Successfully or not, I attempt to make these columns intelligent and thought provoking. Having "Dr" in front of my name suggests I should at least be capable of that. But don't let it fool you. I spend a significant part of my life defending accusations that I am a complete twonk, and for good reason.
Last week I had to embark on trip from my home in Christchurch to Ashburton to give a public lecture. No great stress in this, I give plenty of them, but I was cutting it pretty close for time, so when my petrol light came on, I figured I'd worry about it later. And worry about it later I did. About 10km out of Ashburton on the way home I ran out of gas.
Following some creative use of swear words, I hopped out of the car in, into a light drizzle and extended my thumb.
I immediately got a lift to Rakaia where I filled a small Jerry Can with a couple of litres of fuel and hitched back to my car. In went the petrol and I turned the key, happy that the misadventure was, in the overall scheme of things, little more than a minor inconvenience. No dice. The car wouldn't fire up. I would later learn the computer had reset itself, or some bloody thing. I began to miss the days when cars weren't so smart.
At this point my swearing became a little more vigorous. It says something particularly interesting, though, that at that moment I paused to lament that I hadn't stopped and got KFC, because I was feeling a bit peckish.
I rang the nearest mechanic – the Rakaia Service Centre - and a couple of young lads came and busied themselves under the hood. They sprayed some fancy aerosol stuff into the air thingy and it sounded likely, but before long they slung the towrope.
Just before we got to the workshop there was a might KERCLUNK noise; a noise that every car owner can diagnose immediately; and that diagnoses is "expensive".
This particular expensive was a CV joint that couldn't be replaced until the following day and so I found myself hitch hiking again, but this time back to Christchurch. Funnily enough, the swearing had subsided by now. I had resigned myself to my fate like a dog with learned helplessness. I figured I could intellectualise my predicament.
By the time I got home it was dark. I did swear at that.
The next day I employed one of my students to take me back to Rakaia - as sick to death of the place as I was - to receive my new CV joint in the hope that it was successfully connected to my car.
Huzzah I yelled as I slipped behind the wheel. "See ya back in Christchurch," I said to the student out the window.
The more astute reader at this point may have noticed that at no time have I put more petrol in my car. It's okay, though, because almost immediately leaving the mechanic's I noticed that, too. I can definitely make it to Rolleston, I said to myself.
I didn't. I ran out of gas about 2km out.
The swearing at that point was of such a calibre that it even made me blush. I was like a tied up dog howling at the moon; except I wasn't tied to a kennel, I was tethered to my own stupidity. On the same stretch of State Highway 1, for two days in a row, I had ignored my gas light and run out of petrol twice. Let me be the first to acknowledge that this is a level of idiocy that defies scientific explanation.
In these columns I have explored such things the high imprisonment rate and sought to understand it, I have suggested that workplace drug testing is largely a nonsense, I pointed out that the murder rate is reducing to show that contrary to popular views New Zealand is becoming safer, that climate change denial is anti-scientific, that official gang statistics are inaccurate, and explained why people confess to crimes they haven't committed.
But looking back now I feel it's important to give a retrospective warning that all of those topics were written by a complete and utter goon. The only thing I can now give absolute certainty to is this: when the chips are down and everything is going to hell, you can rest with complete assurance that my swearing vocabulary is second to none.
• Dr Jarrod Gilbert is a sociologist at the University of Canterbury and the lead researcher at Independent Research Solutions. He is an award-winning writer and an expert in expletives.