Our brains get lazy and let us down all the time. Mostly, this happens when we are doing something innocuous. We let our brain take over and go into autopilot.
This is called chunking. It’s when something has become so routine that our brain lumps it into one task.
For example, going to work. Do you ever get to work and think, how did I get here?
Our brains work to be as efficient as possible. You aren’t actively thinking about opening your car door, backing out of the garage, shutting the garage door, etc.
99% of the time, this results in arriving at work with no issue. But, if there is a slight change in your normal routine it can lead to a mistake. For example, you get in your car and then remember that it is garbage day. You get out of your car, roll the garbage can to the street, get back in the car, and drive away completely oblivious to the fact that you left your garage door open (not that this happened to me today, this is a fictional situation that I came up with).
Something like this has happened to all of us at some point. Our brains skip a beat and pick things back up at step 10 rather than step 9 during some ritual. It is irritating, but it is usually harmless.
So, why are you reading this? Well, sometimes chunking can lead to an embarrassing moment. Like this one…
My wife, son, and I were heading on a day trip North to Duluth, MN to go see Thomas The Train. My wife was in dire need of a new cell phone. We decided to stop at the AT&T store before hitting the road (yeah, my Saturdays have been lit lately).
We pulled up to the store at 9:40 AM and, of course, the store does not open until 10.
“What do you want to do?” I ask my wife.
“Let’s just do it some other time”
“Well, I need to go get some gas before we leave”
We pull out of the parking lot and drive to the gas station down the street.
I get out, swipe my card, start pumping the gas, and ads start running on the tiny screen.
I open my wife’s door and ask, “do you want me to get you anything from inside?”
She said that she didn’t.
My car needed washer fluid, it had been alerting me of this for about 2 weeks. Also, we didn’t have sun screen so I figured I could grab some of that as well.
I ran inside, found the high priced sun screen and washer fluid, paid, walked out of the store, popped the hood, put washer fluid in my car, and threw the empty jug away.
I took a glance at my windshield and decided that I would use the squeegee to clean up the windshield (something that I never do, but squeegee seemed fun).
After I got in the car, satisfied that I was prepared to hit the open road. I asked my wife, “do you want to head to Duluth or go back to the AT&T store.” After all my windshield cleaning, it was a couple of minutes before 10.
“Let’s go to the store and get it taken care of.”
I put on my seat belt, turn on the car, put the car in drive, take my foot off the brake, and slowly start to pull away from the pump.
A thump, then I hear a grinding metallic noise.
“What is that? What did I hit?” I ask my wife as panic grips my chest.
“You need to back up.”
That’s when it hit me. I knew what I did, or didn’t do to be more precise.
I put the car in park, unbuckled my seatbelt, got out of the car, looked around to see who was looking at me, walked around the back, and saw the gas pump nozzle still inserted into my gas tank. The hose laid limp on the ground next to my car, completely detached from the pump.
I worried that the heat radiating from my face might spark a fire.
Nervously, I scanned the area looking for someone that had witnessed the most idiotic thing I have ever done (arguably).
Do I go inside and tell somebody? I really don’t want to go inside and tell somebody. I can reattach it.
I looked at the end of the hose that was once attached to the pump, then looked at the pump where the hose attached.
See, somebody knew that idiots like me existed. They created these hoses to detach without ripping the gas pump out or destroying my car.
I grabbed the hose, reached the end up to the pump, reattached it (best that I could), took the nozzle out of my car, placed it back on the pump, put on my gas cap, got in the car, put on my seat belt, looked at my wife and said…
“Good enough” and got the hell out of there.
I spent most of the drive to Duluth wondering how long it would take for this scene to make it up on YouTube.
The point is, this wasn’t my fault.
The blame resides solely on my brain.