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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Stupid human happenings always seem to happen

Have you ever made some real stupid mistakes? Guys, have you walked out of the bathroom and forgotten to zip up your fly? Have you worn a new piece of clothing and forgotten to take off the tags? Have you deposited your salary check in the wrong bank? I have done all of them. Here are some true-life adventures from my never to be written book titled, "I can't believe I was so dumb."

Beware of Canucks in Turkey

It isn't so true today but a couple of decades ago it was important that when you traveled in a foreign country, you needed to change your dollars into the local currency.

Having traveled quite a bit I thought I was street savvy. When we arrived in Turkey in the 1970s, I immediately went into the streets of Istanbul wanting to change some my dollars for Turkish lira. It didn't take too long before I was approached by someone with a friendly face who said he was from Canada and wanted to know if I needed any help getting around. I told him I could use some help in exchanging dollars. He said, "I know of a place, follow me."

Eventually we stopped in front of a small galleria and he asked me how much I wanted to exchange. I told him $40. I gave him two $20-dollar bills and he said, "Wait here." He disappeared inside the galleria.

I waited and waited and waited some more. I finally realized, "duh", this guy wasn't coming back. How stupid could I be? I just gave a stranger $40 in a country where I didn't even know the words for "Where's the bathroom?"

The Red Market

While touring schools in the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s there was little U.S. merchandise flowing into what was a pretty closed country. There was a big demand for clothes made in the U.S. especially anything with a "Levi" brand on them.

One morning I was walking in Red Square when some young Soviet men came up to me and asked me if I had any Levi clothing. (Like in Turkey, a U.S. tourist stands out like a fox in a hen house.) I told them I had a Levi shirt back in my hotel room and some other brand name shirts.

They said they would give me the equivalent of several hundred dollars in Russian currency for the items. I was to meet them in the alley by the hotel in the evening. Sounded like a good deal.

So, there I was about 10 at night, standing in a Moscow alley in the rain holding several shirts made in the U.S. They did show up and we made the Red Market swap. After making the exchange I was thinking how stupid I was. I could have been mugged and robbed of everything on me including my own clothes. I could just see the headlines, "U.S. educator found stripped of his clothes in Moscow alley."

Parking Lot

About 20 years ago, I was doing a teacher workshop in a suburb outside of Chicago. I had rented a car and was in a hurry to get to the school but I remembered that I had not packed a shaving razor. I drove past a large shopping mall with a huge parking lot. I parked the car in the parking lot, went in the mall, found a drug store and purchased my razor.

I walked out of the mall feeling good that I had found a store so quickly. What I had not given too much thought about was, "What kind of car was I driving and where did I park it?"

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Two weeks ago, I was really excited to have some time to fish but unfortunately my outboard motor wouldn't work. "Well, I will just row to my favorite spot across the lake." I would be rowing against a strong wind but I was determined to go fishing. After rowing about 45 minutes, I arrived at my spot only to discover that in my excitement to go fishing, I had left my rods on the dock.

What can we learn from my stupidity? My old football coach would tell us players as he pointed to his head, "Think, boys, think!" Are we ever too old to stop thinking? I don't think so.

Riddle: How do you make a Venetian blind? (Poke him in the eye.) Next time you are in a situation where it takes a little extra thought, poke yourself in the head and remind yourself to think.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.