Do It My Way

     The October 2008 Popular Mechanics was worth saving because the Special DIY Mega Issue contains 100 Skills Every Man Should Know. However, the editors missed a number of essential skills for the competent male.

     Knowing how to split firewood is worthwhile in the backyard, but being able to split a check among a table filled with cost-conscious diners at a restaurant without resorting to a calculator or removing the shoes will keep friends and influence head waiters.

     Taping drywall is not nearly as pressing a concern as taping the strips on the diaper of a wailing baby.

     Grilling with charcoal is a cinch compared to the task of grilling a tardy teen at 1:15 AM who is looking skyward with one of those “Here he goes again” expressions.

     To set up a ladder, safely is much simpler than setting up an alibi, quickly when caught by spouse tiptoeing in at 2:30 AM.

     Needing to locate potable water in the wild is a rare occurrence, but finding usable pots seems to happen daily around suppertime.

     Showing your child how to cast a line may be handy at the lake; recreating that old football play before a group of teens will cast a pall over any party.

     Painting a straight line is simple when contrasted with painting a rosy picture of how to pay down the mortgage with two children in college and two living at home.

     All it takes to read an electric meter is the ability to tell left from right and to know which way clocks run whereas reading a manual for a bicycle is simple only for someone who has spent time in Taiwan or Singapore.

     Anyone wielding a stick welder should wear a helmet. Ditto for the father who unveils his shtick, wisely.

     A screwdriver is all that is needed to install a graphics card. A highball is needed to endure a graphic novel at the insistence of a teen.  

     Hitching up a trailer can securely be done in the driveway. Playing ball in the backyard means to hitch up your britches, to take one of those pitches, and retrieve it over the fence.

     Sewing a button is no easy task for the man who is all thumbs. Neither is buttonholing that so-and-so at work who you regard as a bum.

     Replacing a fan belt may be troublesome in modern engines where the routing is complex. However, changing one is much easier than driving an automobile filled with screaming Bieber fans to a concert complex.   

     Teaching children to get involved in projects and assigning them duties like raking leaves and cleaning gutters is fine, but lending a hand often leads to an act not mentioned by PM: handing out a ten (or a twenty).

     While escaping a sinking car may save a life, knowing how to escape from a stinking movie without causing a family brouhaha in a theater may save a night sleeping on the couch.

     Properly carving a turkey is not vital to the enjoyment of a meal for unevenly cut slices or untimely ripped legs are still quite edible. Avoiding turkeys completely by judiciously leaving acrimonious reviews of loathsome plays and films around the house without appearing conspicuous is a lesson in tact that can ensure domestic tranquility and preserve lumbar health (see skill above).

     Skippering a boat can be accomplished by knowledge of marine traffic protocol and common sense on the water. Spreading refrigerated Skippy on slices of toast because your daughter prefers it that way is a skill mastered by few.

     Knowing how to shine shoes will not win as many points at the office as the ability to polish apples.

     Performing the Heimlich maneuver could win acclaim at a banquet. Reforming a loaf of bread crushed under a sack of canned goods will earn applause from all in the family.

     Folding a flag into the requisite triangular shape often requires two people. Folding a road map requires some knowledge of origami and the patience of Job.

     I hope Popular Mechanics will publish another special DIY issue soon that will incorporate some of my suggestions. Forget about teaching us to plane a board; show us how to board a plane quickly. Don’t give us tips on how trim whiskers closely; explain how to beard the lion in the boss’s office. Teach us a practical skill that can be used in a supermarket like how to amuse the fussy baby in the cart and surreptitiously eye the curvy babe standing nearby while the wife is shopping ten feet away in the same aisle. And also how to defrost a cold shoulder.     


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