My Turn: Non compos mentis III

  • mactrunk

Published: 12/2/2021 10:05:41 AM
Modified: 12/2/2021 10:05:08 AM

You’ve done it too, I’m sure. You geared up to go grocery shopping. You’ve nailed the shopping list, the shopping bags, the mask, all that extra equipment needed before you even get to the grocery store. Once there, you were efficient, speedy, making swift choices up and down the aisles. You even waited without impatience on the check-out line until it was your turn to unload your cart.

That is when you go to take out your credit card, ahead of time, no last minute fumbling except … except you don’t have your plastic because you don’t have your wallet. You forgot it. It’s sitting on the table at home.

You can see it clearly. You can recall the moment you didn’t put it in your purse because there was a distraction, of course there was a distraction. And so, here you were reloading your cart, asking the kindly check-out clerk if you may please leave the cart while you drive back home and get your wallet.

And the checker is kindly and makes allowances and you too must make allowances for your error. What else can you do?

So, how about it? Is it a winner? Have I snagged the non compos mentis award with the grocery shop snafu?

Or is this entry nothing to brag about. You’ve got a way better one?

My beloved husband has already submitted his own incident — the case of the lost sliced bread. The slices that were headed for the toaster, but never made it to the toaster. After launching a search party, they were discovered on a distant table top next to an adjacent object of interest that diverted the bread’s route.

So, a second contender. Last year, you might remember that someone else jumped the queue with his story about looking high and low for a special coffee grinder which he was sure he had purchased and stored somewhere only to finally, days later, discover he hadn’t purchased it at all.

It is time. We are approaching the annual non compas mentis awards for the best snafu, mishap, screw-up, idiocy and/or senior moment of 2021. We may all have our non compos mentis (not in your right mind) stories ready.

My nephew’s prize was granted for misplacing his passport on the way to the border. It had slipped between his car seats, discovered missing at the Canadian border and found only upon the inevitable return home. No passport, no travel.

And then there was my brother’s all-time historic winner with the frozen iced-in doorway and an early morning plane to catch. It was a fitting triumph and the inspiration of this award. It was my brother’s gift to us.

It was his particular genius to turn a foolish or embarrassing mistake into an achievement and a reason to laugh rather than to cry. Within our own family circle, we vied for who would tell the best tale with the juiciest of the details. Others soon joined the challenge and entered with their skillfully told misadventures, understanding that presentation as well as deed mattered.

You had to craft the story and own the ridiculous. You had to set the scene; you had to embroider but not spare your own part in the idiotic episode not as a victim, not “pity-party me”, but as the worthy protagonist of the ordeal.

It is an old tactic, one that history has recorded perhaps as the anti-hero, the Don Quixote swiping at windmills, the Shakespearean fool who masks wisdom behind antics. It is a way that outliers have contended with self- contempt by seizing control of the narrative, turning the tables with a flourish.

It has become an act of remembrance of my brother, who died years ago from a stroke. He left us knowing how important laughter can be as we more and more negotiate our oh-so-human limitations and frailties. And rather than to cover up the mishap, to invite others into the oh-so-human circle of error.

So, dear readers, what good stories have you saved and shined up in hopes of winning this year’s non compas mentis trophy for fame, for glory and a righteous giggle?

Ruth Charney lives in Greenfield.


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