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.