I showed up at the final exam about half way into the class, dropped my books and started digging into the essay. After the instructor called time, I told one of my classmates I was late because I had run out of gas on the way to the test.
“Well, you won’t make that mistake again,” he said, and it made me cringe, because it was the second time I’d done it.
It wasn’t the first time, and certainly it wasn’t the last instance of me repeating a stupid mistake. Over the years, I’ve found a way to do the same dumb thing over and over, always vowing and always failing to know better the next time.
Somehow, I am not as bright as a lab rat.
We all like to think we learn from our mistakes, but most of us find a way to resist the wisdom life throws at us. I laugh at the guy who keeps falling for the latest investment craze, but I still think I’m going to get home faster if I get off the expressway and take the side streets. I shake my head as a friend tells me about a new relationship that sounds identical to the last hundred blow-ups, but every so often I’ll think it’s a great idea to split tens at the blackjack table.
I’m intrigued by my uncanny ability to absorb some lessons instantly and emulate a box of rocks about others. What is it that makes us both brilliant and chumps at the same time? Whatever the deep meaning behind our foolish consistency, it’s just another way for God to keep us humble.
We like to think of ourselves as wolves, always learning and always surviving the threats around us. More commonly, we’re dogs, repeatedly running into the patio door. Unfortunately, we never seem to be quite as happy as the family dog appears to be.
My own journey is a triumph of hope over experience. This time will be different. This time I’ll avoid the trap. This time I’ll make it work. Now that I’ve figured it all out, I’ll break the pattern. Ultimately, it turns out, my most infallible skill is my ability to fool myself.
There’s some comfort to be found in knowing that I’m not alone on the journey. As good as I’ve become at recognizing my own destructive tendencies, I’m even better at spotting those patterns among other people. Of course, it goes without saying that their repeated missteps are excessively irritating and impossibly obvious. Meanwhile, I’ve found, my own consistency of errors is charming, possibly even endearing.
Why are my flaws more cuddly than theirs? Hard to say, really, but it’s absolutely true. Regardless, I’ll try to find a way to tolerate all of their failures while making an effort to, um, refine my own charming idiosyncrasies.
I’ll give it more thought later, but meanwhile I have to polish off this pizza and finish a few more beers before I head back to the casino. I know that worked out badly for me in the past, but this time will be different.
It’s never a mistake to subscribe to Dad Writes by clicking here and, even if it was a giant error, it’s one of the most charming mistakes around.
Apologies to my neighbors and also to my grandchildren, but that 31-year-old birthday boy gets no atonement from this old guy…
For the first time in my life, I’m feeling sorry for the people in the human resources department. I’m not talking about the challenges of finding workers in a rebounding economy, though. Really, I’m feeling their pain as they plan to bring workers back from their couches to their cubicles.
Companies large and small are demanding that employees return to the Mother Ship, possibly now and definitely by September, and you can measure the grumbling on the Richter Scale. People will be showing up angry and resentful, and it’s going to be the HR department’s job to rebuild cohesive teams.
Good luck on that one.
After 18 months of remote control, America’s workforce is about to be reintroduced to traffic jams, parking fees and doing laundry more than once a month. They’ll suddenly remember why they hated Eleanor from accounting and why everyone was in a big hurry to use the restroom before Fred arrived at the office. It won’t be pretty.
At the very least, HR departments can alleviate the pain by installing Keurig machines at every desk and keeping the lights as dim as possible. Beyond that minimum, it would be an excellent idea to avoid “team building exercises” and “social interactions” for at least a couple of months.
Meanwhile, returning workers should do their best to adjust their own expectations and behaviors in this brave old world. For example:
Welcome back to the office, everyone. What could possibly go wrong?
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My mom gave me a bunch of mail to look over and I was very, very impressed. Little did I realize that she is one of the most influential people in the country.
It must be true, though, and the United States Postal Service has delivered the proof. Every day, she gets a package with “Official Documents Enclosed” and an urgent request for her views on matters of national importance. And it’s all be hugely confidential, as evidenced by the warning that, “It is a FEDERAL OFFENSE for anyone other than the person listed below to open this letter.”
Clearly, she is so influential that companies are willing to offer her big bucks to give them her advice. Here’s an offer of a $100 gift certificate if she merely stops by for lunch--free!!--and shares her opinion about the newest in hearing-aid technology. I’m not sure why they need to ask, since the letter says 100% of patients are approved for these new devices, but clearly my mom’s opinion is just that important.
And so many checks, she must be in the 148% tax bracket by now. Here’s an envelope with “retirement benefits documents enclosed,” and you can see the check right through the address window. It turns out it’s just a picture of what a check might look like if she signs the petition and returns it before the deadline, but when her signature sways Congress, it’s raining Benjamins at her place.
Actually, there are a ton of letters like this, alerting her to the urgent crisis that could lead the federal government to reduce her Social Security check or fail to increase her Social Security check or delay sending her Social Security check. All is not lost, though. If only she signs the petition and returns it with seven bucks, or $25, or agrees to have her credit card dinged for a monthly contribution, or puts me into an apprenticeship program.
Here’s an urgent plea for a response and a donation of at least $15, “because some people in Washington are talking about cutting your Social Security benefits.” Well, I don’t know who those “some people” are, but they are a clear and present danger to say the least. Golly, I wonder if these fine organizations are reaching out to other elderly Americans, or if they are just relying on my mom to handle the burden?
Either way, I have nothing but admiration for all the groups protecting my mom from the financial catastrophe that awaits if she fails to sign the petitions, and I know it comes at a great financial cost to those organizations. One guy is courting bankruptcy, apparently, by springing for the postage-paid reply envelopes that accompanied his letter.
I really felt bad for him when I read, “The extra postage is an expense I really can’t afford right now,” In fact, he continues for several paragraphs about the burden of paying for return postage. Later on, though, he says a donation of $14.55 will enable him to send another 26 petitions to 26 other seniors. So, that’s 56 cents per envelope? Well, no wonder he’s going broke on this crusade. Some other guy sent a survey and he says he can send out more petitions for only 45 cents each. Maybe they could compare notes.
It’s heartwarming to know these selfless individuals and organizations are working tirelessly to take care of my mom and, I suppose, millions of other retired people. Obviously, they are in it for the public good, not profit, as shown by their willingness to lavish her with gift certificates and postage-paid reply envelopes. Anyone who doesn’t believe in guardian angels should just read my mom’s mail and they will see the light.
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It’s Independence Day and, like all loyal patriots, I will spend the day at a public reading of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a reenactment of the signing.
Hah! You fell for that? No way, Joseph. Like all my fellow countryfolks, I’ll spend the holiday at a barbecue, consuming huge amounts of food and way too much beer. Then I’ll look for the closest fireworks display and spend the night watching stuff go boom.
Even in our polarized nation, great holidays like Independence Day bring us closer together. I once argued with my neighbor about the relative merits of Maker’s Mark versus (boo, hiss) Crown Royal, but it’s really hard to keep up the rancor when you’re stuffing your face...and in a stupor.
That’s why we need more holidays in America and not just “historical” holidays like Independence Day, Juneteenth and Mother's Day. We need new holidays that celebrate all that makes our nation special today and every day. At the Holiday Viability Assessment Laboratory at Dad Writes, our research team has identified the ten holidays most worthy of celebration in coming years, including:
Have we missed anyone? Let us know your recommendations for new holidays and we will add them to the list that we deliver to Congress by way of our lobbyist friends on K Street. We can’t wait for the parties in 2022.
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Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of my second hour with customer support and I’m rattling off my account number for the 40th time, I’ll think about the appropriate penalty for the person who set up the system in the first place.
I’ve often said that the guy who invented speed bumps should be strapped to the bottom of a sports car chassis and driven over a few of those monsters at high speed. For the people who design websites and medical forms, we need to come up with something decidedly more severe.
We’ve all been through the drill. We try to open an account and the system rejects our password because it doesn’t have an ampersand, or because it does, or it has no caps or too many caps or not enough irony. Or we call customer support and we have to enter our account number at least twice before a human being picks up the phone…to ask for our account number.
As the customer service rep reads her required script, I try to shorten the process by answering all the questions I know she’s going to ask, but she still goes through the recitation of data points—or risk being fired. I’ll tell her I know she didn’t make up the rules, or the script, but I really, seriously, desperately want to get my hands on the person who is responsible for the extra 35 minutes I’ll spend on this nonsense.
It’s the same thing when we’re offline in the doctor’s office, where they hand you four pages of questions to answer while waiting for your appointment. Yes...
...all the information you’re about to give them is the same thing they asked when you contacted them the first time and...
...all of it is already in the portal they made you sign up for when made the appointment, and...
...it’s absolutely certain the doctor will not look at the form after you fill it out,...
...but that’s no reason to let it slide.
There’s no way to fix it, as we know, because the nameless and faceless drones who put the hamster wheels in motion left the company a long time ago. Since then, there’s no one on the payroll with a career interest in making their processes more user friendly, or efficient, or sensible.
Strapping them to the bottom of a sports car and driving over a speed bump is too good for them, but they aren’t the only ones who come up with rules that make no sense. For instance, who was it that decided:
The world is filled with arbitrary rules that we follow as if they flowed logically from a font of wisdom, including rules we have to comply with in order to get support from the doctors and businesses we frequent. If you know who came up with any of these gems, let me know how to find them. I know a guy with a sports car.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.