Now you can see where these extra mirror
would come in handy," Gus pointed out. "And the worst of it is, the blind
spots come right where they are most likely to cause accidents. That is,
when a car is swinging out to pass you on either the right or left. Or if
you happen to be parked at the curb, and you have to back up in order to
clear the car parked ahead of you, you can't see anybody about to step off
the curb right under your wheels.
"Of course," Gus went on, "the size of
the blind spot varies with different body construction, rear and side window
size and so on, but it is there as long as the whole body isn't made of
glass. A wide, curved mirror helps some, once you get used to the curved
"It's funny the makers don't go into the
mirror question more carefully," Braxton observed.
"Well," said Gus, "as long as the public
is willing to rubberneck around to see what's behind, and outside mirrors
spoil the sleek looks of a car, you can bet the makers won't fit them. So,
if you want real rear vision, you've either got to keep on kinking your neck
or have special mirrors fitted."
"They'd be mighty useful to spot cops
sneaking up behind you," Braxton commented with a grin. "Guess I'll look
"Humph!" Gus snorted. "Always thinking
of speeding and cops! Still, a mirror on the left of your car may do
something more important than spot a cop for you. It may save you from
shooting out from a curb right into a car that's passed out of range of your
"Almost got caught that way yesterday,"
"And if you don't fit a special mirror,"
Gus advised, "you can keep out of trouble by glancing in your mirror when
you're ready to start away from the curb. If there's no car in sight, wait
a few seconds, in case a car may have swung into the blind spot as you
glanced at the mirror. If there is a car coming, wait for it to pass in the
same way, meanwhile keeping your eye on the mirror to make sure no other car
will get close enough to slam you when you do swing out."
"That's a good start - I'll remember it,"
Braxton said as he climbed behind the wheel again and began to watch in his
mirror for cars coming up the road and mentally timing how long it took for
them to get by after they passed out of his view in the rear vision mirror.
"Too bad we can't see backward as well as forward in an automobile," he
"Sometimes you can see better backward," Gus observed. "In an
ice storm, for example. If you keep going, the rear window stays clear, and
so does your mirror."
"I want to ask you about that, Gus.
What's the best cure for dirt? I had to get out every few miles and scrape
the dirt off the windshield by hand during that storm we had two weeks ago.
It was a blamed nuisance."
"Best cure I know of is to keep the
windshield glass so hot that dirt won't form on it," Gus suggested.
"Oh! You mean that idea of burning a
candle right close to the windshield with a reflector behind it so the light
won't shine in your eyes?"
"I wasn't thinking of that way, although
it's a good stunt in an emergency," Gus replied. "There are two good ways
to keep the windshield above the freezing point. One is to use a special
electric heater made for that purpose. It has a grid of heating wires
enclosed in a transparent shield and draws current from the car's battery.
Then, there's the latest idea, which is a car heater fitted in such a way
that a part of the hot air is thrown against the windshield."
"I don't like anything in my line of
vision on the windshield," Braxton objected, "and besides, I leave my car
standing around so much nights with the lights on that I have to have the
battery charged every so often all winter. I don't want any gadget that'll
run my battery down, any quicker."
"How about a special heater?" Gus
Braxton laughed. "I've got a heater now,
and I'll be damned if I'm going to throw it away and get a new one just to
keep the windshield hot in snow and dirt storms. After all, you don't get
caught in a dirt storm or a heavy snow so very often. Aren't there any good
emergency stunts that will do the trick?"
"Well," replied Gus, "The candle stunt is
one of them, but it has its disadvantages at night. Even with a shield
behind it, there's some light glare. If your headlights are giving poor
light because of the dirt and snow that's stuck to them, even a small glare
may make it hard to see the road.
"But there are plenty of other ideas you
can try," Gus went on. "A simple one is to carry some small bags of salt in
your tool kit. They can be about two or three inches in diameter. Then,
when you get caught in dirt or if snow starts freezing on the windshield,
tie a bag of salt to the windshield-wiper shaft so it bumps against the
glass at the top out of the way of the swipe of the blade itself.
"Wet the bag a little before you tie it
in place. As the salt slowly melts, the wiper will keep sweeping the salt
water back and forth across the glass and the solution will keep the dirt or
snow from freezing. When the salt is all gone and she starts to freeze up
again, hang up the next bag."
"But salt water freezes, too, if it's
cold enough," Braxton objected.
"That's true," Gus admitted, "But if
you've got a heater in the car, the air inside will keep the glass from
reaching the salt water freezing point. And when it gets as cold as all
that, there won't be any sleet - it'll come in the form of snow, and the
snow won't stick to the glass because it wouldn't melt when it struck it.
I fact, if the windshield glass temperature is actually much below freezing
on its outside surface, you won't even need a windshield wiper, because the
wind that rushes by when you're driving will blow the snow clear of the
"So it does when it's real cold," Braxton
"And if you don't want to be bothered
with bags of salt, you can get the same effect with any one of a number of
special wipers on the market. They're filled with a chemical powder that
melts to form an anti-sleet solution."
"Sounds like a useful gadget," Braxton
exclaimed. "What do you do? Just keep one of the special blades in your
toolkit and snap it on when you get caught in a snow storm or it starts to
"That's the idea," answered, Gus.
"But supposing your windshield wiper is
kind of old and hasn't much kick to it, so it won't swing any trick wiper
blades, then what?"
"You're a champ if you start out with a
wiper in that condition, but if you do get caught, then the only thing to do
is put your coat collar up around your ears, stick your hand out of the
window, and make for the nearest service station!" Gus grumbled, as he
headed for the gas pump to take care of another customer.