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Jim Walker: When the tongue needs a torque wrench

Don't Take Me Seriously

Posted: September 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Anyone who has ever worked on a car engine has cranked at least one bolt, one turn too many. You get it nice and tight, just right, actually, but some defect in your psyche insists, “Give it one more turn, just to be sure.”

And, though your rational mind is screaming “Don’t do it, boy!” and you feel that old familiar buzzing moving up the back of your neck, warning of impending doom, your hands move on their own and make that last, lethal crank with the wrench.

And, of course, that last turn snaps the head off the bolt, and you then have to spend hours drilling the shaft out in a ridiculously tight space and at an awkward angle — you know, or leave that vital part secured by two out of three bolts, which will, eventually, blow your engine up. 

That’s why they make torque wrenches, my friends. A torque wrench won’t allow mechanical stupidity. If you try to tighten the bolt past the set rating, the wrench slips and that ching-ching-ching-ching sound says, “Enough, my child. Be at peace.”

If only there were torque wrenches for all types of stupidity.

I was reminded of my own struggle with this the other morning when I stepped on my bathroom scale. The reading came up good, just right, actually, and I was momentarily headed for a happy day.

But that voice in my head insisted, “Well, you know, that number could be incorrect. Try it again, just to be sure.” (Why that voice sounded like Ronald Reagan is another story.) And, as the buzzing moved up my neck, I stepped back on the scale.

Right. Of course, it read one pound higher. And, in several more tries, it never went back down to the original reading — which ruined my day and had me out running up hills and dodging traffic at twilight, trying to lose that pound.

Now, some people only occasionally get the urge to twist things too far. Whether through good sense, or because they don’t really care enough to make the extra effort, they stop at “good enough.”

Well, good on ’em.

However, the rest of us continually wrestle with the “Do-it” devils on our shoulders. The urge to take things too far is always there.

For a writer, it’s that one last tweak of the story, that line you copy, cut and paste farther down, so that it reads just a tiny bit better.

And it’s only when it comes out in the paper that you realize you lost an important word in the pasting process, and the sentence now makes no _ _ _ _ _.

For a long-distance runner, it might be doing that last mile past dehydration, the one that cramps your hamstring, has you limping five miles home and puts you behind training for two weeks.

A torque wrench for the tongue might be the most important tool of all, because more words rarely make things better.

(And, I will herein admit, I am the poster boy for this. Sometimes I just can’t shut the TMI off.)

For an employee, an example of this might be offering your boss one too many of your “good” ideas about how he can do things better. In fact, in this situation, the first one might be one too many.

For a pickup line in a bar, it might be that last addition to the compliment you give that babe who looks so good through your beer goggles. You suitably say, “You really have great eyes ­­— beautiful, big eyes.” But then drunkenly add, “Like a cow or sshomething.”

Yep, one twist too many. 

Take a hint from Jerry Maguire. He had her at “Hello.” All that he said after that was just unnecessary self-debasement.

A torque wrench for the tongue would be of great benefit when:

* being queried by a CHP officer, IRS officer or auto insurance agent;

* lying about why you can’t make that dull event (More detail offers more chance to get caught.);

* describing your ex-girlfriend’s faults to friends (You know you will have to eat your words when you get back together.);

* parenting (Don’t argue, just take the cellphone away.)

Ching-ching-ching-ching. The torque wrench could save the day.

Comment at or Twitter @DontSeriously.


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