Everything is convenient today—so convenient that men don’t know how to do anything anymore. Humor Columnist Dave Barry says: enough with the spin classes. It’s time to reclaim American manhood. He joins Lunch Break with his manifesto.
We live in ridiculously convenient times. Think about it: Whenever you need any kind of information, about anything, day or night, no matter where you are, you can just tap your finger on your smartphone and within seconds an answer will appear, as if by magic, on the screen. Granted, this answer will be wrong because it comes from the Internet, which is infested with teenagers, lunatics and Anthony Weiner. But it’s convenient.
Today everything is convenient. You cook your meals by pushing a microwave button. Your car shifts itself, and your GPS tells you where to go. If you go to a men’s public restroom, you don’t even have to flush the urinal! This tedious chore is a thing of the past because the urinal now has a small electronic “eye” connected to the Central Restroom Command Post, located deep underground somewhere near Omaha, Neb., where highly trained workers watch you on high-definition TV screens and make the flush decision for you. (“I say we push the button.” “Wait, not yet!”)
And then there’s travel. A century ago, it took a week to get from New York to California; today you can board a plane at La Guardia and six hours later—think about that: six hours later!—you will, as if by magic, still be sitting in the plane at La Guardia because “La Guardia” is Italian for “You will never actually take off.” But during those six hours you can be highly productive by using your smartphone to get on the Internet.
So we have it pretty easy. But we have paid a price for all this convenience: We don’t know how to do anything anymore. We’re helpless without our technology. Have you ever been standing in line to pay a cashier when something went wrong with the electronic cash register? Suddenly your safe, comfortable, modern world crumbles and you are plunged into a terrifying nightmare post apocalyptic hell where people might have to do math USING ONLY THEIR BRAINS.
Regular American adults are no more capable of doing math than they are of photosynthesis. If you hand a cashier a $20 bill for an item costing $13.47, both you and the cashier are going to look at the cash register to see how much you get back and both of you will unquestioningly accept the cash register’s decision. It may say $6.53; it may say $5.89; it may be in a generous mood and say $8.41. But whatever it says, that’s how much change you will get because both you and the cashier know the machine is WAY smarter than you.
A while back, my daughter asked me to help her with her math homework, which involved doing long division without a calculator. There was a time, somewhere around 1963, when I definitely knew how to do long division; I figured this knowledge was still lying around in my brain somewhere. I mean, I can remember many other things from 1963. That was the year when the Beach Boys came out with their album Surfer Girl, and I can recall every word from every track on it, including an obscure and genuinely idiotic song called “Our Car Club,” which contains, among other lyrics, these:
We’ll get the roughest and the toughest initiation we can find
And if you want to try to get in we’ll really put you through the grind
‘Cause THIS club’s the VERY BEST!
I haven’t heard “Car Club” for decades, but I typed those lyrics without looking them up. My brain stashed them away in a safe place, in case I would need them someday in a lyrics-related emergency.
My brain did not, however, elect to save the instructions for doing long division. So when I tried to help my daughter, I was useless. I had a vague recollection that you start by dividing the littler number (or maybe just part of the littler number) into just the first part of the bigger number, then you multiply something and then you put the result down below. But I wasn’t sure where down below, exactly, you put the result, and I had no idea what you did with it after that. ‘Cause THIS club’s the VERY BEST!
I tried for several painful minutes to show my daughter how to do long division, at which point she gently told me I should go back to watching “Storage Wars” and she would figure out long division on her own. And she did. I don’t know where she got the information. Probably from the Internet. Possibly even from Anthony Weiner.
But it isn’t my inability to do long division that really bothers me. What really bothers me is that, like many modern American men, I don’t know how to do anything manly anymore. And by “manly,” I do not mean “physical.” A lot of us do physical things, but these are yuppie fitness things like “spinning,” and “crunches,” and working on our “core,” and running half-marathons and then putting “13.1” stickers on our hybrid cars so everybody will know what total cardiovascular badasses we are.
That’s not manly. I’ll tell you who was manly: The early American pioneers. They set out into the vast untracked wilderness with nothing but a musket and a sack of hardtack and hominy, and they had to survive out there for months, even years, completely on their own, sleeping on the ground in bear-infested forests. That’s why they brought the hardtack: to throw at the bears. They had no idea why they brought hominy. Like you, they had no idea what “hominy” means. It sounds like some kind of disease.
Patient: What is it, doc?
Doctor: I’m afraid you have the hominy.
Patient: Not the hominy!
But the point is, these pioneering men did not do “crunches.” These men crunched the damn continent—blazing trails, fording rivers, crossing mountain ranges, building log cabins, forging things with forges, etc. We modern men can’t do any of those things. We don’t have the vaguest idea how to ford a river. We’d check our phones to see if we had a fording app and, if not, we’d give up, go back home and work on our cores.
We American men have lost our national manhood, and I say it’s time we got it back. We need to learn to do the kinds of manly things our forefathers knew how to do. To get us started, I’ve created a list of some basic skills that every man should have, along with instructions. You may rest assured that these instructions are correct. I got them from the Internet.
Things a Man Should Know How to Do
How to Cook a Steak on the Grill
1. Make sure you choose a good steak. The main “cuts” of steak are the Brisket, the Loin, the Round, the Chuck, the Rump, the Groin, the Niblick, the Flanker, the Grommet, the Cosine and the Stirrup. They are all basically the same because they all come from the inside of a cow. You should select a manly-looking steak that is approximately the size and density of a standard manhole cover and does not have too many visible fly eggs.
2. Many people like to enhance the flavor of the steak by soaking it ahead of time in marinade or rubbing it with a blend of herbs and spices.
3. These people are wimps.
4. Place the steak horizontally on the grill oriented along an east-west axis.
5. Drink a timing beer. (VERY IMPORTANT: Not a “light” beer.)
6. When the beer is done, check the steak by prodding it firmly yet gently with your right forefinger. If it feels cold, you need to light the grill. (This should have been Step 1.)
7. Drink another timing beer.
8. Turn the steak over, using barbecue tongs or a No. 2 profilated Phillips screwdriver with a 10-inch titanium-coated shank.
9. Drink another timing beer.
10. Check the steak to determine how done it is, using this chart:
Rare – brown
Medium-rare – brown
Medium – brown
Medium-well – brown
Well – brown
11. If the steak is covered with molten or flaming plastic, you failed to remove it from the packaging. (This should also have been Step 1.)
12. Spray the steak with a fire extinguisher if necessary and serve it outdoors in a dark area.
13. This might be a good time to switch to tequila.
How to Survive If You Are Lost in a Forest and Night Is Falling
1. Always remember that the most important rule of wilderness survival is: Do not panic.
2. Granted, there are probably dangerous wild carnivorous animals lurking nearby.
3. Wolverines, for example.
4. According to Wikipedia, “The wolverine has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times larger than itself.”
5. And do not get Wikipedia started on the question of venomous snakes.
6. But you must not panic.
7. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET A GRIP ON YOURSELF.
8. Gather flammable wood to make a fire. The best kind of wood in this situation is the “fire log,” which is easy to identify because it comes in a box of six.
9. Check your pockets to see if you have matches or a cigarette lighter, which of course you will not. You would not dream of smoking cigarettes because you are a modern, crunch-doing, health-conscious, risk-averse individual.
10. A fat lot of good that’s doing you now with the wolverines closing in.
11. Fortunately, there are other ways to start a fire. Position yourself over your fire log and, with a quick motion of your wrist, strike a piece of flint against a piece of steel to make a spark.
12. Just kidding! If you had flint and steel, you would not be the kind of nimrod who gets lost in the forest in the first place.
13. An old Indian trick is to rub two sticks together rapidly to create friction.
14. This method has never once, in human history, resulted in an actual fire.
15. It’s just one of those things that Indians enjoy tricking white people into doing.
16. Other examples are canoeing, face painting and “hominy.”
17. Since there will be no fire, your only hope of surviving is stay up all night making noises that will keep animals away. Most leading wilderness survival experts recommend that you sing the “Macarena.”
18. You should also do the hand motions because carnivorous animals can see in the dark. You may feel silly, but consider: Not one single person has been killed in the wilderness by animals while doing the “Macarena” since the National Forest Service began keeping records on this in 1902.
19. If you are still alive in the morning, carefully note the direction in which the sun rises. This will be either east or west, depending on what hemisphere you are in. Using this information, you can determine which way north and south are and, from there, you can calculate the time of day to within roughly two hours.
20. Another option is to look at your watch.
21. Carefully scan the horizon, noting landmarks—a river, a hill, a valley, a Motel 6 sign, etc. Use these to create a “mental map” of your current position.
22. Keeping all of this information in mind, calmly, and without panicking, run in a random direction, throwing your hands into the air and shouting, “I DON’T WANT TO DIE!”
23. If you are anywhere in North America, within 20 minutes you will come to a Starbucks.
24. There, you can purchase emergency scones while the staff calls for help.
How to Jump-Start Your Car When the Battery Is Dead
1. Obtain a working car from somewhere and park it next to your car.
2. Or, if the owner isn’t around, you could just take off in the working car.
3. No, that would be wrong.
4. On both cars, locate the hood, which is a big flat piece of metal in the front with bird poop on it.
5. Open both hoods. There will be a button or lever inside the car on the driver’s side that you need to push or pull, and then a latch somewhere under the front of the hood that you need to reach in and release. So your best bet is to use a crowbar.
6. Locate your car’s battery. It will be a black box partly covered with a whitish-greenish fuzz. This is car leprosy. Do not touch it.
7. Obtain some jumper cables from somewhere.
8. Call 911 and let them know there might be an emergency soon.
9. Do this next part VERY, VERY CAREFULLY OR YOU WILL DIE.
10. Connect one end of the red jumper cable it to the positive terminal (also called the ignition or carburetor) on your car’s battery. Then connect the other end of the red cable to an electronic part such as the radio of the opposing car. Repeat this process in the opposite order with the black jumper cable, taking care to reverse the polarity.
11. Try to start your car. If the engine explodes in a giant fireball, something is wrong.
12. Maybe you should have somebody else try to start your car while you go get coffee a minimum of 150 yards away.
13. If by some miracle your car actually starts, do not turn it off ever again.
14. When you drive, be alert for further signs of trouble such as a flickering of your headlights, which is an indication of a problem in your electrical system; or a collision with a building, which is an indication that you forgot to put the hood back down.
Excerpted from “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About,” to be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA), on March 4.