Salty pie and laughter are no mistake

By Michele Zirkle Marcum - Contributing Columnist

Editor’s Note: Listen to the podcast of this column.

Two thousand dollars! That’s what the clerk at the bank’s drive-through window handed Dad.

The check he had cashed was written for $200. Now that’s my kind of mistake!

Problem was the clerk refused to accept that she had made a mistake. Dad stormed up to the lobby doors that were locked and pounded on them until the guard let him in. It took Dad over half an hour to convince the manager that he had been given way too much money. I learned that being honest can be aggravating and that I wasn’t the only one who sucked at numbers.

Sure, that was in the late ’70s, before computers guarded the banking systems, but a mistake that big should be easy to fix, right? That’s what I thought when I was 9.

Now that I’ve accumulated more mistakes than I have days on this earth — I did the math and that’s almost 17,000 days — I know that mistakes are complicated and that even small ones are designed to help me learn lessons.

More than once, the object of my lesson has been to take the time to laugh at my mistakes.

Several years ago, I gave the most gorgeous, lattice-laced blackberry pie I’d ever made to a dear friend, Mel Clark, who had been ill. I didn’t realize I’d mistakenly used a cup of salt instead of sugar until after he had bitten into it. He spit it out as elegantly as possible. Our laughs lasted long after the pie was gone.

After that, every time Mel saw me he would lightheartedly say, “I’m still thirsty, girl.” I was thankful that we were close enough that he could tease me about it. I made another pie that was delicious, but the kicks we got out of the nasty-tasting one was worth its weight in salt.

That was just pie, but often mistakes change the course of our lives. It’s by making poor choices that we see that there was a better option available — one we neglected to acknowledge or explore, but the idea is that the next time a similar situation has us cornered, we make a different, more beneficial choice.

Without mistakes, we’d be perfect already, having nothing to aspire to and how absolutely futile would life be without the hope of ascension — without the hope of becoming more than our collection of faux pas?

As my good-choice to poor-choice ratio improves, I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only one who has spent more money on a two-hour shopping spree than I made in a week — not the only one who drank one too many cocktails at the company party.

Besides, some of my biggest blunders have made the most entertaining dinnertime anecdotes, like the time I burst through the door of what I thought was my hotel room and literally ran into a gray-haired, man I’d never seen before clad only in a towel. And the time I drove for blocks in the wrong direction on a one-way street in Charleston before seeing the blue lights of a cop car in the rear-view mirror.

Mistakes are important for growth. It would be debilitating for me to think otherwise and truthfully, I’m glad the first woman, Eve, set the precedent for mistake-making when she snagged that proverbial apple from the tree of knowledge because, well, if not, everyone might be running around naked and that could get very chilly!

By Michele Zirkle Marcum

Contributing Columnist

Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.

Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.