‘College boy’ takes a manly risk in the beer store

This blog plunges deeply into the drama of my experience in trying to determine if two cases of 12 Sleeman were the same price as 24, and how my status as a manly man hung in the balance.‘

Oh man. This is confusing. Geez Tim, you should be able to figure this out.’

What was the crisis at the root of this great moment of anxiety?

Here’s what: I was standing at the back of the Willow Street Beer Store in Guelph looking down at cases of Sleeman Silver Creek Lager. More particularly, I was looking at the price sticker. It said $26.95 for 12 bottles; $40.95 for 24.

I wanted 24. But here’s the thing: There were only cases of 12 in that spot. No two-fours in sight.

So my dilemma was:If I bought two cases of 12, would I get the price for 24? Or, was that price only for an actual case of 24?Seriously.

This stumped me. It would appear safe to assume two cases of 12 would be $40.95. But, it was an an assumption.

There was a probability that I would haul the two cases up to the front, stand in line among a number of impatient customers late on a busy Friday afternoon, and be told: ‘Sorry, that price is only for an actual case of 24.’ I might be told that it’s a computer-inventory-management kind of thing.

I have made many assumptions in my life, some of which generated this kind of response: ‘No, you are mistaken, you pathetic, oblivious, sad excuse for a man.’ Well, that extra bit is what I imagined the person was thinking.

So there I stood in the beer store, frozen, perplexed. The incredible shrinking man.

I know this mannish boy feeling well; the naive waif devoid of dirt-under-your fingernails experience. That I didn’t know things a dude should know from having fixed things, lifted things, installed things, hammered things, dug things, mitered things, wired things, unclogged things, plumbed things, snaked things.

At these times, I have felt less like than a man with a responsible job, kids and a mortgage and more like a five-year with his index finger knuckle deep up a nostril.

Like years ago when I was attempting to fix our fixer-upper first house. While attempting various renovation projects in which I had zero experience, I would invariably reach frustrating dead ends that required yet another visit to the lumber store, sometimes for the second and third time that day.

With trepidation, I’d make my way to the counter, and stammer about what I was dealing with to a squinty-eyed fellow with one of those giant pencils behind one ear. He’d leaned in, attempting to decipher what I was yammering on about with one arched eyebrow that announced, ‘Jesus, college boy, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing do you?’

I imagined his next move would be to grab my hands, and pronounce: ‘I knew it! No calluses.’

While my mind raced, I’d half hear what he was saying, and then instantly agree to whatever he was offering to bring this excruciating transaction to a merciful conclusion.

It was during such a wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moment that I was informed that a two-by-four is not actually two-by-four inches. It starts out that size when cut from a log. But then they plane it until it’s about 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches. But … it’s called a two-by-four. See how confusing the world is! 

These moments of feebleness came with folks who were like gatekeepers to the practical world that I needed to access.

Such as the hardware store guy who asked if I needed a Robertson or Phillips screwdriver. “Ah, the star kind.”

Or the furnace repair guy who asked over the phone if we had forced air. ‘Um, I have no idea.’

Any mechanic in any garage.

Or the very grumpy operator of a fishing camp at 5:30 a.m. who instantly brought a Johnson 10-horsepower motor to life with one lightning-quick tug after my young sons watched me yank, beg and swear for five inept minutes.

So there I was, again, this familiar wave of smallness washing over me as I stood looking quizzically at cases of Sleeman beer.

‘Screw it.’ I strode to the cashier to ask a question that risked making me look like a pathetic, oblivious, sad excuse for a man. 

When I got to the front of the line, I stood before a mid-60ish-woman with wide eyes. “Excuse me, here’s your stupid question of the day: Are two cases of 12 the same price as a 24?”

“Yes, they are.”

Then, she smiled.

“Don’t worry. I get asked that all the time.”

‘Yes!’ a little voice inside me exulted. I refrained from a fist pump.

Behind me, a gravelly voice huffed: “Well, of course.”

I pay it no heed. I went on to complete my transaction standing up straighter than any previous beer store encounter in my life.

On my way home in the car, I turned up the volume on my victory song—the very manly La Grange—to 11.

Sipping a Sleeman that night, I thought about all those stories of feeling feeble and small, and that they were just that. Stories.

Maybe some of those ‘practical’ experienced men thought I was ‘college boy,’ but most likely they didn’t think anything at all. If anything, they were thankful for guys like me that allow them to make a living.

It’s taken my own hard-earned experience to realize that when that feeling of smallness washes over me, it’s time to take a risk. And the more risks I take, the bigger I feel.

The themes of integrity and accountabiity are pillars in my coaching, as well as my change management workshops called Walk Your Talk, which I’m slated to deliver at the PGA of Canada’s Tee Talks Live conference on Nov. 26.

Click here for more on my Walk Your Talk workshops and here for a previous blog on accountability.

For info on the workshops or coaching, drop me a line at tim@oconnorgolf.ca or visit www.oconnorgolf.ca.


About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!