Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Fourth Sense

Let’s talk about extra senses. I’m not talking about the three that we all know about – sight, vision and touch, but those others that some gifted individuals profess to possess. Like ‘Smell’ and ‘Taste’.

I myself cannot lay claim to either of those extra senses. Some sort of rudimentary gustatory feedback around the tongular area perhaps – I can tell if things are a bit sweet or salty – but all that talk you hear from people reading all sorts of odd elements in their glass of wine like ‘woody’, ‘flowery’, ‘smoky’, ‘nosy’, ‘happy’ or ‘greedy’, they’re just making that shit up. Same with this so-called ‘smell’ you’ll hear about. Apparently different things give off different ‘scents’, but unless a rat has actually climbed into our fridge and died of amoebic dysentery right there by the Lurpak, I wouldn’t ‘smell’ a thing.

Now you might be thinking that I’m exaggerating, but I’m not, not by much anyway. An accident of birth has left me somewhat bereft of smell, which the boffins at science-central tell us also accounts for a loss of taste. Taste is 25% smell (made-up statistic)! Amazing! If only vision was 50% sound – concerts and crowded train journeys would be awesome.

The disappointing outcome of my nose-blindness and tastelessness is that my other senses were not sharpened to an amazing degree to compensate for my loss. No crime-fighting career a la Daredevil or Sue Thomas F.B.Eye for me. Shame – who knows how I might have used my ability to really touch things to solve impossible mysteries?

On the other hand, the incredible dullness of my tongue’s receptors means that I am able to consume an entire packet of Trebor’s Extra Strong Mints whilst necking a mug of hot tea at the same time, with very few ill-effects. If you don’t count belching like Level 4 Pit Fiend immediately afterward.

Onto another mythic sense now – common sense.

Yesterday I had occasion to get my tyres changed. Well, not mine, my car’s. You know what I mean. I have had Elwood, a rather swanky Chrysler PT Cruiser, for a little over a year. Elwood is the successor to the late lamented Barry and came with a lovely set of new wheels, so I had no reason to get any of them replaced until now.

And lo, I mooch on down to the local vulcanised rubber outlet for a new set of tyres, only to be asked by the mechanic for the ‘wheel nut lock’. What’s a wheel nut lock, I ask. It’s a lock for your wheel nuts, replies the mechanic. I shall skip over the rest of our routine and cut to the chase: Apparently Chryslers come with a special little doodad that you need to unscrew the wheels. This is to prevent scamps from pinching them. If you don’t have the special little metal thingy that ‘came with your car’, you can’t get the wheels off.

It should be in my car somewhere, I am told. Maybe the ashtray, or the drinks holder, or the glove compartment, or the secret place in the boot where they stash the jack. We look. We do not find. I don’t remember ever seeing a little round metal thing like the end of a socket set rattling Elwood’s interior in the 14 months I’ve had him. Maybe the dealer never gave it to me. Maybe it fell out the door one day. Or maybe, and here my stomach sinks and my brain attempts to skip over the memory, I discovered a random bit of a socket set in the car door compartment about 10 months ago and just chucked it away. I’m not saying I definitely did, but I might have done. I might well have done.

Why? Why did I chuck out a vital metal thingy that I would need 10 months later? Why didn’t I think, question what on earth it was, and save myself hundreds of pounds getting my wheel nuts drilled out (ahem) and new ones put in?

Why? Because I have no common sense, that’s why. I’d never heard of wheel nuts, never examined my car’s wheels with any diligence, and never considered that something that looks a bit like a left-over tool from the car dealership might be an important component of my noble conveyance. It would have taken an act of mental agility, a leap of imagination beyond my mechanically-challenged experience, to even conceive of the remote possibility that the little metal thingy that I (possibly) threw out was something called a wheel nut.

No common sense, you may say. But I reply that there is no such thing as common sense. We’re not born with greater or lesser amounts of some magical ability to make the right decision in all circumstances. We’re not gifted with varying pages from the Secret Book Of How To Do Stuff. No. What common sense is, if you ask me, is Remembering Shit That Went Wrong Before. That’s what it is for me at least.

I have no common sense to speak of, I will freely admit that. I was born bereft of Nouse, innocent of Original Sense. But I have cocked a lot of things up. I have put glue on the wrong side of home-made greetings cards. I have washed fragile glasses with hefty saucepans whilst wearing slippery rubber gloves. I have put whites in with coloureds and let bras and tights roam loose inside the washing machine. I have thrown supposedly dead fireworks onto a bonfire. I have left my car overnight in a Manchester service station. I have walked into a ‘surly local bastards only’ bar and ordered 3 cokes and a G&T. Cock-ups all. And some of those cock-ups I remember. And some of those that I remember, I do not cock up again. Maybe this is what we call common sense. Cock-Up + Memory = Common Sense.

Some lucky buggers doubtless do not cock things up. They either get lucky and do the right thing, or else are party to that mysterious well of all world knowledge that I am not. Or maybe they read the bloody car manual first. Wish I bloody had.

1 comment:

Jack said...

I heard some people have common sense. I have never seen it at work. May be one day though. May be one day ..