Critical spirit shows lack of critical sense

Burt's Eye View

Some people get paid to be critics. The rest of us offer the service for free.

It’s easy to do, because the less we know about a thing, the more confidently we can lecture someone else how to do it.

This is why, for example, the people who know parenting the best are the critics who never had any actual kids.

Once, an exhausted mother guzzling a gallon of coffee told a bunch of us about her rough night:

“The baby climbed out of the crib and scattered his toys all over the room. I hauled him back to bed. He escaped again, hid in the closet and sang at the top of his lungs. We put him back to bed. When things got quiet, we found the crib empty and the baby down the hall unrolling the toilet paper in the bathroom.”

A childless guy wagged his finger at the worn-out woman. “Well, you should have told him to go to sleep. Did you ever think of that?”

I’m told doctors think he’ll regain use of at least 75 percent of his finger. The part that wags, though, won’t work again.

We’re not real great at figuring out our own lives, but we can spout off ALL the answers to straighten out everyone else’s problems.

My brother-in-law, Bill often, said, “There are two things everyone else knows how to do better than I do — how to raise my kids and how to spend my money.”

Whether it’s music, movies, books, food, medicine — anything, really — even if we have no clue how to do a thing ourselves, we certainly know how our neighbor is doing it wrong. A person can’t even go on a trip without outside interference. “You’re a doofus for going that route,” the critic claims. “I know a shortcut.”

The traveler might as well stay home. Nothing takes longer than a critic’s shortcut.

“My mechanic can’t figure out why my car’s gasping and wheezing,” my buddy Dave said.

“What kind of an idiot do you have working on your car?” Ralph said. “Obviously, it’s the points and the distributor cap. Any numbskull knows that.”

“Yeah, but…”

Ralph raced on: “Whenever we had problems with our cars, the first thing Dad did was change the points.”

“Yeah, but…”

“That’s what I do. Whenever I have a problem, I take it and tell that mechanic, ‘I don’t want any of your nonsense designed to rack up a big bill. You just change the points and distributor cap.'”

When Ralph finally paused to breath, Dave jumped in. “Yeah, cars haven’t been built with points and distributor caps for 20 years. A central computer tells cars when to make a spark.”

It’s at times like these that we remember what an “expert” is — an “ex” is a has-been, and a “spurt” is that last little gasp of something before there’s nothing.

I better be careful. All these stones I’m throwing are about to break my glass house. That is to say, I’ve done it myself.

“How can someone be so stupid?” I think as I stroll past a car plopped in a ditch. Then I walk smack into a tree because I was gawking at the car instead of watching where I was going.

And while I’m still sprawled on the ground, I overhear that after his brakes failed, the driver swerved into the ditch rather than plow into the horse-and-buggy in front of him or whip into a head-on collision in the other lane.

He’s the hero. I’m just the jerk who walked into a tree because I was too busy criticizing someone else.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

— Lambaste Cole at or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.