Lessons learned hard way are less likely to be forgotten

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2000

I had the opportunity this past week to sit back on my mother's front porch and watch a bunch of children riding bikes through a neighbor's yard. What tickled me the most about this event was that there was every type of bike rider in this group: experienced, daredevils and beginner. The beginner was a friend of mine's daughter, and with every crash and bump I winced. But I didn't go get in the middle of it: rather, I let her fill and slide and scrape her way into being able to control her two-wheeled steed. It wasn't easy, but sometimes lessons learned the hard way are the ones that stick with your forever.

Too often today everybody expects instant gratification. If it takes effort and patience, then it's not worth the wait. Instant food, instant drinks, instant communication, instant friends: some things just take time, and effort, and sacrifice, and waiting, and perseverance before they come to be. Mama, my great-grandmother, told me that you learn a lot more from a failure than you do from success. For one thing, you learn not to do it that way again. You also find out what you are made of when you have to face up to the fact that what you did wasn't even close to right. Let me share with you some of the things that seem to be better learned the hard way.

Bicycle riding: As mentioned above, until you've done an endovervendovervend flip into a briar patch, you don't have any appreciation for the finer arts of balance and timing.

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Sticking your tongue to an ice tray: Think back to when you were little. Hot summer day. Cold Frigidare. Ice trays cooling in the freezer. You're hot. Tired. Sweaty. Your best friends says "bet you won't lick the bottom of the ice tray". Take my word for it-DON'T! I think it took a week before I could talk without a little lisp, and the thought of my head being held under the faucet while they ran water over my tongue still brings chills.

Crossing two electrical wires: Unless you really want to go around the rest of your life being confused as a Bozo the Clown hairdo model, I'd suggest that you never do this.

Wondering "I wonder what this button does": It doesn't. It's the self destruct system. Soon, you'll hear the words "catastrophic" and "pity" used in the same sentence.

Taking the lid off a pot on the stove without a potholder: Remember the guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark who picked up the red-hot medallion? I've got the imprint of cast iron frying pans on both my hands.

Teasing a dog that's tied up: Chains break. Ask my friend Newton. After barking and taunting a dog on a chain in a friend's yard, he heard what turned out to be a heartbreaking sound: the sound of the chain snapping. I really never knew that anyone over six and a half feet tall could move his legs quite that fast, or stay perched on a two inch branch overnight.

Never say "I wonder how fast this car will go": You'll find out, and usually it's explained to you by a really polite state trooper who reminds you that (a) it's for your own good and (b) reinforces that with an opportunity to see how our justice system works first hand.

Saying "There's no way they'll ever find out": They will…trust me.