The Humiliation of Certainty
Although it pains me to admit it, I am a flawed human being.
I think my mother would tell you that by far, my most aggravating fault is the wholehearted conviction that I am correct when I am not.
The manifestations of this character deficit have reaped many unfortunate results from my own humiliation to actually endangering my life and the lives of others.
Once, I convinced my sister to drive the wrong way down Santa Monica Blvd., one of the busiest one-way streets in Los Angeles. I still feel guilty about the 3 years I probably took off her life.
Perhaps not the worst aspect of this unattractive personality trait is that when I realize I have made one of these horrible miscalculations, I am overcome with embarrassment. And when I get embarrassed, I giggle uncontrollably and my eyes tear profusely. The more upset the victim of my unintentional blunder is, the more embarrassed I get and the harder I giggle.
Imagine you’ve just realized that you were talked into believing something that isn’t true by someone you may or may not know, and upon their realization that they are wrong, they begin laughing and crying hysterically like a recently released mental patient. No offense to mental patients. Some of my best friends have been mental patients. Well, actually I have been a mental patient.
This brings us to the Grocery Store Incident.
One day I was at my local supermarket doing a rather large shop.
I filled my cart and was waiting in line at the checkout when I realized I had forgotten to pick up a can of kidney beans. Since there were two people ahead of me, I left my cart and dashed to the bean aisle. I snatched my beans and ran back, looking for the checkout line that I had fled.
I recognized my cart by the items that filled it and muscled my way through the line, insinuating myself between a man who seemed reluctant to move and my shopping cart.
“Uh, I was here before. This is my cart.” I can be very assertive when necessary.
I quickly unloaded the groceries onto the conveyor belt and the cashier began ringing them up. She was lightening fast and had everything scanned well before the box boy could finish bagging.
I paid the large bill and began perusing what was left. I noticed a few unfamiliar items.
“Wait, that’s not my bread! Did you charge me for that? That must belong to the man behind me.” I figured his food may have overflowed the bar separating my groceries from his.
I then noticed another unfamiliar item. And another. And another.
“Wait a minute! None of these are mine! Did you mix up his groceries with mine?” I was filled with self-righteous indignation.
I started looking in the bags, and there were all kinds of unfamiliar-looking packages and foods that I never would have purchased in a million years.
“Oh my God! These aren’t my groceries!” I whirled around and chastised the man behind me. “Why did you let me pay for your groceries?!!”
I was pissed off.
The line behind us was getting steadily longer.
I suddenly began to get a sick feeling in my stomach that a bad mistake had been made and it was possible that I was the one who had made it.
And then it dawned on me. I was in the wrong line. I had shoved this man away from his own cart of groceries and then paid for them! And apparently I was so rude that he either was too intimidated to speak up or, more likely, was waiting to watch me finish making a complete ass out of myself.
The cashier had to unscan every item individually. The store manager was called over to supervise the proceedings.
No one was amused. The man behind me was still not saying a word. The growing line was turning into an angry mob.
And that was when I started to giggle.