Once when I was seventeen, I ran my family’s car into the side of the road. As far as I know, it’s the only thing I ever did that could be chalked up to stupid adolescent behavior, the only thing that ever got me into big trouble with my parents. I have never been pulled over by the cops; I have never sneaked out of the house after curfew; and I have never otherwise been caught doing anything rebellious or bad. And I would have gotten away with running the family’s car into the side of the road if it wasn’t for the fact that I dented the front bumper pretty noticeably.
Now, normally, seventeen-year-old Spencer was all into being overly upset about mistakes he made. But on this particular night, I was with my girlfriend and trying to look grown-up and I was remembering all of the crazy stories my parents had told me about when they were kids. We laughed about those. So I figured this would be a laughing matter.
I called my parents and laughed through most of the conversation. My parents weren’t laughing, though.
Life did not progress all that well from there that night.
Tonight, I was standing in line at a fast food restaurant, and the woman in front of me asked for a large cup for water. Expecting the cashier to not be cool with this, the woman launched into a five-minute explanation of what had led her to ask for a large cup of water. It was loaded with too much information.
That woman and seventeen-year-old me have a lot in common. We both thought that we knew the reaction of the person we were communicating with. And in both cases, it didn’t work out well.
I pull punches all the time. I pepper my conversation with words and phrases and attitudes that I think will make the information easier or more acceptable for the person I’m talking to. It never does.