Some people are born with common sense. And then some of us are not. One is thankful that common sense can be acquired slowly with time and experience. One hopes that by the time she is twenty-three, she has gained enough common sense to live life with some gracefulness. One wonders, but one can always hope. And keep living, and keep making mistakes, and keep learning. Here are some things I’ve learned in my 23 years.
#1- It is best not to follow your feelings when you are driving somewhere and you’re not sure how to get there. I once was going to visit my friend in Allentown. The Google maps were not reliable on the phone I had at that time, and they had the oddest way of timing out and thinking in circles right when I needed to make a turn. I don’t remember if they told me which way to turn, or if I decided that my way was the best way, but I know I drove down the exit ramp and instinctively felt that right was right. (I also was convinced when I was 9 that my soon-to-be-born cousin would be a boy. I could feel it. She wasn’t.) But why wouldn’t right be right? However, to my chagrin I found it wasn’t- after driving in circles in the suburbs and calling my sister in exasperation. She doesn’t live by her feelings. She sat down at the computer on Google maps, found the road I was sitting on, and somehow talked me out of the circles and all the way to where I was going. She’s my hero. She’s one of those people who was born with common sense.
#2- There is a difference between a zip code and an area code, and it’s a good thing to know these numbers. When I was fourteen, I was checking out a card at Five Below. I was a very shy child at this point in history and checking something out in a store took great nerve. In this case, my worst fear was realized. The cashier bit me. No, actually, she just asked for my zip code. I told her it was 717. She said that no, she meant my zip code. I don’t like to admit that I didn’t know what my zip code was, but I really didn’t know what my zip code was. I started stringing numbers together from our phone number, unable, apparently, to admit that I didn’t know. I don’t think she needed me to spell that out for her, though, considering the odd look she gave me…
#3- If you want to pray for your food at a red light, it might be best to do it with your eyes open. Once upon a time, I really was thankful for my Taco Bell food. However, the horn from the car behind me added a rather jarring note to my prayer. It occurred to me then that there are times and places where God might understand if I keep my eyes open while I talk to him.
#4- It is important to put your car in park before turning it off. Not once, but twice, I made the mistake of turning off my car before I put it in park. For those of you who would never do this in the first place, it doesn’t work well. Both times, I tried and tried valiantly to start my car again, before calling my mom in distress. She has a way of making me think when I’m panicking. Somehow, we figured it out, both times, and I could proceed on my merry way without her having to come pick up her helpless and hapless daughter.
#5- Don’t wear flipflops when you are riding the chair lift up the mountainside in Tennessee. I still feel bad for the employee who was ordered by his boss to climb up the mountain in the sweltering heat to retrieve the flipflop of the ditsy Mennonite girl, who should have known better than to wear flipflops on a chair lift. My dad felt sorry for him, too, and gave him a five-dollar tip. The flip flops were two years old, and I had paid seven dollars for them originally, so it was beyond kind of all of them.
#6- If you work in a nursing home and you see false teeth in a toilet, guard the flushing handle closely. One way or another, one of my residents’ teeth ended up in the toilet one day. I was suitably annoyed at the thought of having to fish them out but was getting ready to grab gloves and do just that. One learns quickly in a nursing home that such original actions are vital to the job description. I never got the chance, though, because the resident who was the owner of the teeth, and not very responsible for his actions, reached out and flushed the toilet. In dismay, I saw the dentures disappear. After my boss got done sitting in his office and laughing his head off, he plunged the toilet, thinking they might somehow rise to the surface. No such luck, however. I endured my coworkers jokes for days- “You flushed his teeth so you wouldn’t have to fish them out, didn’t you?”
#7- Don’t plan on things going as planned. This one isn’t a joke, and it’s not funny. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s this. I used to be an incorrigible romantic, and my daydreams flew high as the sky. In them, the common people in my life would talk like the characters in my books. My slim twenty-three years of experience have taught me that as soon as you expect something or someone to do what you want them to, they are bound to do the very opposite. Like flush teeth down the toilet when you aren’t paying attention. Or give you a gift and a smile right after you decided they were an ogre. Life isn’t predictable, but some things are normal. Like traffic jams making you late, people being human, and a gorgeous sunset at the end of a rotten day. This is life and thank God it doesn’t go according to my plans, because how boring would that be!
This is not a comprehensive list of the common senses I’ve acquired, but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough for the present. It would be kind of someone to share their life lessons in the comments below, so I can know that I’m not the only one who has these moments…