Al Batt: Knowledge is power and Francis is Bacon I hear

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 9, 2021

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I could have waited but I couldn’t wait.

I mumbled the nursery rhyme, “Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye, four and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing — wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?”

Al Batt

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My parents were visiting the neighbors, which involved drinking copious amounts of coffee and eating brownies. They weren’t far away, so they left me alone. It wasn’t a dainty dish of blackbird pie I set before me. It was a box of cereal. The cereal was OK; what made it great were the baseball cards on the back of the box. I couldn’t wait. I got my mother’s good scissors from a drawer I was supposed to stay out of. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and then used the scissors to cut out the baseball cards. I put the scissors back into the drawer of forbidden things, hoping I’d be forgiven for using them because I’d refrained from running through the house while carrying scissors. I should have waited, but when facing headwinds, I’d found it easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

Francis Bacon said knowledge is power. I believe him. He’s never lied to me. I wonder what Francis had for breakfast?

The family organizational chart had my parents at the top folloed by grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, pastors, police officers, anybody in the military, coaches, bus drivers, school custodians, neighbors, bankers, any family member older than me, anybody else older than me, relatives my age, a good dog and there, on the lowest rung, me and bad guys in cowboy shows. I had nowhere to go but up.

If I’d have had a smartphone in those quiet days, I’d have Googled to see if cutting the back off a nearly filled box of cereal was a good idea. The closest thing I had to Google was a newspaper comic strip named “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith” and it was of no help in decision-making. I own a smartphone today, but stupid still gets in its way.

The legend is an elderly gentleman was the first to get a mobile phone in the neighborhood. It was a bag phone. He was driving to Minneapolis to visit his brother when his wife, at home, heard WCCO Radio report someone driving the wrong way on the interstate. She called her husband on his bag phone and told him to be careful because a car was going the wrong way. Her husband replied, “A car? There are hundreds of them.” I digress.

Years after I’d clipped those cards, I staggered, road-weary and sleep-deprived, from an airport to pick up my rental car. I located the parking space number I’d been given and wondered why I’d rented a car the size of a Happy Meal. I pressed the button on the key fob, hoping to open the trunk and stash my suitcase. It didn’t pop open. The doors weren’t locked, so I squeezed in. I didn’t climb in; the seats were downhill. As I sat behind the steering wheel, only three of the car’s wheels remained on the ground. Someone pounding on the driver’s side window interrupted my search for a button to open the trunk. It was a man who said, “Hey, buddy, this isn’t your car.” He had me there. I apologized while I used a shoehorn to free myself from the form-fitting car. As he asked, “Are you OK, pal?” I spotted the correct car in the next space, one spot away from where it should have been. Knowing the wrong vehicle space number did me no good.

Back when I spit in the palm of my hand before an official handshake, a cafe owner told me there were two things he never washed. One was his grill. I didn’t ask what the other was. His hamburgers were the best I’d ever eaten and my favorite grease delivery system. When I ate a burger there, it contained a culinary history of the cafe’s burgers.

Being unaware of the identity of the second thing he’d never wshed was a good thing. I continued to enjoy the mouthwatering burgers.

Sometimes not knowing is power.


Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.