An interviewer on “CBS Sunday Morning” recently asked a celebrity if he had any regrets in life. The celebrity – I don’t remember now who it was – said he didn’t because decisions he’d made in the past were based on the best information he’d had at the time.
That echoed something I’d heard from a speaker many years ago at a convention I attended. She said we shouldn’t look back and kick ourselves for decisions we made that ultimately didn’t work out because we had based them on the facts we’d had at the time.
I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made that were based on careful thought at the time but ultimately turned out to be wrong.
But I do regret some decisions I’ve made in haste without considering all the facts or without fully considering possible repercussions or were based merely on assumptions that I’d made that turned out to be incorrect.
Here are some examples:
* When I was a Cubmaster with my pack on a father-son campout, I prepared a Mexican hamburger dish for the boys and their fathers for supper. My wife had sent along the ingredients: crushed taco chips, ground beef, ketchup and mustard. The mustard was supposed be added to the concoction to taste, but I used the entire jar, incorrectly assuming that’s what the recipe called for. The boys and their fathers were hungry and ate the hamburger dish, which had a yellow tint to it because of the mustard. But it made them all very thirsty. I had never seen so many people drink so much water. That’s one regret.
* When preparing pancakes from scratch one Saturday morning as a surprise to the family, the recipe called for baking powder. I couldn’t find any in the cupboard, but I did find some baking soda and assumed it was about the same thing. It wasn’t. I did, indeed, surprise the family. I regret my assumption.
* When I stored some unused fishing worms in a former oleo margarine container in the basement refrigerator, I regret not labeling the contents. When we ran out of oleo in the kitchen, my wife sent one the kids downstairs to grab that oleo container she’d seen in the basement refrigerator. When she put it on the supper table, pulled the lid off and saw those wriggling worms instead of oleo, I was instantly filled with regret because I was in big trouble.
* Once, when we were out of dishwasher soap, I assumed that using some liquid dish soap instead in our dishwasher would accomplish the same thing. It did not. Much of the kitchen floor ended up covered in a couple inches of suds. I regret the assumption I had made.
* When our chimney froze up in December 1983 during near-blizzard conditions, I told my wife I’d climb up to it and knock the ice off of it. She begged me not to, but I was sure I could do it and persisted. I never made it to the chimney. My trip in that direction was interrupted by a slip, then a fall off of the roof. I then had some painful months to consider and regret my faulty decision.
* When the woman who would become my wife and I were dating and I came across some standing water in a low part of a road following a downpour, I assumed it was only several inches deep. I said I could easily drive my little 1959 Simca through it. The water was actually a couple of feet deep, and the engine stalled about halfway through the standing water. Murky water poured into the car up to the level of the seats, and the car began to float. Luckily a nice guy in a pickup truck came by and pushed us out. Of course, the engine was waterlogged and would not start. I regretted my decision, based on a poor assumption, to try to drive through the standing water.
* We once were in the same car on a date, headed to a movie in downtown Rock Island, when smoke started pouring into the passenger compartment. The temperature gauge did not work, so I had no idea the car was out of water and overheating. I assumed – incorrectly – the smoke was from some insulation burning off a hot wire, and we kept on going. We made it to the movie. As we stood in the concession area on arrival, waiting to buy popcorn and smelling like smoke, the theater staff started checking the popcorn machine because they thought it was burning up. Later, when we were seated watching the movie and still smelling like smoke, the ushers walked the aisles and shined their flashlights on overhead ventilators, thinking one of them might be on fire. Of course when the movie was over, the car would not start. The overheating had caused a warped cylinder head. And I regretted my earlier assumption that the smoke had been from insulation burning off a hot wire.
* At one time I used to smoke an occasional cigar. It was my policy not to smoke in my car. But one time, on the way home from work, I broke my own rule and lit up. Bad decision. I was driving down the interstate when I dropped the lit cigar, and it went between my legs. Thanks to some quick action, I kept the car seat from getting burned, but the cigar burned a hole in my slacks. It also burned my upper thigh. I quickly regretted my decision to break my own rule against smoking in the car.
Those are a few of my regrets. I don’t regret that I can’t think of any more at the moment.
Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece has been submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.