King of the castle

We've all heard that old saw, "A man's home is his castle," meant to convey independence and safety and the sanctity of private property.

The adage no doubt dates from the days when a man's home really was a castle, and anyone who dared interfere risked a moat and vats of boiling oil. Men were kings of their domains, as long as they "kept the home fires burning" under the oil vats.

Over the years, some men have taken the castle allegory further, using it to convince themselves they're the rulers of the household.

(Back in the "Ozzie and Harriett" days when I was a kid, my brother and I sometimes would try to put unpopular parental decisions to a vote. This was met with derision from my father, who would always say, "This isn't a democracy. It's a monarchy. And I'm the king." We children would shuffle away, muttering and plotting an overthrow that never came.)

These days, equality is the coin of the realm, and men who try to pretend they're kings are fooling themselves. Those emperors have no clothes, no matter how much they may rail about "wearing the pants in this family." Wives smile to themselves, knowing who's really in charge, and the kids can't even hear the king's commands because they're wearing headphones full of thumping rap music.

It's time to modify the old saying. Here's my suggestion: "A man's GARAGE is his castle."
In the house, Dad may be an impotent potentate, his blustery decrees overriden by calm females, his kids screaming for his head like an angry mob. But when Dad goes to the garage, he's still the king.

Drive around any suburban neighborhood on any Sunday afternoon and peer in the garage doors that are standing open. You'll find men in there. Building stuff. Tinkering with cars. Or just lounging in lawn chairs, sipping Buds and watching sports on portable TVs, sometimes in the company of other monarchs from neighboring realms.

Why the garage?

--All our stuff is there. Family men can't just leave oily rags and random tools lying around the kitchen. Not if we ever want to see them again. That stuff belongs in the garage, preferably on pegboards. Wrenches and hammers and mowers and drills and old saws, all carefully organized. We men can spend hour upon hour just arranging our tools. It's a harmless activity, akin to collecting baseball cards, and it keeps us occupied. And, when we need a particular tool, there's always the long-shot chance that we can actually find it.

--Men need time alone with their thoughts. These aren't necessarily deep thoughts, often no deeper than "where did I put that wrench," but the garage is the only quiet place where we can ponder them. We all need "down time" so we can sit among our sharpened lawn tools and fantasize about the demise of our bosses and other enemies.

--Garages are, by their very nature, dirty. Men may be afraid to set a beer on the coffee table without a coaster, but in the garage we can spill oil and paint and grease. Nobody cares. We're in our little fiefdoms, and we can make them as filthy as we like.

--The garage is the only place where we men might actually fix something. Most men, when attenpting a tricky car repair or reassembling toilet innards, need solitude so we can concentrate. Also, alone in the garage, we can curse with impunity when we're injured or the repair job goes wrong.

--We get a break from that raucous "quality time" with our families. Our wives and children know to leave us alone when we're in the garage. They know, if they interrupt whatever manly endeavors we're attempting out there, they're likely to be put to work. Plus, they don't want to hear all that cursing.

So, men of America, go to the garage. Consider it your hideout, your clubhouse. Heck, call it your castle, if you so desire. Fashion yourself a crown and wear it while you tinker. Be the King of Greater Pegboardia.

You'll get comfort and peace. You'll finally get some solitude. You can even spit on the floor if you want.

But don't try boiling oil. It spatters, and those burns will only set you to cursing.

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