The Science of Stan

“Stan?”

“Yeah?”

My buddy Stan’s truck was running on fumes.

This was normal, so it didn’t bother me.

More concerning was the unearthly howl that emanated from his left front wheel and the corresponding bone-jarring thump it took every time we hit a pebble.

Again this was normal.

The thing is, we were way out in the boonies on a road I didn’t know and doubted if anyone else knew about either.

“Are we going to make it to town?” I asked.

He ignored me like he usually does.

Suddenly the truck veered sharply to the right and flew into and out of a ditch.

This time it wasn’t the truck’s fault.

Stan was glaring over his shoulder.

“That’s the stupidest thing I ever read,” he said.

I looked around. “What?”

“That yard sign.”

Indeed the sign was troubling. I mean, who puts up a yard sign on a road few people know about and fewer people travel on?

It read, ‘WE BELIEVE IN SCIENCE‘.

“Uh-huh.”

“That’s dumb.”

“Why? Don’t you believe in science?”

“Not in the least.”

I could see that.

Stan has an almost mystical connection with anything mechanical. He actually talks to machines and therefore I could fully understand why he leans more toward the paranormal than the normal.

Besides, no one has ever accused Stan of being rational.

But then he added.

“Dude…., one may believe in Bigfoot but you follow science.”

“Not following you on that.”

“Let’s try it this way. Do you believe in manuals?”

“Huh?”

“Manuals, like what you used to tote around when you were working.”

“Sure.”

“So would you put up a yard sign that read, WE BELIEVE IN MANUALS?”

“Probably not.”

“Why not? Manuals are perhaps the most trustworthy thing you will ever encounter…”

“Yeah, but people think I am weird enough as it is.”

“I can see that.”

We drove on a little further as the howling in Stan’s left front wheel intensified and his gas gauge, fed up with being ignored, flipped over to full then violently returned to empty where it waggled ominously over the E.

“So do you believe in science? Stan asked.

“Sure.”

“So what do you know about science?”

“What I read.”

“In other words, you trust what some twenty-five year hack in Brooklyn who spent an hour rewriting a press release for the New York Times told you about some dubious study.”

“That’s pretty harsh.”

“Yeah, but it’s true. Maybe the kid is honest, maybe competent, maybe not. In the end, it doesn’t matter because if it sells clicks and advertising, it’s as good as true.”

“Again this come from a guy who talks to machines.”

“We are covering old ground here,” he said. “I don’t talk to machines, I listen to them. A lot of people, like you, read manuals and suddenly believe that you understand the topic. I read manuals too – but then I listen to what the machine has to say – and every one is different. They were all built differently by different people and wear down differently and every one has its own story.”

“So then do you believe them?….”

“Nope, because some lie, some have their own agenda and some are just as foolish and delusional as people.”

“So is that why you don’t like the, WE BELIEVE IN SCIENCE sign.”

“Nope.”

“Then why?”

“Because good science, like good mechanics, is about listening and anyone who puts up a sign to proclaim what they believe – is probably not listening.”

Stan was making profound sense and that was deeply troubling. Whenever he does that it usually portends disaster.

“Uh Stan?”

“What?”

“Is this truck going to make it into town?”

“I believe so.”

..

..

Oh crap!!

Thanks to Judy from NewEnglandGardenAndThread for motivating me to write a Stan story. It’s been a while