“I wonder what would happen if you stuck this in a toaster?”
That’s one of those sentences that very, very rarely has a good ending, unless you’re holding a bagel.
It’s a little like “hold my beer,” only from a ten-year-old.
My ears did perk up, but I didn’t snap to high alert when I heard it. That’s only because it had come from the back seat in my pickup, which, while containing three grandchildren, to my knowledge contained neither a toaster or a bagel. That lowered the stakes a little, and made the statement a hypothetical instead of the beginning of an experiment.
After debating the “stuck-in-a-toaster” theory, the conversation went south for a while, and left me thinking about some of the other interesting things I’ve heard ten-year-olds (of all ages) say. My personal favorite, meaning how hard it makes me grit my teeth, has always been, “I didn’t mean to do it.”
Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve heard it more from adults than children.
Here’s the deal. I’ve made many mistakes in my life.
Many, many, many mistakes.
And almost all of them have been on purpose.
That thing with the motorcycle when I was 17? I didn’t intend to end up in the hospital, but the behavior that led up to the event certainly was on purpose.
The little incident that resulted in a three-inch-long scar on my hand and a story that makes people laugh guiltily and hysterically? I didn’t plan for what resulted, but it’s not like a mysterious force in the universe pulled that trigger – I did it all by myself.
That time I absentmindedly turned left on a green light thinking it was a green arrow and wrecked my wife’s car by letting a guy in a black F350 slam into it…that was not on purpose. The fact that I didn’t mean to do it appeared to make no difference at all when the insurance company was figuring next year’s premiums.
My guess is that if the back-seat conversation had made it to the experimental phase and there’d been inappropriate toaster use and something had gone awry, at some point I would have heard that classic line, “I didn’t mean to do it.”
I beg to differ. By and large, we all mean to do what we do. What we don’t mean are the unintended consequences.
It’s getting to be a problem. I’m not in favor of carrying a burden of guilt around with you, but I also think saying “my bad” and moving on doesn’t go quite far enough.
As a Methodist, I’m not qualified to comment on Catholic ritual, and I think many of us can agree that the Catholic church has a few things to work on, but that whole confession/penance idea seems to have some legs.
I think we’re missing something, though. We’re limiting confessions and penance to the church and the criminal justice system. I think we should bring the same concept into our homes.
“I deeply regret not putting gas in the car, as well as failing to replace the empty toilet paper roll. To assuage my guilt and make restitution for my failings, I’d like to do the dishes for a week AND change the litter box, even though it’s technically not my turn.” See? I think this plan could lower the stress levels in American households by a significant amount.
But, kids, if the Tootsie Roll had gone in the toaster, you wouldn’t have gotten off that easy.
Copyright 2019 Brent Olson