Have you ever been caught being dumb?
Have you ever been trying to do something clever,
and been caught just when everything goes wrong?
Because I have.
Not all my moments of being dumb happen when I’m alone.
I’m not that lucky.
A lot of them do, I’ll admit, and for that I’m thankful, but there are some that happen in public,
or with at least one or two other people who comprise my public at the time.
Because we all have a limited public.
Very few of us have a public made up of hundreds.
Even less have a public of thousands.
And there are so few who walk among millions.
I know I’m not speaking about myself only. Your public is limited just like mine, but it doesn’t matter that it’s limited when that moment of being dumb happens.
When dumb, a pair of eyes is like a neighborhood of spies,
or even worse.
Asking For Pliers
We are in the shed, celebrating life, me and Ron, my girlfriend’s dad.
I have both hands on a bottle of beer, which I sit down next to me on the wood floors to keep cold. My hands emit heat, I think.
It follows that to keep my opened beer colder for longer outside of the refrigerator,
it’s prudent to sit the bottle down when I’m not drinking, away from my hands, which are much warmer than the air inside the shed.
For no good reason, after a double quaff of beer,
I remember I need to take the frame around my license plate off,
and stick my renewed registration sticker over the expired one.
The frame I’ve taken off once before, but Jap Tech took the liberty of putting another one on, advertising their business again without asking for my permission.
I don’t know why, but I would prefer to keep my place of oil servicing secret from the drivers that see me on the road.
I also don’t like the way the plastic yellow-on-black frame looks on the red car I drive.
Maybe, to be honest, if Jap Tech would pay me somehow I would be more open to the idea of promoting their business, but, as it is,
they only sneak the frame on there as they change my oil and leave it up to the owner to either have a wrench or pliers to properly remove the frame,
or else leave it on until the car turns to dust.
But the thing is, I not only want to take the frame off, I also need to because the frame covers the top part of my registration sticker.
In order to put this year’s yellow sticker over last year’s, I need to take the frame off.
The reason I haven’t done this already is because I don’t have a wrench or pliers.
Yes, I am perhaps the only man in the civilized world without a wrench or pliers.
I also don’t have a screwdriver.
But I’m planning on getting one from someone I know.
Taking Pliers Outside
Of course, the shed has pliers. The shed also has a wrench,
but the pliers happen to be more readily available.
I take the pliers outside, along with my beer,
because we all know that I need to tote my bottle of beer along.
How else can I carry pliers to the car I drive with the intention of doing a little handy work?
and did I mention that it’s dark outside.
Nighttime has been here for several hours already.
In fact, it wouldn’t be at all inaccurate to say that I walk out of the shed in the dead of night.
Pliers in one hand. Pretty darn cold bottle of beer in the other.
I also have empty pockets.
The red car I drive is parked on the berm, directly in the vicinity of a yellow cone of light cast by the electric street lamp across the street and up a little ways.
That said, lighting conditions aren’t perfect. They could be better.
But they aren’t the worst either.
I can see much more than if I actually were walking outside in the dead of night. Like, say, somewhere in rural Ohio.
Or Jackson, Minnesota.
Where nighttime really is dark and impenetrable.
Again I sit the beer bottle down, this time on top of the trunk, to keep it cold outside of the refrigerator, minimizing the time it spends inside the warmth of my hands.
I am right handed, so the pliers go in my right hand, and the first of two bolts I begin to unscrew.
Righty tighty, lefty loosy.
One of a handful of mnemonic devices that have stuck.
The first bolt loosens enough that I think it wise to move on and start using the pliers to unscrew the second bolt.
Don’t ask me why I don’t finish business with the first bolt and drop it into my pocket,
but I don’t.
Instead, I begin loosening the second,
thinking it correct to loosen both simulatenously,
and that, that I repent, for the first bolt – already dangling dangerously outside its threading – drops into the berm’s monkey gras.
Exactly what I’m trying to avoid.
Apart from a wistful, DAMN, I don’t think anything of it. I visually mark the spot and continue working on the second bolt, which I succeed in depositing safely in one of my pockets.
I throw the Jap Tech frame away
and drop onto my haunches to start scouring the monkey grass.
I expect my search to be over quickly,
or at least before my girlfriend’s dad decides to come outside.
Hearing Front Door Open
It happens so fast. Being caught dumb always happens so fast.
It’s one of those keys on the piano that both sounds and attenuates sharply.
One second I have both hands rummaging desperately through the monkey grass,
and the next thing I know, Ron is walking to me with a beer that would be equally as cold as mine if he were to sit it down on the trunk when he’s not drinking.
But instead he looks at me on my haunches, my hands covered in dirt, my fingernails stuffed with earth, and I state the obvious while he holds onto his beer,
-I dropped the bolt.
Ron laughs to add levity to his remark, but no amount of levity will keep me from being the dumb guy who lost one of two license plate bolts in the monkey grass in the dead of night.
-You know, I have a flashlight that’s as strong as like 20 billion lamps.
-I know. I was about to get it actually. It’s in the screened porch, right? I think I’ll go this way.
With these words, I make my exit, left hand playing with the only bolt I have left, like some dummy.
I find the flashlight on the table in the porch, and return the pliers to the shed.
When I get back to the car I drive, Ron’s gone inside to eat dinner and relax.
He doesn’t need to stick around for the continuation of my search.
And this makes sense.
After all, why should me being dumb affect him in any way?
Bring Me Day
Even using the flashlight with the strength of 20 billion lamps, I can’t find one of two bolts.
I take the only one I have out of my pocket and see if the license plate will stay steady without the support of two.
It kinda does, but I’m still aggravated by the sound of that piano key that sounds just as sharply as it attenuates.
My very own tenacity keeps me from calling it quits.
I must find the bolt, I think. I will not be dumb tonight. It fell right here, damn it!
And I trace the projected path of flight from the threading to the monkey grass.
My fingers pry apart the green tendrils.
I try ripping chunks out, but they’re all connected,
and I don’t want my search to destroy Ron’s berm.
Like I said before, me being dumb shouldn’t have any affect on him.
He would never have lost the bolt in the monkey grass.
Everyone knows to hold onto bolts as you unscrew, especially men who own wrenches and pliers.
Eventually the flashlight looses its charge and dies.
How sad is this, I think, and my beer is warm.
So, what’s your story? Have you ever been caught being dumb?