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Stafford: Drive to Springfield a moment to learn from missed details


I’m a person who has learned from his mistakes.

I’ve learned to make more of them.

To paraphrase Star Wars, the farce is strong in me.

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Now in my seventh decade of stumbling around the planet, I’ve come to fancy myself as a Yoda of foul-ups. Wanting to pass on my lack of wisdom to the next generation, I even invented a classification system that divides errors into two essential categories: The mistakes I’ve mastered by repeated practice and the ones I have yet to get around to.

Perhaps that rings a bell with some of you.

If so, I apologize, because I was wrong about that, too.

Last week, while repeating one of my favorite bone-headed errors, I discovered a whole new category of mistake I’ve been making without even being aware of it — a kind of black hole of errors that has raised my game to the level of a screw-up savant.

It all started when I was coming back from Yellow Springs on U.S. 68.

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As always, I passed by the Mayberry’s Marathon Station and Rocky Lakes Golf Course on the right, and where 68 curves to the left around Walt’s Auto, I did what I’ve done so often: switched on my turn signal and exited right on to Springfield-Xenia Road.

Passing by Emery Chapel United Methodist Church, I adjusted the cruise control to 45 mph and checked to see whether any bicycles were about to cross from the path to the parking lot at Beatty Station.

I went past the Springfield Twp. Fire Station on the left and approached the place I usually discover my error, while stopped next to the plant nursery on the right at the traffic light at Possum School.

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But because the light was green that day, I had gone under I-70, past Chap’s Saloon and was coming to a stop at the light at Leffel Lane when I realized I’d driven that entire stretch of road for about four minutes with my right turn signal on — again.

Assuming this was a Grandpa mistake, I checked to see if I was wearing suspenders that had drawn my pants up under my armpits. Nada.

But it was a Grandpa tendency that brought me to the black hole revelation.

At my age, I refuse to pay a cable company extra money so I can watch a movie that’s 30 years old. You can line up MBAs to tell me how the market justifies the practice if you want. For the time being, bump stocks are still available.

So I went to the “free” movie channel, where I called up the classic 1967 Sidney Poitier-Rod Steiger classic, “In the Heat of the Night.”

Look, I remembered it as a good movie. I remembered the essential plot, the setting, the actors and especially the weird kind of puzzling respect and glint of affection that developed between the black Philadelphia detective played by Poitier as he helped the racist but sharp small town sheriff played by Steiger solve a murder in the South of the 1960s.

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But while watching it again, I noticed so much I had missed: The artful change of scenes; how solving the case required Poitier to visit parts of the small Southern town Steiger didn’t have access to; the role of the grieving widow, Lee Grant, in driving the investigation; and how brilliantly William Schallert, who played Patty Duke’s father on her show, portrayed the calculating, modestly conniving small-town mayor.

It added up to a portrait of a town and time that was every bit as brilliant as the portraits Steiger and Poitier gave of Gillespie and Mr. Tibbs.

All this made realize how much I’d missed in the film, just as I so often have missed the clicking sound of my turn signal. And that made me wonder how much of this rich life I’ve missed since 1967, when the movie came out and I turned 13.

That brings us to the one piece of advice you might consider taking from a first class foul-up like me.

In making so many mistakes, I’ve learned one thing: It’s best to leave regrets like this in the past. It’s best to know that if we recognize our mistakes, we’ve learned from them. It’s also good to know that if we keep making them, we’re learning more.

Take it from me, I’ve been wrong before.



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