Remember Dear Abby? She was incredibly wise and down to earth. People with all kinds of problems wrote her letters (actual letters; this was way before technology), and they described all sorts of icky problems. They had awful mothers-in-law. Their spouses were unfaithful. Their children used swear words. I bet back then, having a seven year old say “damn it” was shocking. Of course, now, the entire second grade at Everytown Elementary slings around the F-bomb at recess. But I digress. What do people do these days when they have problems? They Google them. And who has the answers? Bloggers who post all sorts of clever solutions to everyday problems. And they call them “life hacks.”

Now, first off—these life hackers address problems like how to squeeze lemon juice without getting seeds in your salad. They tell you how to use common household items like vinegar and baking soda to eliminate scratches in your furniture and crow’s feet around your eyes. They don’t tell you what to do if you discover that your cousin Ella is having sex with your husband. I guess because no amount of baking soda will solve that one. When you have a fidelity problem, you have to just wish for the good old days when Abby would help you. Oh, I guess Dr. Phil is the go-to guy for things like this now. But how many people can afford to get tickets to his show and fly out to Los Angeles?

I like to read the life hacker blogs. I have tried a few of their suggestions myself. And I have to say that some of their hacks are useless. That olive oil and vinegar solution did not restore the finish on my dining room table. And it still looks oily.

But some of the hacks (I wonder how these helpful people came to call themselves hackers, anyway) are logical. I particularly like the one that says you should peel bananas from the opposite end. That was genius.

But how on earth do these people come up with their hacks? I asked my husband. He is an “outside the box” thinker. He said, “Well, if I wanted to be a life hacker, I would get some rubber bands, a sieve, some talcum powder, a paper clip, a bar of soap, and a bottle of vinegar, and I would go down to the basement and play around.” Of course, that is what he does anyway, but I didn’t say anything.

I pictured this. Joe Flinker, life hacker, is tinkering around with some sea salt and his wife’s perfume (she naturally doesn’t know Joe took her flagon of Chanel) in the laundry room. He accidentally spills some of the mixture on his hand. He rubs it off, along with the top layer of skin. After he finishes cursing and rinsing his hand in the washing machine rinse cycle, he notices that after the redness dies down, his hand looks smooth, young, and smells great. Eureka! Exfoliation is born! Now Joe and Zoe Flinker are wealthy. Because their YouTube video got a billion hits, they won Shark Tank, and now get millions in royalties. Zoe drives a Beemer and wears Michael Kors sunglasses. She has few wrinkles. And Joe spends even more time in the basement now—with stuff like essential oil of orange, cotton balls, witch hazel, and borax.

So if you have a household trick that your Aunt Mabel gave you for getting sweat odor out of leotards? Do you have a feeling that nut shells are under- utilized? Have you ever wondered why more people don’t wash their hair with baking soda? Do you save rubber bands? Well.  You may be a life hacker and you just don’t know it. Get down into the basement, pronto! And tell your wife to start shopping for a new car, for heaven’s sake. But if you wonder whether your meter man is seducing your wife? Life hack, no. But there may be an app for that…

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