It was the end of the work fortnight. I was planning on taking the 3hr commute back to Austin in the morning, but didn't want to take the chance of breaking down on the highway (plus it was rainey). So, I commited to the plan...
After doing some research I found a solution that claimed to solve the problem for less than $20 (which was fine by me). It turns out that Toyota had a problem with a small rubber bushing in the shifter that decays with time. This would cause the shifter to be imprecise when "communicating" with the transmission and thus cause the truck to grind, kick, and struggle when shifting gears. So I set to work taking apart my shifter to discover that the worn out gasket was indeed the problem. I asked my buddy Daniel for a ride to Autozone, where they had the part in stock, just before I foolishly locked and the slammed the door shut.
I knew the second after the door slammed that I had left my keys somewhere inside the truck. I laughed it off and figured I could pick up a "slim jim" (door opening tool) at the auto parts store. Dan and I drove to three different stores before getting all the parts and tools we would need to hopefully finish the repair that night. I fiddled with the slim jim for about 30min without luck before remembering that with the shifter knob removed, one could almost fit their hand into the cabin and reach the keys which I thought could be buried in the cup holder. After a few attempts my forearms were too big to fit so Dan and I called our thinnest roommate, Ethan, to literally 'lend a hand'.
He was able to reach a bit further; however, the keys were not in the cup holders as previously thought. We discovered that Ethan could use a clothes hanger to reach in through the hole and prod around until he uncovered the keys which were laying on the passenger seat hidden by the shifter boot. We helplessly stared at the keys from behind the glass but could not touch due to the awkward angle of being contorted under the truck unable to see where we poked the hanger. Then we had the brilliant idea of using Facetime between Ethan and myself to be able to see as I fished for the keys with the hanger.
Suddenly within a few minutes I was able to hook the key ring and lift the hanger as the keys slid down into my hand. It's amazing what we are capable of when we have sight for reference. I couldn't believe we spent less time using our method than trying to pop the door unlocked with a professional tool. We high fived one another as the plan worked out with incredible efficiency. I unlocked the door and replaced the worn out gasket so that within a few more minutes I was shifting again like the truck was brand new. I could safely return to Austin!...
And I discovered that the taco can shift into drive from a rolling reverse.
It was all surreal and yet through laughter and prayer I had faith that it would somehow all work out.