Written by evan keliher

Monday, 9 June 2008

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We live in remarkable times, but they're also complicated times. Nothing is as simple as it once was.

Take cars, for example. There was a time when a car was a fairly simple machine, one that could be understood by just about anybody who owned a pair of pliers and some baling wire. You ever look at a Model A engine? There's nothing there. An engine block, a few wires, some spark plugs and a battery and that's about it.

Now look under the hood of a new car. Why, every inch of air space is filled with wires and bolts and air-conditioning nodules and internal combusters and multi-valve tie rods and electronic sensors and a lot of other stuff that defies description. You have to be a licensed mechanic nowadays to work the hood release on most new cars.

Now, normally, this isn't such an important matter. I mean, so you don't understand exactly what's going on with your car. So what? All you really have to do is drive the thing.

Still, it makes a guy look bad with the ladies when he has to admit he doesn't know any more about how his car works than they do-which is to say, nothing at all. If something goes wrong with the car your wife/date expects you to do something about it. A real man would jerk open the hood, study the engine with a professional eye, and set things right by adjusting an errant screw with a dime while an admiring wife/date looked on proudly.

When we drove Model A's such a scenario might actually play out but not today. We can still start our stalled cars with dimes but we do so by putting the dimes in a pay phone to summon a team of automotive engineers to tell us what's wrong.

How can we save face then? What are we going to do when the car won't run and our admiring womenfolk look to us for help? Easy. We fake it. Get out of the car and throw open the hood as though you actually know what you're doing. Gaze in on that incomprehensible tangle of metal and wire and say, "Hmm."

"Do you know what's wrong, dear?" wife/date says.

"Well," you say thoughtfully, "it could be the carburetor."

Of course, it really can't be the carburetor since I understand they no longer put carburetors in modern cars but so what? Women don't know that. Women don't know anything about cars. Most of 'em can't even check the oil or put air in the tires. You can say anything and they won't know what you're talking about.

Lean in and pretend to study some part of the engine with special interest. Say "Hmm" again. Poke a few wires and jiggle any loose things you can find. Have her get back in and try to start the car on your command. It won't start since you're doing nothing to alter things but she'll think you're a mechanical whiz for even knowing what wire to jiggle.

Continue to study the engine a bit longer.

"Maybe it's the frammis," you say. "Or it could be the electronic conductors are on the blink. Or it could even be the solenoids are out of sync." Women loves this technical talk because it sounds macho as hell and we all know they like that machismo stuff.

Do I know what a frammis is? Or what electronic conductors or solenoids are? Of course not. I just made 'em up because they sound good and make me look like I know what's going on. In the end I'll have to call the tow truck but my wife/date will be visibly impressed with my performance and will regard me with newfound respect for being a real man who can take charge and make things happen.

You can work the same dodge on people everywhere. When you're talking with the guys at the office, throw out a lot of technical jargon and everybody will think you're a pretty well informed dude. And don't worry, most guys won't be any sharper than wives/dates are since they're just as ignorant as you are about these things.

Now, it will occur to some out there that this dodge could work as well in other areas, too. For example, you can appear to be a knowledgeable guy in politics, business, or whatever merely by learning a few bogus terms and trotting 'em out at appropriate times.

World trade? Easy. Prattle on about trade barriers, tariffs, Third World countries, GDP, capital gains, investment capital, the rise or fall of the dollar, exchange rates, world economies, and so on. It's especially easy to dupe people in this particular subject since trained economists don't know what they're talking about, either, and they make a living by confusing their listeners.

Buzz words. That's the key. If you can sound like you know what's going on people will assume you really do. It's all bluff, a kind of social fraud. Even a dullard can appear to be well informed if he learns to fake people out with a line of carefully contrived crap.

So be creative. Learn to get by on bombast and puffery. Assume a serious mien, purse your lips, stroke your chin, and say, "Hmm" a lot. At the very least, it will elevate you in the eyes of your wife/date and cause 'em to regard you as a macho guy who knows cars intimately.

©Evan Keliher

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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