Obviously, I’ve never met Charles Darwin. He died in 1882. But if he were alive today, I like to think he’d be the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with if for no other reason than to hear about all the Darwin Award stories people shared with him on his Facebook account. “Hey, Chuck, I nominate my cousin for a ‘you’ award because he dressed in a banana suite and broke into the gorilla cage at the zoo. Here’s a video.” Stuff like that. Anyway, even though Darwin is gone, his theory on natural selection remains. And although I’m sure most of the little college pukes I see on the news whining for a safe space from accountability and responsibility are someday heading for an epic Darwin Award of their own, I’ve nearly been the recipient of one myself on more than one occasion.
I’ve always fessed up to my mistakes. People make ’em. If you don’t, you’re either lying or you’re not human. (What planet are you from? Do they have ice cream there?) For me, it’s not that I don’t realize I’m about to do something dumb. In fact, I almost always know when I’m about to kick a hornet’s nest. This, in my mind, makes it worse when I actually do it. It’s better to have an excuse, even if it’s rooted in sheer ignorance. Nope, I know the outcome will be bad and I do it anyway. That’s like dumb-squared. Or, like one shop owner told his tech after he tried to bleed the brakes of a Jeep on a lift with the calipers dangling by their hoses and no rotors, that’s felony-stupid. Yup, that’s me.
If I could pull some sort of excuse out of the woodwork, it would be lack of time. With three kids in travel sports, this magazine empire to run, and not as much staff as we once had, I’m almost always behind the eight-ball in terms of time management. One of my most glorious examples of this was when I had only a few minutes to yank the wheels off my ’52 M-170 so I could bring them to the tire shop to have new skins put on ’em. I had two different-sized jack stands in the garage: a big pair and a small pair. My other big pair was buried in my shed under an SM420 and other various sundry heavy auto parts. Stop and get the right tool for the job? Not this felony-stupid guy. I removed the front wheels and tires and put the little jack stands under the front axle. Then, I did the driver-side rear. Finally, after pulling the last wheel and tire off I had to get the passenger-rear corner of the Jeep up just a little higher to slide the big jack stand under the axletube and…whoopsie. The whole thing slid off and smacked my retaining wall. I knew it would happen beforehand. I would’ve laid 100-to-1 Vegas odds on it. But I did it anyway. And here I am, fessing up to it.
So, which is worse: making mistakes and admitting them and sharing them so others can laugh at you, with you, and perhaps learn from them? Or is it better to act like you’ve been victimized and blame the world to deflect any semblance of accountability because you were stupid? I think off-roaders are the former. We’re the first to fess up to doing something stupid, even if it’s a “hold my beer and watch this” moment. Hell, we have our friends videotape it and then put it on Youtube! To me, those who blame others for their failures, shortcomings, or stupidity are just peeing in the proverbial gene pool. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to remove a tree from my yard. My chainsaw is buried in the shed, but I’m pretty sure my flattie can pull it out with a tow strap if I get a good enough run at it…