Kent Bernhardt column

  • Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014 12:01 a.m.

“Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.” — George Carlin

The longer I spend on this earth, the less I feel like I know.


I’m fifty-eight. I should know so much by now. My head should literally be exploding with knowledge. Yet somehow, it isn’t. In fact, I’m learning that I don’t know very much at all.

Especially man stuff.

It happened again the other day. I pulled my car into the parking lot of a local eatery. It was dark and a little rainy, and no sooner had I put it into park and shut off the engine, there was a gentle tap on the driver’s side window.

“Excuse me sir,” said a young voice. “Do you have any jumper cables?”

I wanted to lie and say no. I hate using jumper cables. I’ve never felt confident with them.

I finally bought some about ten years ago after an incident where I needed them but didn’t have them. “Every man should have jumper cables,” I told myself.

After buying a good quality pair at Walmart, I felt particularly manly. My voice lowered when I thanked the cashier. I even scratched and spit as I left the store.

For about two years, they sat in the trunk unused. Then one glorious day, my car wouldn’t start. This time I was ready. I had jumper cables!

Positive to positive, negative to metal ground…oh, this couldn’t be easier. I had seen this procedure performed a million times.

Then, in a moment of doubt, I started reading the instructions that came with the cables. It turns out there is a certain order you should connect the positive and negative cables, “or there could be a serious explosion.”

What other kind of explosion is there? A tiny one? A humorous one?

Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure I knew what I was doing. I pictured myself blinded for life, selling pencils on a street corner and holding a sign that read “Blinded by Serious Car Battery Explosion.”

I connected the cables to the two batteries like I was performing a delicate brain surgery. The manual stayed in my hand throughout the entire procedure. If fact, it doubled as a shield just in case there was “a serious explosion.”

When my car engine finally roared its approval, I felt a personal victory. I even heard imaginary applause as I carefully removed the cables and placed them back into the trunk. Again, I scratched and spit.

But that was then. This was now, and there was a whole family sitting in their disabled car hoping I knew what to do.

Carefully, I removed the cables from the trunk once again. This time darkness and rain would prevent me from making confident choices. I would have to rely on my manly instincts.

“We’re all goners,” I thought to myself. I was going to blow up a whole car full of people. We would all be selling pencils.

Summoning all the courage within me, I slowly moved the cables into position. My doubts began to fade. It was though a small voice was guiding me along the way.

In fact, a small voice was guiding me along the way. A young boy from the family was watching my every move.

“No, the positive terminal is on THIS side,” he said just in time. “You don’t want to blow us up, do you?”

“Uh, no,” I mumbled.

With the cables connected, the moment of truth arrived. I cranked my car and waited. Suddenly, the needy car roared to life. The family cheered.

I quickly disconnected the cables, accepted their thanks and wished them well, and hurried into the restaurant, lest the car die again.

A feeling of pride rushed through me. On a dark and rainy evening, I had become a man. One more time, I scratched and spit.

You really shouldn’t scratch and spit in a restaurant. They’ll ask you to leave.

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