Never underestimate the efficiency of a brute

by Ken Carpenter

I suppose it was foolish of me to raise my two boys by trying to teach them to take a thoughtful approach to solving the many problems life would toss at them.
“If something goes wrong, don’t just wade in and start bashing everything with a hammer,” I would articulate sagely. “Take a look at the dilemma, figure out what the best solution is, then attack it in a calm and dignified manner. If that does not work, the time has arrived to pound something with an appropriate whacker.”
As is the case with most fatherly advice, it was not perfect. In fact, it may have been borderline psycho, but it sounded good at the time. It sounds even better now, for it was recently proven true in an unexpected manner.
I have been battling an intermittent short of some kind in the instrument panel of my car. The dash light that allows me to see the speedometer and gas gauge in the dark has been exceedingly stubborn lately. It’s funny how you take little things like that for granted, but motoring down the road in a totally black interior is very disconcerting. The light comes and goes as it wishes, and when I pulled everything out to see if I could find anything wrong I really teed it off. It quit the intermittent thing and went on full time strike.
I have always tried to fix anything that goes wrong with my vehicles, even if I know it will be a futile attempt. Usually it is, for I am not even a half-baked mechanic. I buy the idiot manuals, but they are not often aimed at my level of idiocy.
My wife most often goes shopping when I am doing mechanic work, for like most people she hates to see a grown man cry. She is not fond of hissy fits either, the most common result.
After pulling the instrument panel out twice, I gave up and went to the next step. For most people that would be taking the car to the auto-repair shop, but I wasn’t ready for that. I bought a handy little flashlight that could hang from the rear view mirror so that I could take periodic peeks at the speedometer. It had a nice, subdued blue glow that was not too blinding. I was actually a little proud of it, and I decided that my inspired improvising would be bearable for the immediate future.
As luck would have it, my youngest son’s car committed suicide down at college about then. I told him he could borrow mine for a couple months, neglecting to point out that he would have to peer at the instrument panel through sporadic flashes of ghostly blue light. He only had one weekend when he could come and get it, much too short of a notice to get the dash fixed.
He showed up at work at 5:00 Friday, and when we got in the car and took off he noticed the dash was dark. “What the hay is up with that?” he said, diplomatic as always.
“Check this out,” I replied, reaching up and squeezing the emergency light. As promised, its blue glimmer pointed out my 15 miles per hour.
“Oh no, another Flintstone-mobile,” he moaned. “Have you tried pummeling it?” he then asked, dead serious.
“I certainly have not,” I snipped. “What do I look like, some kind of mindless thug. Brute force isn’t always the answer, you know.”
With that, he grinned like a madman, his teeth glowing blue, and reaching over he walloped two hard thumps on the dash above the instrument panel. The light came on immediately and has been on for three days now without flickering.
I won’t repeat what I muttered at that time, but it was thoroughly drowned out by his victorious crowing.
So, as I sit here sheepish to the point of bleating, I have to admit that it isn’t just the father who can dole out useful lessons.

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