Oooh. Oooh. I have a story.
I was up in Massachusetts for a party last weekend. On Saturday afternoon, my friends Bill and Greg and I borrowed our friend Jon's car (Jon was showering) to go on a beer/ice run. We get this giant bag of ice (took two people to lift it) and a 12 of something or other and head back out into the parking lot. Bill tries to open the door for Greg, but the key's acting strangely, so he goes around to the driver's side, successfully unlocks his door, then reaches across to get our two.
We get into the car, ice in back with me, beer up front with Greg, and Bill tries to start the car.
But the key won't turn.
He'd noticed a problem with it when he tried unlocking the passenger side, but now it's not doing anything at all. We try turning the wheel, making sure the car's in park, pumping the brake, everything we can think of. I have Bill reverse the key (it's one of those two-sided kinds), and still nothing.
So finally we have to call back to Bill's. Greg is on the phone with Bill's wife, Karen, who's suggesting all the things we already tried. "Turn the wheel." "We turned the wheel." "Is it in park?" "It's in park."
Meanwhile, it's about 100 degrees outside (so you can imagine what it's like in the car), the ice is melting, and we don't relish the idea of not being able to drive anywhere (especially since Jon is supposed to be driving me and Greg to Connecticut the next day).
So Karen's about to go get Jon when Bill suddenly says, "Wait a minute."
"What?" Greg and I say in unison.
"Ummm...," Bill says, "Jon doesn't drive a Honda."
....pause .... pause ....pause ....look left, see Jon's pretty-much-identical Acura ...
I think we set the world speed record for exiting a vehicle. I have no memory of how I managed to pick up a 35 lb bag of ice with one arm, but I did it.
We still have no idea how Bill actually used the key to open the driver's side of this other guy's car. The saddest thing is that we sat in this other guy's car for at least 5 minutes totally sober.
I have to wonder what went through this other guy's mind upon returning to his car only to discover that his back seat was wet.
Could be worse, though. When I related this story to a friend of mine in Wales, she said the same thing happened to her, except that she had run out of a supermarket, suffering from food poisoning, and was sitting in her mom's car and puking, waiting for her mom to come out of the store, when the guy whose car she was throwing up in returned.
So at least our guy didn't discover us.
But, Jeez, that was dumb.
I think we all do stupid things like that over the course of our lives. I'm not talking about the "I got so drunk, that I left a message for my new girlfriend on my old girlfriend's machine" type of stupidity. I'm talking more about the "usually I'm a very smart person" type of stupidity. The "I was wide awake, had no foreign substances clouding my judgment, had just managed to balance my checkbook, and then I went and put my feet in the wrong shoes" type of stupidity.
There are some people, like me, who then go and tell everyone what they just did. Then there are others who get embarrassed about it and let it infiltrate their brains. They let it mean something. People will think, "Wow, I'm so stupid. I can't do anything right." I think, in a lot of ways, it's a self-esteem issue.
It's when someone feels that they're the only one that this happens to that the mental games begin. And it's usually during the "formative years" that this really can start to hurt someone. As adults, we often can appreciate the difference between "I'm dumb" and "I did something dumb." As children, we can't.
An example: when I was in 7th grade, we had to make ice cream in Home Ec. For a reason still unbeknownst to me today, I cracked an egg directly onto the countertop. Yeah. About two inches to the left of the bowl. No idea why. Today, I might just think, "Wow, that was really stupid." But at the time, I was mortified. "Why can't I do anything right?" I asked myself. "Why am I such a retard?" I even went so far as to blame it on my cooking partner, so others wouldn't know I was the stupidest kid in the room.
Luckily for me, he probably was the stupidest kid in the room, so no one questioned my version of the incident. Ironically, he's now a chef. No, I made that up.
The purpose of this column, then, is to let you all know that you're not alone. You might be the type to cry yourself to sleep every night, thinking about the time you accidentally scored on your own team's goal, or the time you asked the fat woman when the baby was due, or the time you didn't realize you were being pranked and wound up playing "Seven Minutes In Heaven" with your sister. Well, I'm here to tell you to stop a'weepin' and a'wailin' and get on with your life. We all make mistakes.
I should also point out that I'm not talking about repeated cycles of self-defeating behavior. If you keep constantly dating "the wrong guy" or have a habit of getting yourself fired from job after job, do not use this column to console yourself. Once I got up from my desk to mail a letter and was almost through the door of my office before I realized that, rather than an envelope, I was holding a small bag of Cheeze-Its. This is not the same as repeatedly dating men who abuse you. If you're in the latter category, perhaps a little more self-awareness is in order.
But for the rest of you, you're not alone. And it always seems to be those things where if you were just paying a little more attention ("why isn't my soda in the back seat?"), you'd notice. Which makes it that much goofier in the end. My friend Erin was working at her new store and had people shoplift right under her nose. She had no idea. But that's not the kicker; the kicker is that when her boss reported the theft and four policemen came into the store, Erin's thought was "Cool! Policemen shop here."
I'm sure everyone's got a story like this. And no one's really sure whether to share it or not. There's no real award for standing up and saying, "I did something fantastically asinine! You won't even believe how idiotic I was!" Well, there is, and it's called The Darwin Award, but most of its recipients are usually too dead to accept.
For the rest of us, I say share your blunders, your missteps, your howlers and clangers (I looked up "blunder" in the Word thesaurus and it gave me those two; I try to avoid clanging). Don't be embarrassed by your goofs, your errors, or your clangers (I just wanted to say it again). I think the more people who know that they're not the only ones who do stupid things, regardless of the size of their intellect, the happier we'll all be. And that's all I have to say about that.
But in the interest of maybe helping just one more person realize they're not the only idiot out there, I'll share one more personal story. I was walking to the subway from work one day when I passed a shop with a mannequin of a female torso in the window, wearing an "I Love NY" T-shirt. Now, I don't know if the rest of you have noticed the trend, but in the last few years, mannequins have been being produced with erect nipples (I assume it's because erect nipples naturally draw the eye). Anyway, here's this female torso, looking all breasty and nipply, and - my hand to God - my immediate thought was "Must be cold in that store."
Yeah. The mannequin's nipples were erect because of the temperature.
Of course that was followed up a split-second later with "What the hell am I thinking? It's a plastic mannequin. She doesn't even have a head." But the damage was done. For that one single moment, I was the stupidest person on the planet.
So there you go. Now you don't have to feel so ass-backwards the next time you push a door marked "pull" or take a drink from the soda can you've been ashing your cigarette in or ask the waitress where the restrooms are when they're clearly labeled with a neon sign that could be read by people across the street.
Or maybe I'm totally off base and the truth is that writing this column has become the stupidest thing I've ever done. Only Jebus knows for sure.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.7.04 @ 8:14a
This reminded me of one of the funniest incidents I remember (you might have had to be there). After a night on the town with some friends, the designated driver decides it's time to take his merry passengers home. However, he needs to stop to get petrol.
My friend John, a little worse for wear, decides to use this opportunity to stock up on snack food. We all sit in the car, waiting for him. We see him stagger out of the station, loaded with snacky goodness. And then get into a car full of strangers, put on the seatbelt, and wait. When this car of bemused girls ask him what the hell he is doing, he realises his mistake, quickly exits, and jumps into the car.
Again, not ours.
Ahh, happy happy dumbness.
9.7.04 @ 8:26a
Matt has had a good time lately picking on me for using what I thought was a smooth hotel room lotion.
It was hair conditioner. I didn't read the other side of the tube.
I'm still really, really soft though.
dr. jay gross
9.7.04 @ 1:40p
Well, now I don't feel so bad. I've left my coke on the roof as I drove away....I've called my girlfriend by the wrong name - at the wrong time....I've lit the wrong end of a filter cigarette more than once....I've even dipped my paper napkin in my gravy thinking it was a piece of bread and taken a bite....there must be a long, long list. Adam, you finally wrote a column that touches all of us.
This subject is so good you can ignore the grammar, sintax, spelling and punctuation....no technical crap needed when you're talking 'stupid'!!
9.7.04 @ 3:36p
Well, I think my father put it best one time after a similar synaptic misfiring by my brother: "Remember, Brett, when you see the Wizard, you're asking for a brain."
9.7.04 @ 6:51p
One sluggish morning on the road I sprayed Arrid in my hair, looked in the mirror, and thought "Goddamn I'm getting gray." I reached up to touch my hair and felt intense pain in my armpit. The hairspray had dried.
9.7.04 @ 10:46p
You're lucky with the car. I was with my parents not too long ago, and after the valet (ok, well, parking attendant) pulled the rental car out of the garage and shut off the ignition, it would not turn back on. We turned the wheel. We put it in park. Nada. Avis told us the same crap. They finally sent a "crew" (some homies in a pickup) and *they* couldn't get the car started. They had to take us to the office and give us a new car and presumably tow the old one.
Moral of the story? Sometimes you're not as dumb as you think you are.
9.7.04 @ 10:46p
Sheet, now you got me thinkin' about my hairspray days. I got a better but longer one.
I'm sitting there at a club trying to work out the set list with our guitarist. You know how frontmen are, nerve-wracking bastards and all, and we're not seeing eye-to-eye. I can't get my cigarette lit and I'm at the end, so I just say "Fuggit, do it however you want." I shake my lighter, put it up to my ear to see if there's any gas but I don't hear anything. Then BAM, the guy wallops me on the side of my head. I jump up, ready to throw down, and say "What the fuck man?!?" and he does it again. "You're on fucking fire!" he says, and suddenly I smell it. I douse it with my beer.
No major damage, but torched the do all to hell. Fortunately we had a hair-care expert on hand (read: groupie). I remember our manager, the groupie, and the frontmen all huddled around, looking at my head and talking in low tones as I sat there drinking my beer. I say 'skin it', but the frontmen, so image conscious, say 'no, just buzz it and spike it'. I was damned if I was walking on stage looking like some suedehead from the Vapors.
We bickered but finally settled on a mullet-hawk. It ended up growing on me, I kept that thing for awhile.
9.7.04 @ 11:09p
"I'm a mullet-hawk. I'm huntin' for mullets!"
So I'm obviously the "do something stupid and share it" type. Are there people out there who are mortally afraid of letting people know about their clangers?
9.7.04 @ 11:24p
My best stupid move ever was back in my fast-food days. I went to hook up Mountain Dew syrup to the soft drink system. I still can't remember if it's "gas first, then syrup" or the other way 'round, but I did it the wrong way and ended up with Moutain Dew syrup shooting all over me, the floor, the walls and the ceiling. That was twenty years ago and I still can't stand the smell of Mountain Dew.
A friend of mine who worked with me had her hands full going to the car so as she fumbled for her keys, she decided to hold her soft drink with her mouth. By the straw.
9.8.04 @ 10:30a
This is in one of my columns, but once, while showing my friends exactly how I locked my keys in the car with the engine running, I locked my keys in the car with the engine running.
Also, in O'Hare, at 1:30 in the morning on the way back from Phoenix, I lit my pants on fire.
I once snuck up behind a girl I had just started dating while she was working at the Gap and tickled her, which turned out to be a wonderful way to find out she had a twin sister.
9.8.04 @ 11:33a
I read a story not too long ago about some guy who picked a girl up at a bar, only to find out the next morning that the entire time she thought he was his brother.
While driving through Deal, NJ, one afternoon, my mother turned to my brother and said, "You know you almost grew up here? Oh, wait, that was me."
9.9.04 @ 8:17a
I'll never forget in high school when my mom ordered those new Ginsu knives....you know, the "sharpest ones in the world"?
I picked one up, and was talking about how sharp they were, and said it would probably cut through skin really easily. As I was saying this, I rubbed the blade against my palm. Needless to say, I opened up a deep incision into my hand. DUH.
9.9.04 @ 9:50a
I feel your pain, David...literally. I was babysitting a friend's 8-yr old a few months ago, and she was watching me chop parsley with a very sharp chef's knife. She wanted to give it a try, and I'd just finished telling her "No, this knife's too sharp, you could get cut," when I sliced across the back of my finger just below the nail. Talk about proving my point!
9.9.04 @ 10:19a
I once tried to get a pop-tart out of the toaster with a napkin (you know, so I wouldn't burn my fingers). I set the napkin on fire.
9.9.04 @ 12:03p
I reached into the oven to take out an iron frying pan--without an oven mitt. Fortunately, I didn't get a good grasp on the handle before I realized that I was missing a crucial piece of safety clothing. Unfortunately, I did this in front of an audience--my parents.
9.9.04 @ 12:39p
Wow. We could swap stories all day. I couldn't feel any heat coming off of an iron once, so I pressed my palm against it. Luckily, I was prepared to feel heat, so I was able to quickly remove my hand from the scalding piece of metal.
lee anne ramsey
9.15.04 @ 2:26p
Oh my god, you guys have made my day. I cannot stop laughing!