A lot of people get intimidated when they have to defuse a bomb, but there’s no reason it can’t be a satisfying encounter. Just remind yourself that human beings have been defusing bombs for a long time, mostly with success, and there’s nothing magical or supernatural about the bomb in front of you. I remember being scared to death the first time I had to tie a bow tie, and it turned out to be a piece of cake.

You never know where a bomb is going to show up unexpectedly during your daily routine—on the seat of your car, in the health sauna, or on the kneeler in your booth during confession. The secret to dispatching the problem swiftly is to avoid letting the bomb knock you off your game and cause you to act timid. You must own the experience.

Bomb Type

First, take a quick look at what type of bomb you’re dealing with. Does it look like a black bowling ball with a burning fuse? If so, it’s a cartoon bomb, and there is nothing to fear. Just let it go off in your hand and respond with a bewildered, hangdog expression and blackface. (This comes off with soap and water.)

In most cases, though, the device will be a classic “time bomb.” Federal regulations require that every time bomb include an explosive component, several wires of differing colors, and—since 1973—a clock indicating how much time remains before the explosion. (Thank God for Ralph Nader.) The clock will be either “analog” (a Latin word meaning “round”) or “digital” (squarish). The wires will always be red, black, and white, unless they are blue, black, and white, or red, blue, and black or brown.

Take a close look at the components. If the device includes a plastic capsule containing liquid, it indicates a chemical detonator. If the wires pass through a battery that is separate from the clock, it suggests an electronic detonator. If the device has a switch on the surface that toggles between “AM” and “FM,” you’re an idiot.

Cutting the Wires

Do the wires lead to a lump of dull-colored, malleable material? If so, you may be facing some kind of plastic explosive. To check, take the Sunday comics and press them firmly against the substance. If the image transfers to the lump cleanly, the material is Silly Putty. Feel free to pocket it and pass it on to your children for hours of enjoyment. In most cases, the image will not transfer well, and you should be careful not to touch the material at all.

When it’s time to cut one of the wires, just follow the old adage: In the case of red, black, and white, you should cut the red wire first, unless the black wire is intertwined with the white wire, in which case the red wire should be cut second. If the red is more of a maroon, you should cut it third; if it’s a burgundy, you should cut it simultaneously with the white wire while the ring finger of your right hand is looped through the black wire. You could, of course, yank out all the wires at once, but that hardly seems sporting, and what would you have learned?

Employing the Robot

If you’re one of those “early adapter” iPhone-loving technophiles, you probably carry one of the new bomb-disposal robots with you. These devices have interface software that lets you program them by speaking instructions into the built-in microphone. (Remember when bomb disposal required expertise in <font size=“-1”FORTRAN?) The technology in these gadgets still has some bugs, though—mainly seen in the robot’s tendency to become frightened and cling to your leg. That’s why it’s best to first go around a corner away from the bomb. Then, in a calm voice, explain to the robot where the bomb is located, what type it appears to be, which wire(s) to cut, and where you will take the robot for ice cream afterward. When the robot walks off around the corner, run like hell.

Summoning Your Courage

Most likely, you don’t own a robot and will have to handle the bomb yourself. It’s important that you keep yourself calm so you are thinking clearly. Remember the few simple tips I laid out above, and make your movements slow and deliberate. It may be best to step away and take two or three deep breaths before you approach the bomb to …

Oh, for Christ’s sake, stop being such a baby. It’s just a goddamn bomb. Will you defuse it already and get it over with? You’re such a sissy, I’m surprised your mommy let you out this morning. Do you want me to tie your shoes for you and take you to the potty? I’m amazed you even know how to breathe without someone telling you what to do.