Starring in the role of the bumbling ‘dad’

giphy-facebook_sThe truth hurts, according to the old cliche.

Al BundyAlso, there is at least a kernel of truth at the heart of good parody.

These thoughts have left me feeling like Peter GriffinRay Barone, or even Homer Simpson or Al Bundy, perhaps the greatest bumbling dads of all time.

First of all, some disclaimers:

  • I am not actually a dad.
  • But I am very happy to find myself these days in a dad-like role. At the very least, I am an adult male role model and I’m trying hard to be a good one.
  • Like perhaps some of you, I’d never put much stock in the TV stereotype of the bumbling dad. And why aren’t there any John Waltons, Ben Cartwrights or even Howard Cunninghams on TV anymore anyway?

But after what happened Sunday, I’m just going to stop asking that question.

We left at 6 a.m. Sunday in order to make it on time to a volleyball tournament in a town 50-some miles away — and we made it. In fact, we were the first people at the gym. So far, so good. Other families began to arrive. The girls played their first game and then another.

As early morning dimmed and lunch time approached, I headed for the car to charge my cell phone. I sat in the front passenger seat, turned on the ignition without fully starting the car, turned on the radio, pulled out a book, began to read and soon fell asleep. As all of this was taking place, Janet joined me, claiming the backseat, where she laid down and took a nap.

I’m not sure how long I slept, but I awoke to Janet asking why the CD in the stereo had suddenly stopped playing. This is when I discovered the car had a dead battery — largely because, before falling asleep, I had managed to turn on the headlights without realizing it.

Now what are you going to do, Janet asked.

We were in her car. Do you have jumper cables in the trunk, I asked.


Luckily, as we headed back into the gym, I spotted a former co-worker whose granddaughter, I was happy to discover, plays on the volleyball team with Macy.

Roger, I asked, do you happen to have jumper cables with you?

He didn’t, but his son, Corey, did. And Corey was willing to help jump start the car, so we headed back outside. That’s where we soon discovered his cables weren’t long enough to reach the car, which was blocked on three sides by other cars. But the parking lot was flat and the pavement was dry and clear of ice.

I’ll just put the car in neutral and push it back far enough so you can reach it, I said.

That turned out to be the easy part. But then I let the keys in the ignition, popped the hood release, got out of the car and shut the door, learning two things:

  • The battery didn’t have enough juice to start the car, but it wasn’t completely dead.
  • The car’s doors automatically lock when you shift the automatic transmission from park into reverse, neutral and drive. And the car does not have to be running for this to happen.

So, yes, I managed to lock myself out of the car with the dead battery.

If not for Janet, this was headed down an ugly path. But, luckily, she had given me the second set of keys to her car before we had left for the tournament. I don’t always have them. I did, however, on Sunday. And she had her keys.

Would you come to the car for a minute, I asked her in a text message.

When she arrived, I asked to borrow her keys.

“You have,” she started to say before I cut her off with: Don’t ask.

As she looked at me, turned her glance to the car and then back to me, you could see the light come on in her eyes as she identified me as Peter Griffin. She casually walked up to the car and unlocked the door.

Within a minute or two, the car was idling in the lot. I let it run long enough to recharge the battery.

The rest of the day, luckily, was uneventful, leaving me to hope my response had been adequate enough to avoid being viewed as a total Peter Griffin. At least until the next time I do something dumb.








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