Our new, fresh, no-one-has-peeled-off-those-plastic-films-over-the-screens year of 2021 has barely started, and we’ve already managed to find a new heel: Bean Dad. Like so many other legume-eating, child-having people across the globe, I read about Bean Dad and Bean Daughter’s can opener trials and rolled my eyes with the ruthless abandon of a flung hubcap. Bean Dad seems to have issued an apology just now, which makes me shed initial reservations about writing about any of this at all, especially since I think the Global Car/Gearhead Community has a lot to teach him here, and, maybe all of us.
Bean Dad is this dipshit named John Roderick who was a former musician (and sometimes racist/antisemite, based on past tweets) and who sometimes, bafflingly, calls himself “Apocalypse Dad” in this twitter thread.
The thread (now deleted, but preserved in screenshots, because, duh, internet) revolved around how his nine-year-old daughter interrupted his important jigsaw puzzle work — a task with a level of urgency at least on par with the discovery of moss patches on a driveway — because she was hungry.
Apocalypse Dad advised she eat a can of baked beans, and when she asked how to open the can, the dude got weirdly excited at the idea of demanding she figure out how to open the can without, you know, actually explaining how to open a can.
The process to get the can open took a tidy six hours, mostly thanks to the fact that instead of actually explaining how a can opener worked, Roderick decided to instead tell his kid pretentious horseshit like “You understand everything except how the tool addresses the can,” advice which would be enough to make anyone unfamiliar with a can opener willing to attempt to open the can by repeatedly bouncing it off that fucker’s head.
During all of this, the kid was complaining about being hungry to the point of feeling woozy, but Bean Dad was so pleased with the six-hour meaningless ordeal that he wrote up this inane twitter thread that sparked all the outrage online.
Now, I’m a child owner/operator myself; I’m absolutely, unquestionably a flawed dad in many ways, some of which I’m sure I don’t even realize yet, but I, of course, love my kid and try my best. And even my wildly imperfect parenting sees how ridiculous this whole approach is.
As an experiment, I dragged Otto, my kid who just turned 10, into the kitchen to see how he fared with can openery. He’s got a cat named Tomato he’s especially fond of, so I told him we’ll give Tomato a bonus can of rich, creamy cat food if he’ll open the can.
So, I just verbally explained how the can opener worked, pointed out the parts, and told him exactly how to clamp it down on the rim, show him the cutting wheel, and turn the knob.
Within five minutes Tomato was going to town on some Nine Lives Meaty Paté. That was it.
This, is, of course, the conclusion that nearly every human in the known universe with access to cans, can openers, and children came to: Everyone involved could have had a much, much better day if Bean Dad just, you know, fucking showed his kid how to do it.
This is where the car-community angle comes in. I realized that the Greater Community of Gearheads is actually fantastic about this simple idea: showing people how to do things.
If you’re into cars, you will absolutely find yourself, at some point, having to perform some task that you may not know how to do. This can be something as simple as an oil change or as complex as literally anything on my old 2001 Volkswagen Passat. Whatever it is, somewhere in the car community, someone will be thrilled to explain how to get shit done.
The idea of withholding information to prove some vague, idealized concept of the benefits of self-reliance just don’t work when you’re potentially dealing with machines that can kill you or other people; if you have a friend who needs to replace their brake pads, you don’t just hand them a box of pads and gesture vaguely at your workshed and say figure it out, genius — you take the time to show them what tools they need, what the steps that have to be performed are, and, ideally, check in on them as they’re doing it.
This doesn’t mean they’re learning any less — it just means nobody is wasting time or risking doing something dangerously wrong because they’re forced to re-discover something already known.
It’s such a bafflingly simple idea that as I type it out I’m having trouble believing it needs to be said, but the very existence of this whole Bean Dad thing proves that maybe it does: it’s good to share knowledge.
If anyone is still somehow having trouble with this idea, again, look to car people. Ask someone who drives a manual transmission to teach you to drive stick, and I bet they might pee themselves with excitement. Sharing what you know is a genuine joy, one of those fantastic situations where everyone can come out happier.
Discovering how things work is amazing, as is experimentation and trial-and-error. But if there’s an opportunity to share information about how something in the world works with someone who wants to know, why be greedy?
I’m pretty sure nobody wants to emulate Bean Dad, right? Not even stupid Bean Dad anymore. Hopefully, Bean Daughter will have someone in her life to explain how things work when she gets to driving age, but if she doesn’t, I’m confident she can reach out pretty much anywhere in Gearheadom and find many, many willing and eager teachers.