DogHouse Manifesto

A Penknife, a Lighter and a Handkerchief

I was standing at the counter of my local Computer Fix-It Store-

I should back up, here; every now and again my wife paroles me out of the DogHouse, but only on the specific condition that I have a list of stops, shops and products, and that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES am I to deviate from the list whatsoever! Gee whiz- how come after thirty years of marriage, she still hasn’t learned that, that just isn’t going to happen? Rule 1028:ig from the Chapter, Putting Lipstick On An Ugly Pig Doesn’t Work, And It’s No Fun For The Ugly Pig! and buried in the indices under the heading, “YOU CAN NEVER BE SURE IF HE IS PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU!” The rule states, and I quote, “…you can tell him what to do; you can give him directions, a list, specific instructions; you can caution him, threaten him, warn him of impeding distaster & doom; you can beg, plead, whine, nag, cajole and insist- and, he still will won’t get it right!”

There are about three different jokes I could insert here, but since I’m pretty sure she can hear everything, and I am not so sure that she can’t read my mind, I’ll just skip them for the sake of brevity… and self preservation.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah- my local Computer Fix-It Store… and that’s another thing: man, the world sure has changed, and I’m not convinced it is for the better! When I was a kid, I could take whatever was broken to my Dad, and he would regard it carefully before taking it to his work bench, where he would get out a screwdriver, or a pliers and an oil-can (You know the kind I mean; the “Wizard of Oz” Tinman kind of can with the long narrow beak that you had to tip over and push the bottom and it made that sound… puc-poc, puc-poc? Yeah, that oil-can!) and quick as quick as you please, he had my broken whatever-it-was fixed and working again. As the years rolled by and the broken stuff got bigger and more complicated, Dad’s tool array and fixes matched the problems right along. A screwdriver and pliers, turned into Socket Sets, wrenches, Timing Belts and a cup of hot coffee at the drill press, instead of a sippy-cup of KoolAid™ on the back porch.

Until one day you show up at the workbench and you tell your Dad,

            “Pop, I just had an argument with my wife…”

And, he takes a long sad look around his work shop, breathes in a deep sigh of expectant and knowing resignation, and you suddenly understand that none of his tools can fix your problem this time; you are going to have to fix it yourself, and so you begin to finally learn what you thought you had been learning all along; what you thought you already knew, but really didn’t-

-how to be a real man.

It generally starts with a trip to the florist, and ends with,

            “Honey- I’m sorry…”

It doesn’t matter if you did anything wrong or not, (Although we both know that you did!) or upon whom the fault lies: real men fix everything. That’s their job. If that takes a screwdriver, a pliers and a ‘puc-poc’ oilcan, then okay. If it takes Socket Sets, wrenches, Timing Belts and a cup of hot coffee at the drill press, that’s okay too, and if it takes some flowers and an apology, even if you didn’t do anything wrong, (But, we both know that you did!) then- well, you better get moving, because the florist’s shop down the street closes in about an hour!

Yeah, I know, all of that doesn’t have anything to do with computers, and my local Computer Fix-it Store, well-

                                                         I never said it did!

So, anyway, there I am at the counter waiting for the sales kid to get off of the telephone, and right next to me is this young harried, hurried and very frustrated mother with a screeching baby in a stroller, and a cute as a bug two-year-old with Shirley Temple curls, and man, oh, man- is she ever having a long bad day! Everybody within earshot of this young harried, hurried and very frustrated Mommy, her screeching baby and ‘Shirley Temple’ are having a long bad day.

All she wants to do is return an item. I don’t even know what the item is- (And I don’t care!) but from what I can gather while I am trying not to eavesdrop on the conversation right next to me with a squalling baby, and an ever increasingly nervous ‘Shirley Temple’- is that it’s a little unimportant $2.98 doodad that she doesn’t have the receipt or the original packaging for, but it is tied up in a plastic bag that a Grizzly Bear couldn’t tear open with his teeth and claws so she won’t lose it, in about a half a dozen knots that she can’t untie, while her baby is SCREAMING and her cute as a bug little ‘Shirley Temple’ girl is really starting to get REALLY nervous and fidgety, and starts dancing around like a Hurdy-Gurdy Monkey!

By now, little miss ‘Shirley Temple’ is almost purple. She looks like she is about to explode. I start looking for someplace to hide, but instead I fish around in my pockets for my penknife, to help Mommy get her doodad out of the plastic thing with all the knots that a Grizzly Bear couldn’t tear open with his teeth and claws. I unfold the blade and hand it to her.

            “Careful,” I warn her, “it is very sharp.”

She slices the bag open and her doodad spills out, falls, breaks into about five pieces and then scatters like jackstones and a little bouncy rubber ball all across the floor. She shrieks, falls to her knees and begins to frantically search for all the pieces to her unimportant little $2.98 doodad. Upon hearing her mother shriek, the anxiety level of the baby in the stroller reaches critical mass, and she becomes a veritable air-raid siren. Meanwhile, ‘Shirley Temple’ stops turning purple; coughs, chokes, gags, and then pukes EVERYWHERE. And, oh- boy, do I mean everywhere!

I take just long enough to look at the kid behind the counter, who finally got off the phone, and I tell him under my breath-

            “Look, whatever it is, refund it, and then add it to my bill, okay?”

He looks like I just slapped him.

            “But, I can’t do that!” He hisses at me sideways. “She doesn’t have a receipt, or the original box!”

I reach into my pocket for my handkerchief. While I am there, I grab a fiver:

            “Who cares, kid?” I hiss back. “I’m buying whatever it is.” I snarl under my breath.

I really don’t want Mommy to hear me, not that she could over her air-raid siren in the stroller, and little miss ‘Shirley Temple’ who has just puked all over everyone and everything, and has begun to cry.

            “Just ring it up on my tab.” I growl at him under my mustache.

I offer my handkerchief to Mommy to dab at her little miss ‘Shirley Temple.’

            “It’s clean.” I assure her.

            “Oh,” she exclaims, “I can’t! It’s monogrammed!”

I smiled as I retrieve her baby’s binky from the stroller seat and insert it into her little air-raid mouth. The silence that followed was nearly as deafening as the screaming that preceded it.

            “Not to worry.” I tell her. “I always carry two. One for me, and one for, well- just in case…”

See? That’s what’s wrong with men today… they don’t carry handkerchiefs, penknives, or lighters. Anyone who has taken a Basic 1st Aid Course knows that a handkerchief, a pocketknife- even a lowly penknife- (And if you actually know the difference between a penknife and a pocketknife, then you are probably as old as I am…) and a lighter, or a book of matches, form the basis of the ability to survive anything from a squalling child at the counter of your local Computer Fix-it Store, to well, whatever nuclear ill that can befall a post-modern day man in a modern day world.

But, you can’t get a penknife, much less a pocketknife, or a lighter through security, can you? Need to catch a flight at the Airport? Better leave that prissy little 2” penknife at home. Want to enter a Federal building? Better not have a lighter or a book of matches on your person! Good grief! What the hell happened to common sense in America?

What the hell happened to Men in America?

Anyway- so, Mommy cleans up ‘Shirley Temple’ and has the good sense not to ask me if I want my monogrammed handkerchief returned. The air-raid siren in the stroller is happy with her binky, and has stopped screeching; the kid behind the counter has opened the register and refunded Mommy the paltry $2.98 for her broken doodad, and my final bill is just two cents short of three dollars heavier. Big deal. I spend more than three dollars on my monogrammed handkerchiefs.

All in all, it was a banner afternoon for one of America’s old men who maybe can’t leap tall buildings anymore, but since he hardly ever goes anywhere important, can almost always be counted on to save the day with a penknife, a lighter and a clean monogrammed handkerchief… or two.

When I got home, my wife asked me about the list and the items that she asked, begged, pleaded and INSISTED that I NOT deviate from?

            “I stopped off at the tailors in the little downtown mall for a half a dozen more monogrammed handkerchiefs.” I told her. “But, that’s all.”

She sighed with exasperation.

            “How do you keep losing those things?” It was more an accusation than a question.

            “It’s a mystery, honey.” I chuckled.

* sigh *


 Eightball Sneaky Laugh

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