Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hubris Alert (Memory Lane Edition)

When I was a kid my Little League had a fundraiser. Some huckster brought in these plastic cups that we were to sell to family and neighbors and one of his main talking points, apropos for a group of boys, was that the cups were unbreakable. You could slam them against the floor, step on them, and generally abuse them and they would not break. To prove the point he distributed cups to all of us and allowed us to have our way. Cups were bouncing everywhere. I slammed mine against the floor like a wide receiver spiking a football after a touchdown. The unbreakable cup (white, with an imprint of a strawberry on it) cracked in two. I brought it triumphantly to the salesman. His only response, I kid you not, was "Oh, a wise guy, eh?"

The lesson: Avoid the hubris of proclaiming indestructibility. Do not claim that your ship is unsinkable. Do not claim that your plane (or helium-filled deathtrap) cannot crash. And do not claim that your new electronic passport with a microchip embedded in it is "foolproof against identity theft." Inevitably, some wise guy will clone it within minutes.

Postscript: Despite my revelation of the fallibility of the cups, my grandmother bought about a dozen, some of which were still extant upon her passing in 2003 and may be somewhere now for all I know. I made the All-Star team at first base that year playing for the Dodgers.

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