To paraphrase a quote I recall reading in a book about the Dulles brothers, all human institutions are imperfect. The author of the quote was the 20th Century American thinker Reinhold Niebuhr. Not only did he think institutions were imperfect, but that so was all of humanity.

Especially me. This is something regularly brought to my attention, mostly by my spouse. I’ve long vowed to make a list of all the pointing out of my real and perceived shortcomings, but mostly I’ve just grumbled at the nagging.

Then, last night, sitting with visiting friends around the dinner table, I was called out by said spouse for tugging (thoughtfully, I think) at the skin under my chin. “Wife,” I said, “you are micro-nagging me.” Our friends laughed and laughed, and, at that moment, I decided that micro-nagging is something worthy of a blog–even if no one reads it.

But rather than being a narcissist, recording the minutiae of spousal nagging, I figured that there’s a whole world out there ready for the treatment.

I have plenty of experience, not only as the nagee but also as the nagger. A long-time news reporter and editor, I have criticized, nit-picked or second-guessed all sorts of things, from the self-serving, often disingenuous blather of politicians and corporate officials to the inconsistent, unclear and mangled copy of fellow journalists. Sometimes it’s been enlightening, but it’s always been satisfying!

So, on to today’s business, which will be personal: It had been threatening rain all day, but we packed our lunches and, with our guests, headed out by car for a nearby trail, where we planned to take a long walk. About half-way along the trail, the sky opened up; wife and friends headed for cover, and I volunteered to walk back to where we had parked our car, then drive back to pick up the crew.

By this point, the rain was coming down harder, and my wife suggested that I hitchhike back to the parking lot. It had been decades since I’d stuck out my thumb at the side of the road, but the heavy rain convinced me to give it a shot. Cars were zipping by (some with a wave), and I was getting soaked. Then a car pulled up from a side road: two adults and a young child, in a sporty car. They (the adults) looked rough, in a rural way. But I was getting wetter by the second and, after first saying “that’s okay; you have a child in the car,” agreed to the offer of a ride.

The woman was driving; the man got it the back seat with the kid. The interior of the car was a mess, with beer cans on the floor and other stuff all around. We drove along a main state road talking about nothing much in particular. Until the driver looked into the rearview mirror and said, “Tom, put that knife away; it makes me nervous.”

And Tom says, “It fell out of my pocket when I got into the back seat.”

And I say nothing, but check to see if the front door is locked; it isn’t. We’re driving at about 55 mph, and have another 1.5 miles to go to get to the parking lot. I have over $300 in my wallet. I tell the driver that she doesn’t need to go out of her way to take me to the lot; I’ll get out on the side of the road and walk.

They insist on taking me all the way, and do. I get out of the car pretty quickly, and offer my sincerest thanks, muttering something about “good Karma.”

I tell my wife the story. I remind her it was her idea that I hitch a ride, adding: “And if I had been robbed, you would have blamed me for taking that particular lift, right?” She smiles, nodding her head in a big “Yes.”

 

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