As I round the corner into my fourth decade (good grief, 30 is the fourth decade!) I have started to dwell on experiences of manliness.
There is nothing more wonderfully masculine than standing around someone else’s car that isn’t working. It allows several things that men love to do in assertion of manliness.
- The Apportioning Of Blame.This is an important psychological exercise that allows men to establish hierarchical dominance over one another. These circumstances usually swiftly bring into play a hierarchy of Alpha Males, not unlike those seen among primates.
- The Impression Of Expertise. Crucial in this is that there is very little requirement to back it up (as most major ‘roadside’ issues require paid professionals to fix which removes any need for one to back up ones assumptions about said vehicle with actual technical knowledge).and of course;
- The Use Of Man-Muscles (henceforth known as, “guns”) to push the car around the corner and feel satisfied with the extent of our help.
It’s also a great way to build genuine, though brief community – albeit often at the expense of the poor Unfortunate whose car is the rallying point of said community. In a example I experienced recently, the Unfortunate (gender and race withheld to prevent the fueling of stereotypes…) had managed to not only get their car stopped right in the middle of a busy carpark’s narrow internal road near closing time, they had managed to snap their gearstick clean off! This is where thinking like a testosterone-fueled man stops and a sensible human being of any type simply asks, “how?” I cannot answer that question. But thanks for asking. This was a little unique.
The experience involved a lot of the three masculine traits mentioned above. The traits, however, were not restricted to men. One woman helpfully leaned out her car and yelled to those of us attempting to push, “you can’t try and push an automatic! It’s impossible, you’ll damage the gearbox!” Correct or not (it isn’t), this point is somewhat moot when, as in this case, the car is manual. The problem lay in that the vehicle was probably in first. It’s hard to tell when the gearstick is hanging like a broken arm from the body of the car.
From this point, the battle for male hierarchy is well and truly on.
“Let me just look underneath,” said a fellow wearing a one-piece mechanic-style outfit. In fear of being outmasculined, I strengthened my Aussie accent. “G’won thern,’ I said. He looked underneath. “I can’t see anything”. Not a mechanic then. Which raises the question of why he’s wearing a one-piece mechanic-style outfit. Unless he’s a Super Mario brother. (Note: Not out of the question) I may still be able to stake claim to being the Alpha Male at the event.
The Unfortunate continued to dry-wash their hands and smile and nod apologetically. No they weren’t with the RAA. No they didn’t have the phone on them. No they weren’t sure who to call. Super Mario and I glance at each other in Joint Alpha Male condescension (works well in conjunction with the Impression Of Expertise). Neither of us is game to voice the question of whether it’s actually the Unfortunate’s car.
The hierarchical games continued. “We’ve got to get this thing into a carpark and out of the way,” I said. This moves gains me 10 masculine points and an extra life, even though it was the first thing anyone thought when they saw the car. By voicing it I have implicitly taken charge of the situation. Super Mario is not phased. “You guys push, I’ll steer.” Well played, Super Mario. The Steering v Pushing debate raises the question as to what is more manly, the skill required to steer a dead car or the manpower required to push? Either way, with me racking up points he needed a bold move and took it. I gather my strength and inconsiderable guns and (with two women, who are too reasonable to be on the Alpha Male dominance radar) push the car around the corner. Super Mario uses the manly push/steer technique, raising his profile further.
In a last-second twist, a new Young Male comes in to push just as the car rounds the corner and is about to stop. As he lays his hands on the car and begins to push, the car reaches its destination. Super Mario and I look at each other, immediately realising that the battle is no longer for dominance against each other as the Young Male has put himself in a position of submission by essentially contributing nothing to the exercise. With a manly nod, we part ways as equals. The Unfortunate continues to thank us, which of course we brush off with a ‘N’worries’. The Young Male leaves in anguished sorrow, knowing that to walk by the situation would have left him no worse off, while now he must wallow in the discontent of being the Beta male. Gamma even.
I leave too, reveling in my status as Alpha Male, magnanimous in victory, levels of Perceived Expertise even higher than first thought.
Manliness has been restored to my post-camping universe.
NB: All comments suggesting that all I did was help push a car around a corner will be deleted as a form of abuse. For shame.