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Common sense is not so common

Register • Mar 23, 2014 at 7:40 PM

You can instruct someone in science, math, history, etc., but common sense — which is hardly common — is much harder to teach.

Unfortunately almost everyone believes that THEY have common sense and the rest of the world is lacking.

Just as the brainwashed don’t realize they are brainwashed , those who don’t have common sense usually don’t realize it.

I had no idea I’d been born deficient until I went to college, where I learned the truth. It wasn’t my college education that wised me up, but my ability to look in retrospect at the stupid things I’d done.

No need to list them all; I can demonstrate my ignorance by describing my first day on campus.

I went to school in Lakeland, Fla., a school I selected because:

1. It had a good journalism program.

2. It was on a lake, and I love to fish.

3. It was a thousand miles from my home in Ohio. (Confession: That may not be the exact order in which those reasons factored into my decision.)

So after orientation and my parents had returned to Ohio, I was on my own for essentially the first time in my life.

I had my priorities and I knew what I wanted to accomplish that first day: I wanted to get some beer.

I may have been the only student at the school who didn’t have a car to use. That didn’t bother me; back in the mid-1970s, hitchhiking was still an accepted form of transportation. In Ohio, I hitchhiked everywhere. Once in a while you’d get a ride from someone who made you uneasy, but usually people were glad to give you a lift.

I set out for the mall a couple of miles away and got a ride almost as soon as I stuck out my thumb. Soon I was wandering around the air-conditioned shopping center, blowing half the money I had for the month. (Exhibit A).

I bought a few records (this was back before CDs and MP3s), some goodies for my dorm, and then bought a case of Miller beer. Since it was about 100 degrees out, I figured I’d need some ice. Then I needed something in which to store the beer and ice -- a Styrofoam cooler. I didn’t want my beer to get hot under that Florida sun. All the time I was shopping, I never gave a thought as to how I was going to get back with everything I’d bought.(EXHIBIT B).

So with a bag of albums, posters and the like under one arm, I hoisted the cooler full of beer and ice and walked out of the store.

The temperature felt like it had gone up by a couple of hundred degrees. I took a few steps and the cooler full of beer and ice felt like it weighed a couple of hundred pounds.

By the time I reached the street, I had to set everything down. I thought I was going to pass out.

Up went my thumb. Cars whizzed by. It’s hard to get a ride when you’re loaded down with stuff and look as though you’re about to die from heat stroke.

I walked 30 feet or so, then set everything down again and once more tried for a ride, once more with no results.

An hour later and I’d dumped out half the ice to lighten the load, but the cooler still felt 50 times heavier than when I’d left the store. And the air felt 50 times hotter. I looked on the ground to see if it was the ice or me that was melting.

An hour later and I was still a mile from school with no sign that anyone would ever stop. That’s when I saw the taxi.

To say I signaled the driver would be an understatement. I practically threw myself in front of the cab, which screeched to a halt. The driver told me it would cost me $16 to get a ride back to my dorm. At that point, if he’d said $1,000 and I had it, I would have paid it.

So I took the only taxi ride of my life, an entire mile back to school, but at least the cab was air-conditioned and I didn’t have to carry my stuff.

I got out of the cab, paid the driver, collected my load and began the long, steaming-hot walk to my dorm room -- at least a couple of hundred feet away. I went to dump out the rest of the ice but watched water drain from the cooler instead. There was no ice left; it had all melted. My ice-cold beer was lukewarm. My records had warped from the heat. And I’d spent almost every cent I had to make it through the month.

It’s fair to say I was not the brightest bulb in the box. In fact, it’s likely I was the dimmest.

But I did learn one important lesson: Never buy more beer than you can carry.

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