Male Madness

SS_ToolsThere’s something funny ’bout men. It’s also the thing that makes us so charming (or brutish, depending on how this trait plays itself out).

We’re stupid.

Now, all you women out there stop chuckling, this isn’t a validation of white wine-fueled “male bashing”, just a simple observation. We don’t “think”, we simply posses a catalog of ideas we assume to be correct, which we then aggressively seek to prove publicly. It’s not sexism that’s kept the number of women in the cannon of genius at a low percentage, it’s the fact that they insist on thinking. And all great paradigmatic leaps, at their core, are initiated in a kind of lunacy. And men are hard wired to be lunatics. This story makes no pretension to genius, not it’s roots, just to show how a nice, reasonably intelligent guy (okay, might be pushing credulity) can find himself in the grips of his masculine nature, helpless to resist.

I used to live in a lovely little townhouse in the hinterlands of Northern Virginia’s Suburbs, which I couldn’t afford, and thus had to rent the basement to whatever transient had a fist full of soiled currency (I’m being harsh, many of my renters were delightful folks). At the time of this story, the space was occupied by fifty-ish divorcee with a poodle. She rarely left her space, preferring to zone to the tube (she once horrified the love of my life by coming upstairs, barefoot, with grass clippings protruding from between her gnarled toes). My dear friend Todd came to refer to her as “the woman under the stairs”, which was so appropriate it became her “official” name. She was a kind soul, just a little nutty, and without her help I’d never have been successful in my quest. But I digress, it all started one very gloomy, cold Sunday morning…

So I get up at an absurd hour (I think it was five), and after some coffee and tiring of being stealthy (out of deference to The Woman Under the Stairs), I decided to get a work out in. My truck was flat-lined, no signs of mechanical life, just an impotent key trying to stimulate an indifferent ignition lover. Lights worked, but I was gettin’ nuthin’. This being Sunday, 7:00 am, my options were limited. Started reading my Hayes Ford Ranger handbook (absurd on its face, because I’m about as “mechanical” as a tulip), but I knew, KNEW it had to be the solenoid relay.or maybe it was the battery, enough juice to light a bulb, not enough to crank? Now I’m no grease monkey, I don’t even play one on TV, but that uniquely male, testosterone driven, lizard brain, “don’t need no directions”, “bachelor party strippers” “if it doesn’t smell, wear it” thought process kicked in. Kicked in hard.

I will fix this thing.

The day was ass.cold, rainy, windy, stinky. Me Man. Me No Care. Me Fix Truck.

Wearing a sweatshirt and gym shorts (gotta’ have mobility, and heaven forbid I ruin some ten dollar sweatpants), I set off to bring life from lifelessness. After involving my brother-in-law Randy, a talented professional auto mechanic (trying to enjoy his Sunday yet humoring my madness) in diagnostic phone calls early in the process, (and two rides to Trak Auto using T.W.U.T.S.’s car, one for the pointless solenoid, one to check the battery charge…all to no avail, telling me nothing). I identified my prey…The Starter. Of course, why hadn’t I thought of that?!? Oh sure it’s completely inaccessible, oh yeah, I’ve got no real tools, oh yeah I fit under that truck like those long T-shirt wearing women fit into those lycra bicycle shorts. Would this stop me? NO. Reason had long left this process. Spent two hours trying to get the rusted, corroded thing off. Lying in rivers of icy water, washing over my grit covered back, rain driving on my bare, exposed legs. Pinioned so tightly beneath the chassis that only one hand can be used, which one depended on the angle taken. The starter crumbles off the car, onto my face and into my eyes, as I disengage it.

At least I’m pretty sure I found the prob.

The woman under the stairs loans me her car again. It’s not in the best shape, and the speedometer is displaying in kilometers, and the interior reminds me of crack houses I’ve seen on TV. After some delay, as the counter jockeys learned how to read the computer screen, the grail is in my hand.

It’s around 4:00 now, two hours till they close. If this doesn’t work, I still have a shot at getting back…new solutions. But I must focus, work fast.

It’s so cold. Around 45. The real rain starts; I’m oblivious, soaked like the way dogs are soaked coming out of a lake. After and hour, the starter is in. Time to reconnect the relay and battery, time to catch the full force of the wind.

My pal John David (about 6) comes walking up in a sensible pancho, clutching a carrying case of some kind. He notices the obvious (my focus too intense to bother) that I’m shaking, not shivering, but shaking like an epileptic in the grips of a powerful episode.

“Hi Mr. Greg, long time no see.”

“Hi John David, how’s it going?”

“I’ve got real money in this”

“Excellent, how much?”

“Got a hundred and thirty three Pokemon cards…hey, Mr. Greg, you look real cold”

“Yeah, it’s kind of chilly today”

“No, I mean really cold, you’re really, you know, shaky. I think maybe you should go inside and maybe put on like a dry shirt and maybe some pants, and like maybe a jacket. That’s what I do when I get cold.”

“Good advice, John David. I’ll be done pretty soon. I’ll dry up good.”

“Okay, see ya’ Mr. Greg, don’t be such a stranger.”

A child had come speaking my Mother’s words. The wisdom undeniable. I returned to my obsession. It all came together. That bad boy fired up. The sense of validation was palpable, like a warm brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart in your mouth. I’d won. Not just getting the truck to start, but crushing the convention that you need to “rely” on experts. I’d saved, like, five hundred bucks at the mere cost of my personal health.

The real question I have is would it have been better if it didn’t? Failed and called the tow truck? Should this kind of idiotic behavior be rewarded with success?

You bet your ass baby.