Pickles:  The Prize of Poor Decision Making


We make many decisions each day, and we all strive to make good decisions, or if we are being honest, we hope to avoid making bad decisions.  I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life, but one of my earliest gaffes in judgement is particularly memorable.  I was seven or eight years old when I accompanied my Mom to the local grocery store.  I should mention I was obsessed with the vending machines located at the store entrance  This row of red , metallic  apparatuses would exchange quarters for adolescent treasure.  These jewels included Super Bouncy Balls, temporary tattoos, chewing gum, and everlasting jawbreakers.   I was defenseless against their allure, drawn to them like a moth to light.  

Upon entering the store, my mom informed me that she was out of quarters, whisked me past the machines, and grabbed a cart.  However, she made the critical error of stopping to organize her grocery list.    I instantly sprinted  to a machine and searched desperately for stray quarters, only to come up empty.  I quickly assessed the situation and made a bold decision to reach into the bowels of the machine to retrieve a free prize.  I quickly began to panic as I realized my hand was stuck.  I could feel the heat of my Mom’s glare as she walked over to assess the situation.  A crowd gathered and store employees decided to page the night manager.  He was a young man in his early twenties, with a scruffy beard and a large key chain that made his pants sag to one side.  After working steadily for 20 minutes he freed me from my self-inflicted  prison.  

My Mom was embarrassed and assured me my father would be handling this when we got home.  I walked up and down several aisles, fighting back tears, and shuffling my feet slowly.  I promised my Mom (and myself) that I would listen and make better choices.  While reflecting on my earlier faux pas I noticed a shiny display of pickle jars.  They were stacked at the end of the aisle, balanced delicately, one on top of the other.  While marveling at this architectural wonder of pickle perfection, I felt an indescribable urge to touch the display.  Almost immediately, a row of pickle jars fell violently to the floor, leaving a trail of pickle juice and shattered glass.  To make matters worse, the same night manager arrived at the scene with a mop.  We left the store immediately and I wasn’t allowed back for a long time.  My penance for this visit was to work at this same store as a teenager; cleaning up the messes of curious adolescents and careless adults.  

It’s understandable that an eight year old would make a couple of bad decisions (even if this eight year old was incredibly awesome and intelligent), but in this age of information why do we continue to make bad decisions?  Do we inefficiently gather data?  Do we misinterpret information, or lack the skills to analyze data accurately?  I certainly don’t have all the answers, but my next few blogs will explore the art of decision making and how an enhanced understanding can impact education.  

One comment

  1. […] In my last post I mentioned subsequent blogs would focus on the art of decision making.  I have always been fascinated with the psychology of decision making, and my interest was rekindled after reading “The Undoing Project:  A Friendship That Changed Our Minds”.  The book is written by Michael Lewis (“Moneyball”) and explores the friendship and scholarship of Israeli psychologists Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman.  Their work revealed people, even really smart people, make irrational decisions.  While reading, I questioned how their findings impacted the field of education.  Upon reflection, here are my thoughts. […]


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