Learning the Hard Way

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

It is always interesting, after the fact, to remember the decisions you made that caused some bad thing to happen. Looking back, you can see the errors. But at the time, you were doing things that made sense.

One of the staple foods I have in my kitchen cabinets is honey. I grew up eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches. In the poverty of my first year of graduate school, I sometimes had peanut butter and honey sandwiches three times a day. I couldn’t afford anything else.

But honey has a nasty habit of crystallizing. The honey gets dull and solid until it will no longer come out of a squeeze dispenser. That just happened to me. But I had an inspiration for melting the crystallized goo back into liquid honey. I popped my honey dispenser in the microwave and nuked it for just 20 seconds. The photo shows what happened. The dispenser will never be the same, and I had to mop up honey from all over the microwave.

That’s one dumb stunt I’ll never do again, for I learned that lesson the hard way.

In the summer of 1970 my erstwife (let’s call her Carol in this story) and I lived along the Saint Croix River. We discovered a wonderful fishing hole north of us, just upstream of Osceola, Wisconsin. Night after night we’d go upriver to our fishing spot at the foot of an island and—quite literally—catch fish until our arms got tired.

Then Carol got busy, and I began fishing alone. The canoe wasn’t stable without a person in the front end, so I found a large boulder that I called “Carol.” I put the rock in the front of the canoe to keep everything steady while I fished. The rock worked so well that I safely walked around the canoe standing up, which is not something the experts recommend.

One afternoon in September I enjoyed what I knew would be my last evening of fishing for that season. Grad school and work were about to start up, so I’d not fish there again until next year. I canoed back downstream to the Osceola bridge where my car was parked. I realized I no longer needed my boulder. With the canoe close to shore, I walked to the front of the canoe, grabbed “Carol” (the rock) and chucked her overboard.

In cartoons when Wile E. Coyote has just made a fatal error there is a terrifying pause. Time stops as he processes what he has done and what is going to happen to him. The cartoon is absolutely true to life. On the river I had my Wile E. Coyote moment. For several seconds I contemplated the fact that I was standing upright in an unstabilized canoe. Then the thing spun like a birling log under a lumberjack. I went sailing, my fishing rod flew even further, and soon we were both in the river. I survived. The fishing rod was never seen again.

And I never walked upright in a canoe again. Well, you don’t forget a lesson you learn the hard way.

What have you learned the hard way?

34 thoughts on “Learning the Hard Way”

  1. Great story, Steve. I am sure I have had such moments, but none come to mind this early . Husband once decided to tighten a loose screw in the hanging light over our dining room table. The screw was in the socket where the light bulb goes. He neglected to cut the power first before he stuck the screw driver in the socket. It is a miracle he wasn’t hurt. My, did that thing spark!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You remind me, Renee, of another lesson learned the hard way. We had a lamp in the living room that had a chord way, way too long. So I cut the chord to shorten it. Since it was dark in that room, I had the lamp on so I could see what I was doing. There was a popping noise when the scissors went through the wires. A big blue arc appeared, followed by the stink of ozone and three days of no power anywhere in the apartment (until we finally located the blown fuse in a strange location).

      I no longer use that technique for fixing electrical appliances!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I remember the kid in science class in about 11 or 12th grade. Remember when the science labs had outlets sticking up out of the tables? He’s in the back row; put a piece of foil in one side of the outlet. Then another piece in the other side. Then used a pencil to push the two pieces together.
        I was sitting up near the front but I recall that POP and flash and how suddenly he jumped back in his chair. The teacher was not amused.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I seem to learn most things the hard way, and therefor, I have a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. I have a young person in my life right now who is learning this way, too. Wow. Watching it is painful.

    The big one for me—when you choose to get married to please your mother, you are the that has to live with the guy. If you don’t like him much, it is not her problem. Ouch. But I learned and moved on.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. In the spirit of total candor, I might note that nuking the honey for 20 seconds worked. I’m not sure how to get the honey out of the plastic squeeze thingie, but the honey is soft and more or less fluid again. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve found most things in life are learned the hard way. Can’t think of a specific instance, but your story does remind me of a funny bit.

    My parents had a cabin in northeastern Wisconsin in Townsend, and we had a couple canoes. One beautiful August night, we decided to go for a midnight canoe ride. Well, Dad did the one thing he always taught us NOT to do. He single-handedly jumped into the canoe and promptly capsized it. We all screamed with laughter and a had a gay old time reminding him of the error of his ways. Chagrined and soaking wet, he profusely explained that he was making a point of showing us how NOT to get into a canoe. Sure thing, Dad. We had a lot of fun with that story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Then there was the farmer back home in Rock County who tried reroute the Rock River using dynamite, and blew up a township bridge instead.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Oh, so many! Car mishaps, faulty marriage… One was when I was 14 and behind the wheel with Dad in the passenger seat. He’d been teaching me to drive for a few months, and we were on vacation somewhere in suburban Chicago, driving along a rather winding and busy four-lane with no median. I was in the left lane, and simply failed to turn the wheel far enough to avoid drifting, ever so briefly, into the oncoming lane. I clipped the tail light of someone’s big old sedan. I remember that “suspended in time” thing, Steve, as I realized what was about to happen, and then I heard my dad say “Oh, Barbara!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I shouldn’t let the focus shift to “suspended in time” moments, but your post BiR reminds me of an odd one. I used to play a lot of racquetball. Diving to my right in a game I felt something snap in my right knee. The knee lost mobility, and I fell to the floor of the court. What I remember most clearly was that as I was falling, a little voice in my head observed with wry amusement, “Oooh! Your dancing days are done, fella!”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Morning–

    I was replacing shovels on a digger. Just two bolts and an impact wrench. (Air powered wrench). And the heads of the bolts fit into recessed squares on the shovel so a second wrench isn’t necessary.
    However getting the old ones off is a little more difficult because the heads wear and they don’t fit the recess so well. And the threads are usually messed up enough that the nut doesn’t easily come off.
    So I used my thumb to try and hold the head of the bold into the recess. That didn’t work but as the bolt spun it did cut a nice slice in my thumb.
    Hmmm, off to the house for bandaids and some clean up.
    OK, back at the digger and try this again.
    Used the other thumb.
    Back to the house for another bandaid…
    I learned after that.

    Finished applying anhydrous early this morning.
    Working a ballet today and tomorrow in the theater… hope to farm again on Sunday.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. James Thurber writes about an irritable terrier named Muggs that his mother had who would bite people. He describes getting fed up once and hoisting the dog up by the tail and then realizing he had no plan for what to do with the dog after that. He managed to toss the dog in the kitchen and shut the door before the dog could run out. Being a terrier, it took the other way out of the kitchen and bit Thurber when he was on the back stairs.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. the world is learning the hard long bad for most way cause leaders are not doing this read n share please= leaders will always be failing until they do something like this=this would be love for the world= fix world =milk rich fix poverty do 16.00, 17.00, 18.00 hr min wage ,add 50 cents to 1$ hr in jan 2019, 200,000 yr after tax max wage-both up yrly with cost of living. no 1 10 times more important nor doing 10 times more-better work. if foundation was in then most charities n gov help would not be needed. do mandatory classes-anger, problem solve, job training, parenting, relationships, manage $ ,communication, etc. 9 -12 grades= less crime less violent crime . we all pay taxes for school 1-12 grades = should been taught right stuff to get ok job ok pay = failing system. the rich stole others turn share with poverty wage=slave wage= criminals. if all paid ok=could afford ok priced college n many basics like health care. poverty wage is slave wage. care for plants n animals ,give robots ok life too ,daveydsc@yahoo.com


    1. Higher minimum wage is certainly called for. It would be a tremendous boost for the economy and get more people off food support. Then single payer health insurance.


  9. Hey all. Unfortunately I haven’t learned the hard way. My biggest “learn the hard way” fault is when I take on a job and I don’t have the correct tool at hand. I may OWN the correct tool but if I’m outside, do I want to go inside and get the tool? If I am in the basement, do I want to go upstairs to get the tool or vice versa? The answer to that question, despite having learned many many times that it’s a bad idea to try to hammer a nail with the bottom of a screwdriver (or some such silliness) I never go get the tool. Unless of course I hurt myself or break something using the wrong tool then I will eventually go get the right tool. It’s a sad state of affairs.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. You know, I’m Oddly attracted to spinning things. The blender is strangely attracting and it’s all I can do not to stick my finger down into the middle of the spinning knives.
    Tried that when I was a kid. Only got a minor cut on my finger; it must have been slowing down when I did it. Mom asked from the other room what I was doing. Well, I’m
    Not bleeding on the carpet how about??

    Pizza cutters. I’m sure some day I will cut a finger off with one of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have a fear of things like blenders and mixers. When I was a kid my mother would always warn me about the mixer blades. “That will take your finger right off!”I still give appliances a wide berth.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have a fear of pressure cookers. When I was around 11, Mom told me to turn the flame down when the thingy started rocking while she went to visit the neighbor. She was cooking my favorite navy bean soup with ham. I noticed it was wiggling but couldn’t remember whether to turn up the flame or down the flame.

        I turned it up, and very shortly it exploded, leaving bean soup all over the kitchen – including the ceiling. I’ve never gone near one since.


  11. This is a bit off topic, but the mention of canoes compels me to share a recent event. My son, Steve (named after my brother), lives on a plot of land which abuts a large creek. Last week, and for the first time this year, he went down there to hang out in his hammock overlooking the creek. This year, it’s so full that rapids are raging though it.

    As he was sitting there, a canoe with two parents and two kids got caught up in a low-hanging tree and capsized. All four began clinging to branches as the current started to take them downstream. Steve jumped into the hypothermic-temp water and, one by one, pulled them to safety. He even swam downstream to retrieve the paddles.

    He could tell that the wife was furious with her husband for taking the whole family without a clue how to use a canoe. Steve valiantly, in addition to saving them, told the wife; “This happens all of the time”. Which it never does!

    Liked by 1 person

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