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SWIFT: Leave it to Dad for bits of wisdom

Tammy Swift, columnist

Editor's note: This column was originally published June 12, 2005.

In honor of Father's Day, I would like to address the issue of fatherly wisdom. I'm talking about those bits of advice you heard hundreds of times until they became part of your personal belief system.

Oddly enough, Dad's advice usually revolved around inanimate objects (the proper way to change a tire, the best way to mow the lawn), while Mom tackled issues as varied as personal grooming ("You girls shouldn't part your hair down the middle.") and relationships ("A lot of people would be happier if their mothers picked out their mates.")

Still, tucked amid Dad's advice on car doors and air conditioning and proper motor oil, there lurked some homespun wisdom that still makes sense today.

Among some of Dad's favorites:

• On the questionable tactic of driving through potholes: "Did you just drive through a basement?"

• On the practice of slamming doors/leaving doors open: "Do you want it to swing both ways?" "Do you want to let all the flies out?"

• On car-care: "Change the oil while it is still in fluid form." "Always turn off the air conditioner before you turn off the engine." "Let the car warm up." "Are you trying to ruin the transmission? Make sure the car is completely stopped before shifting from reverse to drive."

• On any ideas that were less than sensible: "You sound like a fish with a paper tail," or "You make as much sense as a submarine with a screen door." (I actually thought this was a well-known expression until I repeated it to some college friends, who looked at me like I was a fish with a paper tail.)

• On personal grooming: "Those jeans are so tight, not only can I see the quarter in your pocket, I can tell it's a head's up!" "You girls are pretty enough; you don't need all that gunk on your face." (This was one area where he differed from Mom, who thought we should wear lipstick to take out the garbage.)

• On the single status of his daughters: "If you wait too long, I'm going to have to give two cows away with you/start leaning ladders against your windows."

• On household management: "Turn off the lights. Do you think money grows on trees?" "You'd better keep track of your checkbook or you'll get a love note from Uncle (insert name of local banker)."

• On buying a car: "Never let them see you're excited about anything." (This was after seeing my father reduce grown car salesmen to tears with his world-class poker face. He also stopped bringing his daughters with him while car-shopping, for fear we would squeal with delight over the pretty red paint job on the Pacer or the eight-track player in the Pinto.)

You gotta love him.