Dumb Mistakes

Several readers of this column have suggested I write a book, apparently in the misguided belief that I am capable of writing something more than 500 words in length that’s worth reading.  If I were to attempt a book, I think the subject that would provide me the most material would be the many dumb mistakes I’ve made in the past 59 years.

I don’t count childhood mistakes because I don’t believe people should be held accountable for most of the stupid things they do before age 30.  Even with 30 years of grace, I still have a 29-year collection of embarrassing errors in judgment that I recall at the oddest moments.  It’s one of life’s great mysteries why a person who can’t reliably remember the names of his own children can somehow recount in painstaking detail a trivial event that occurred three or more decades ago.

Getting the Car Stuck

I have managed to do this at least three times over the course of my life.  My first experience involved a rainy night, a high school date, a dirt road, a large rock, a bent tire rim, and a few other details that require no elaboration since the event occurred when I was about 17.  I was only a little older when I repeated the mistake by getting my pickup stuck in the sand while visiting a lava tube with a friend.  I dated a number of young women in high school, but for some reason the relationships were generally of short duration.

I’m happy to say my latest story in this genre did not involve any women and happened after I became a city manager.  I was taking my son on what began as a short fishing trip and cleverly managed to strand our small station wagon in the middle of a creek that looked like it could be easily forded.  I was rescued by our police chief, who found what I thought to be distasteful humor in the situation.  In fact, his attitude reminded me of my father’s when I had to turn to him to get the family car out of the mud on that rainy night date many years earlier.

Saying Stupid Things to Your Wife

I believe I am the master of saying things to my wife that I regret as soon as the words have left my mouth.  Given that we’ve been married for nearly 40 years, I would acknowledge that others have obviously done this more frequently and to greater effect with their wives than I have with mine.  The divorce rate aside, I have more stories than I can share in the space and time available here.

The situation I remember most clearly involved running into my high school prom date about 20 years after my marriage.  My wife was not with me; and the first question she asked when she learned of the encounter was, “What does she look like?”  The appropriate response would have been something to the effect that time had not been kind to this woman, but I have always liked to believe I am an honest person so I truthfully said, “She looked really good.”  My former date opened a restaurant in the town where I was working and, needless to say, I never found out whether she could cook.


Making mistakes is part of the human condition and none of us will get through life without making our share.  Some of us take awhile to learn from our experiences; but if we’re lucky, the consequences are relatively minor and we’re given another chance.  I exercise more caution now when I take my vehicle off of paved surfaces, although I still routinely say stupid things to my wife.  At least I had the good sense to marry someone with a forgiving nature and a short memory.