Monday, September 29, 2008

Men Will Fix Things -- When We're Darned Good and Ready

A wheel of my push mower fell off. It had been wobbly for a while and, in the great tradition of manliness established by so many proud Americans before me, I ignored it and hoped it would go away.

It did go away. It rolled across the yard.

“That’s not good,” I said, using another of the great tenets of manliness, which is stating the obvious even when alone. This is because, as every real man knows, someone is always watching – even if we can’t see them.

One of a man’s greatest fears, apart from the world running out of Slim Jims, biker magazines and cheerleaders, is that a wormhole might open and someone in another dimension might see us do something stupid. And what’s our recourse? I mean, how can you punch someone in another dimension?

I killed the engine and looked at the mower. Yep, I could tell the wheel was definitely gone because: 1) it was no longer on the mower, and 2) I could see the wheel sticking out of the neighbor’s grass.

I tipped the mower to its side to get a better look, but I should have known better. Under the “You smelt it, you dealt it Principle,” whoever notices a problem has to fix the problem. I saw a hole in the mower where the wheel should be. A big hole. A big rusty hole. So, under Guy Law, I had to fix it.

Hmm, I thought. Maybe I shouldn’t have left the lawnmower outside all summer.

The disemmowered wheel didn’t look any better. The nut was fused to a bolt that was now more rust than metal. So, fulfilling my role as man, I left the mower sitting in the middle of a partially mowed lawn and went inside to watch sports. As I sat on the couch drinking beer, I realized I’d made a lot of zigzags as I mowed, so I hope I hadn’t spelled anything dirty.

A lesser man would have asked, “Should I just buy a new mower? A better one? One with four wheels?”


I fixed the mower the next day. Why? Because that’s what guys do.

A power drill, some wrenches, a couple of bolts, a domino-sized strip of metal and after a few damnits, I finished mowing the lawn.

Compared to not fixing things, fixing things ranks pretty highly on the Things that make Guys Guys list. Actually, not fixing things, then fixing them, then belittling your accomplishment, then bragging about it ranks the highest – only if it makes someone else cry/feel in awe of you.

So, the next time something mechanical breaks down, or your wife wants you to watch anything with Kate Hudson. Just remember, you’re a man. Act like one and do nothing about it … until you’re good and ready.

Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available from, or Visit Jason’s Web site,, for his other books.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

If You Are What You Drive, I'm ... Uh, Old

The cell phone rang in my front pocket as my family and I walked across the clean but car-littered floor.

I thought about not answering it. I hate talking on the telephone in front of people who suddenly look like they want me dead.

What’s so important, I wonder when I see some else talking on their cell phone in public, that you have to tell Joshy Pooh-Pooh you love him when you’re in line at the grocery store buying laxatives?

But my pocket was ringing. What are you supposed to do when your pocket’s ringing? The call was from a buddy, so I answered.

One of the greatest features of a cellular telephone, apart from the fact that you can talk to someone on the opposite side of the planet as easily as setting an egg timer, is caller ID. I’m sure there are lots of people who ignore calls when the word “Offutt” appears on their phone. Fine. I didn’t want to talk with them anyway.


“Hey,” I said, in the traditionally accepted guy ‘hello.’ “Can’t talk. We’re at a car dealership.”

“What are you buying?” he asked.

“A minivan.”


“You’re old, dude,” he finally said, and the conversation ended.

There are things all of us say we’ll never do. Sometimes it’s drinking vodka up your nose, sometimes it’s Bungee jumping, and sometimes it’s voting for Democrats. Not surprisingly, these things often happen on the same day and in the same order.

For me, the thing I said I would never do is own a minivan. Owning a minivan means you’ve given up. You’ve become branded as someone with a soccer ball sticker in the back window. You’re just one of the masses, and yes, you’re old.

That night, when I drove my family home from the dealership in our new minivan, my wife and I joined the ranks of those who will purchase an estimated 1 million minivans this year.

Good lord. What am I going to do next? I wondered. Donate to Greenpeace?

Then my wife, who would donate to Greenpeace, put the America I know into perspective.

“I saw this minivan driving down our street the other day,” she said over the children who were completely failing to fall asleep in their car seats. “It was driven by a teenager playing loud, thumping rap music.”

An image rushed into my head. And, yes, his ball cap was on backwards.

“I wanted to yell, ‘Yeah, you’re pretty cool in your mom’s car.’”

That’s all I needed. In this world where, to us, we are what we think we are, and to society, we are what we appear to be, there is one constant – complete apathy about what other people think.

Yes, I’m just one of the masses and yes, I’m working on accepting the fact that I’m old enough to drive a minivan.

But the most comforting part of my wife’s story is, at least I’m not that guy.

Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available at, or Visit Jason’s Web site,, for his other books.