The Psychology of a Brain Fart


“Brain fart!” The boss exclaimed, and I knew what he meant. Psychology didn’t enter into it, at least not at the time. Believe it or not, this happened during February of 2007, yet it was the first time I’d ever heard the term.

I was working for Producton Transport of Grand Junction, Colorado, driving big rig tankers, hauling water to and from natural gas drilling sites during a major boom on the state’s western slope. One of the other drivers, normally a capable hand behind the wheel, had rolled a loaded bobtail tanker truck in the slushy ice-mud ditch that ran next to the dirt road. He’d been a matter of mere yards from location (where the drilling was going on) when it happened. The grade was pretty steep right there, the footing treacherous, but a number of other PT (Production Transport) drivers–including me–had negotiated the trail successfully.

Definitely, when he laid that truck over like it was an old man going to sleep, a brain fart was involved.

Curiously enough, Googling “brain fart” brings up 16,400,000 results, one of them being a Wikipedia entry which states in part,

The term is typically employed in the United States to indicate a regrettable and poorly thought out choice of action. According to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Denis Gauthier a brain fart occurs when one “momentarily loses his sense of logic…and does something ‘dumb’.”

I’ve been personally acquainted with a fair number of brain farts over the years, but last night’s incident was a classic. It’ll serve to illustrate the psychology of a brain fart.

As part of my regular early evening routine, the Yamaha pure sine generator is gassed up and fired up. There are several extension cords that carry electricity to my office, the kitchen, much of Pam’s bedroom, and my bathroom. These are unplugged from the solar generator for the night and plugged into the gas powered Yamaha, leaving just the water pressure booster pump pulling power from the solar system on a regular basis. The idea is to keep the battery bank from getting too low before the sun comes up again.

No big deal, and not a difficult changeover. I’ve been doing it this way for most of a year now.

However, I got a shock this morning when I went out to turn off the Yamaha at 3:45 a.m. The little blue beast was running, all right…but not even one extension cord was plugged into its outlets. I’d let it run all night with no load whatsoever, leaving the entire house drawing from the solar gennie’s batteries.

“Brain fart,” I muttered, suspecting my eyes had gone wide at the error.

The Yamaha generator had been running all night under no load whatsoever.  I'd started the engine, all right, but then walked away without shifting the extension cords over from the solar unit.

The Yamaha generator had been running all night under no load whatsoever. I’d started the engine, all right, but then walked away without shifting the extension cords over from the solar unit. Brain fart!

Puzzled a bit, I determined to figure out–if possible–just how such a thing could have happened. What, specifically, had shorted out my usual orderly set of evening chores? Something must have distracted me big time. Thinking and thinking and thinking back over those early evening hours…I got it. I’d been trying to do too much, too fast, and my brain farted from the overload.

Sort of like, you know, a mental backfire.

Around 5:15 p.m., with not that much time left until sunset, I’d announced, “Going to see if I can get one shelf built before the sun sets.” That went well, hustling the circular saw, cutting the four boards needed and nailing them in place in the tool shed’s southwest corner.

The sun had just disappeared by the time I got around to picking up tools, figuring to head over to the Yamaha generator next, and–uh-oh. I stuck my head inside the front door and called out, “Right rear tire is flat on the Subaru! Flat right down on the rim! Big bolt right through the tread!”

Dusk was falling fast. I’d need to hustle if I didn’t want to be pulling that tire off of there by flashlight. Tomorrow, I could take it into town in the truck, but only after pumping up the left rear tire on that vehicle. The truck tire only had a slow leak, though, so…

“Hey! The car jack is here, the lug wrench is here, but no jack handle. What the–??”

Well then. Grab the scissors jack (and handle) out of the truck, use that. Leave the jack holding up the car, what the hey, not best practice but who cares? Got a hydraulic jack in the truck anyway, so….


There was a sizeable bolt embedded in the right rear tire, right through the tread.

There was a sizeable bolt embedded in the right rear tire, right through the tread.

Okay, getting dark now, not much light left, hustle-hustle-hustle. Gotta move, gas- generator-pull-rope-shift-cords-over-feed-wild critters-lock-up-for-evening get-to-cooking-hamburgers-set-out-to-thaw-earlier.

The burgers represented stress. Cooking one for myself would be no big, but both Pam and Alta had indicated a willingness to chow down. Alta, no big deal, but wife Pam? Happy wife, happy life, but Angus burgers are no sure bet. Too raw, I hear about it. Seasoned wrong, I hear about it. Too well done, they get tough and I really hear about it.

Fortunately, they came out fine. I didn’t hear a word about it.

But there, clearly, is the origin of a brain fart. Racing to beat the darkness on the one side, worrying about getting the supper meat right on the other, all added to the usual evening chores, and…mental flatulence, right there. The psychology behind the event is simplicity itself, a speed pressure cooker with more ingredients (tasks to do) than the brain could juggle without dropping a ball or two.

One more of Life’s little mysteries, solved.

7 thoughts on “The Psychology of a Brain Fart

  1. I have had those before, and they are not fun. I have noticed that I have them less often, if I designate chores to other people. Don’t tell me that neither of those two women know how to cook a burger. To avoid those in the future when you have more to do than your mind can keep up with, choose one or two of your chores that they can handle and ask them to do them. It will save you from more problems.
    I have Katy do things and Dennis gets told one is his. Now I have David home to help me when I get overwhelmed. It works and they can earn their keep too. We are their loved one and it will do no good to have us keel over from too much work.

  2. Becky, you’re right on–except for lacking a little bit of info regarding the two women and another little bit of info regarding me and my cast iron skillet. It has been years since Pam was safe when it came to cooking more than, say, coffee in the morning, unless she has help and can mostly sling the spices and give directions. Her disabilities are real, and they are deep. If she can function well enough on a given day to EAT the burger, that’s a winner, right there. As for Alta, she’s gone through two pretty horrendous wisdom tooth extractions, one after the other, and her misery levels are still high enough that I’d prefer not to eat anything she had a hand in cooking.

    Then there’s the cast iron skillet. I bought that a few months ago and can reliably turn out stuff pretty much the way I want for the first time in a lo-ong time. We grew up using a skillet just like this one, but upon reaching adulthood, I got away from cast iron and never got back to it until now. Anybody else in the house touch it, and I’d be wanting to smack them with it. (Not literally, just underscoring my attitude.) I’ve never said one word about that but am pretty sure they both know it, especially since I hammered a special nail into the wall so that when the skillet’s not in use, it hangs right beside the stove.

    Not that we don’t have several other skillets in the house. We certainly do.

    On the other hand, your way of working it sounds awesome for you–and Pam is planning to do up one of her brisket specialties in the near future. With Alta’s help, of course.

  3. Oops, did not realize that Alta was still in hefty pain. I would not trust that either. I have no special pans right now. I had to give up my cast iron when I could no longer lift it. The carpel tunnel and ulner nerve damage strikes again. I have some in storage, but only because it was grandma’s. The stuff I bought, I sold, for a good price. The stuff is valuable.

  4. Ah. My turn to “not realize”; I didn’t realize you’d developed a lifting problem to that extent.

    Cast iron is valuable, though our current skillet–which came from Walmart–wasn’t horrifically expensive. It helps to have some age on it to get the good sale price.

  5. Not so much a lifting problem, as a gripping problem. I can lift something fine, as long as I do not have to wrap my fingers around it to lift it. My hands will cramp up and it is very painful when they do. Sometimes I cannot hold onto something tight enough to lift it. I have a large skillet with two handles that I can lift when it is full, but only because I use both hands and one of the handles is a short one that is easier to hold onto.

  6. Yep, I know brain farts all too well. Once year when my son was a baby (and I was busy taking care of him and all the household chores) I put the Thanksgiving turkey in the oven. Three hours later I discovered I’d forgotten to turn it on! Boy, talk about egg in your face….

  7. Becky: That makes sense. It doesn’t take much to mess up our ability to grip things.

    Sha: Indeed, been there, done that. Not with a Thanksgiving turkey–only ever cooked one of those, leaving most such endeavors to the ladies and/or the restaurants–but with “other stuff”, like forgetting to turn on the washing machine after loading it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.