If your luck is on empty, one day you might find yourself dazed and bleeding, lying on the grass next to your ruined vehicle, while your wife stands over you with a golf club. Then the police pull up. This is when you will find out who your true friends are.
They are the ones who accept without comment whatever cockamamie story you dream up to explain the circumstances. They might offer an understanding nod, nothing more.
Those who blurt out "Why, that's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard. What really happened?" are not your friends. And those who say "It will be better for you if you tell the truth" are really not your friends. They are journalists.
Tiger Woods -- the world's greatest golfer, millionaire a hundred times over, good-looking devil with matching Swedish wife, all-purpose role model for America's youth -- contrived to put himself in the predicament described above over the Thanksgiving holiday. At first, he wouldn't explain what happened. It's a private matter, he said.
Personally, I tend to agree with him but I'm in the minority. When the public embraces a figure, be it an athlete, an actor or a politician, it figures it pretty much owns him or her and that there are no private matters.
Thus, on the eve of the President's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, we had the streets around Woods' home lined with TV trucks waiting to send the latest word on Tigergate to an anxious world.
If I were Woods, with millions in endorsements to protect, I would have done what he did: kept my mouth shut. The best story he could have come up with would be something like this:
"I had spent the evening reading The Wit and Witticisms of Ben Hogan and was about to get ready for bed when my lovely wife Elin said: 'We're out of mouthwash, Dear. Would you mind running out to the all-night drugstore and getting some?'
"'Of course not, my little nightingale,' I told her. 'I'll do it right now.'
"Unfortunately, I backed out of the driveway too quickly and ran into a fire hydrant at the curb. When I tried to pull forward I hit the gas pedal too hard and rammed a tree on my neighbor's property.
"Curiously enough, the airbags failed to inflate and I smashed my face on the steering wheel, knocking myself out and cutting my mouth.
"Elin came rushing out of the house to help me, but the doors on my SUV were locked. As luck would have it, she was carrying one of my favorite golf clubs and broke out the rear window with it. She then reached in, grabbed me under the arms and dragged me into the back seat and out the broken window. She was about to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the police showed up."
Not even Walt Disney could sell that. The truth was more like this:
"Elin had been on me all evening about those stories of me fooling around with a cocktail hostess during my recent trip to Australia.
"Finally I'd had enough and said: 'I don't have to take this; I am Tiger Woods, the world's greatest golfer. I'm going.'"
'If you go, don't bother coming back,' she said.
'I'm gone,' I said.
"As I'm backing my Cadillac Escalante out of the driveway, she comes out of the house yelling Swedish things like 'Vasselglusen' and 'Nincompupin' while waving one of my favorite clubs.
"This causes me to lose my focus and I drive into the rough, hitting a fire hydrant, at which point she starts beating on the car with the club, causing me to accidentally hit the gas pedal, and I run into my neighbor's tree.
"So I get out of the car and say: 'Give me the club, Elin.'
"That's the last thing I remember until the police arrived."
I don't see where either story helps him much.
Oh well, few things are more boring than perfection. Woods just got more interesting.
Minuteman Media and retired Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.