This is about green beans, but first a slight digression. Stick with it and an important green bean point will appear. Trust me. I once taught a tone-deaf guy to play the banjo.
So. You’re driving along and the red light on the dashboard flashes: service engine immediately. You pull over to the side of the road, worried that the engine is about to blow up. Terms like “valve job” and “throwing a rod” and “$6,000” flit across your mind.
You know nothing about cars, but what you always see on the sides of roads are people lifting their hoods and staring into the darkness of all those belts and bearings as if they know exactly what they are doing.
But short of finding a dead grizzly bear under the hood, I have no idea what I’m looking at. Still, I always get out and lift the hood because I can just hear the smug sarcasm of a tow truck driver saying “Pal, you gotta dead grizzly under there. You didn’t know that?”
The thing is, once you open the hood on the side of the road and find no grizzly you have committed yourself. If the world authority on valve jobs drives past, he won’t stop because you look like you know what you’re doing.
Okay, the green bean connection should be appearing at any moment. Last week as I am heading out to do the groceries, Katherine says “Make sure the green beans look okay.”
Sure. Not a problem. In the store, in the vegetable section sits a crate full of green beans. The challenge—and I bet you can see where I’m going with this—is deciding if these beans look okay.
I pick one out of the box and give it the green bean squint. I hold it up to the light, why I don’t know. I look around for a green beanist. I see a kid nearby unpacking apples and oranges. I’m thinking what could a kid know about green beans except that he hates them?
“Excuse me,” I say. I hold out the green bean. “Does this look okay?”
He looks carefully at the bean. He nods slightly. Yes he’s seen these before. That’s a good sign. He sets down an orange. He peeps the bean again and frowns.
“Compared to what?”
Compared to what! What a mind-boggling point. This kid could be a doctor.
“Compared to um, a bad green bean,” I say.
“Ya know,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad green bean.”
And, of course, neither have I. So I fill a bag with green beans.
Just to be sure, I ask the lady at checkout if the green beans look okay. She says yes. I say how can you tell. She says “Because they’re green. If they weren’t green, then I’d say you have a problem.”
Which, if you think about it—but not too hard—it’s the exact equivalent of looking like you know what you’re doing when you lift the hood of your car and find a dead grizzly bear. Because, if the bear isn’t dead, then I’d say you have a problem.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013, all rights reserved