COLUMN: Reality or Real Life?

'Tis the season to barbecue but whatever you do keep the propane full.

Sometimes being lazy can also be educational. I plunked down on the couch, set down my perfect cup of coffee and reached for the remote control. It wasn’t in the near vicinity but rather than get up again, I just watched what was on the TV.

It was a cooking show and they were doing some amazing things on the barbecue and I was mentally making notes, all the time remembering that on reality TV shows they do this over three or four times until they get it perfect. If it had been a true reality show, they would have run out of propane when the steaks were half done.

Nothing can ruin a summer day more than hearing, “Honey, we just ran out of propane.” The smart man would jump into his shoes, grab the keys and propane tank and go as quickly as possible to the service station. Keeping the propane full is his job.

But, all too often he will scramble for time replying, “What?” She will respond, “We Are Out Of Propane!” The worst thing he can do now is go out there and start twisting knobs, pushing buttons and flicking lighters and mumbling, “We can’t be out of propane.” She knows you are out of propane and the recipe she downloaded said seven minutes a side and this is throwing off her schedule.

As one woman said, “When barbecuing, I try to find that sweet spot between shoe leather and E-coli,” and now her perfect meal is compromised. The last thing she needs to hear from him is, “Can’t you just zap them in the microwave?”

When you finally leave to fill the tank, don’t get sidetracked buying lottery tickets, talking to people or running other errands. Just get the propane. Otherwise the conversation is not good. “What took you so long?” “I stopped by the liquor store.” “Seriously? Our dinner is rotting on the grill and you need beer?”

The only possible way to salvage this dinner is to ask if there is anything you can do to help her. Maybe toss a salad, set the table, pour her a cold drink or even apologize for letting the propane tank run dry.

Under no circumstances should you wait five minutes, walk out with a beer in your hand and ask, “How much longer til dinner, I’m starving?” She will probably be holding a meat thermometer and you don’t want to give her options on where she can stick it.

The reality shows on TV are usually very far removed from real life. The first clue should be that the families in those shows aren’t sitting watching TV for hours. They can go through a dozen steaks until it comes off perfect and that is the cut we see on the screen. How many times during your day would you like to yell, “cut!” and start over?

In our reality, we start the day writing the script, assigning dialogue to our players and casting them in the roles we think they are suited for. As the Director, we have a plan for our cast and how the day will unfold. But, all too often, our players have chosen a different script and the show has a different ending. That’s life.

There are about two months of great barbecuing weather yet, men. For your peace of mind, keep that propane tank full. At least that’s what McGregor says.