The Big Whoops!

We all make mistakes. After all, as Alexander Pope said, "To err is human," and lord knows if we're nothing else, we're human. Of course he blew the rest because forgiving isn't even close to being divine. Chocolate truffles are divine, Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch is divine, right now a scalp massage would be really divine. But forgiving? That's something we're forced to do to keep peace around the house.It might be the alignment of the planets, but there's been a lot of "whoops!" going on lately. The Montana Power Co. sent the Radella family of Roscoe an electric bill for $50 billion instead of the $35.95 it should have. "Whoops!" Someone at Lockheed confused metric with English measurements and caused a $125 million Mars spacecraft to rendezvous a little too close to the planet. Like right into the surface. "Whoops!"On the face of it, it would appear that the power bill was the bigger mistake since it was for 400 times as much. And it would have been had the Radellas run to the ATM, cashed the check, and squandered it on double-wides for everyone in the family like so many lottery winners have done. But they didn't. Coming from Montana they did what anyone else in the state would do under the circumstances: they holed up in a cabin with a small arsenal and dared the power company to take it away from them. So the correct answer is B) the Mars Polar Orbiter. It turns out that because NASA measures energy using metric units called newtons, and some dolts at Lockheed forgot and programmed it to expect pounds of force, we lost a lot of our hard earned tax dollars as well as a spacecraft that had already traveled 415 million miles. True, we should be happy that it got great mileage (about 30 cents per mile in space and $10 million per mile in the city—actual results may vary) but the fact remains that the crash landing put a bit of a dent in what was otherwise a great trip. It's like the Griswold's driving all the way across the country to find WallyWorld is closed. Except unfortunately Chevy Chase wasn't on the Mars Orbiter.Another big mistake happened in Japan, where some workers tried to put 35 pounds of uranium in a 5.2-pound tank. "Whoops!" Can you say, meltdown? It's unclear whether they were experimenting, as they claim, or rather doing their famous Homer Simpson imitation. Doh! Either way I hope they learned their lesson and cancel next week's scheduled experiment to see if they can put 15.9 kilograms of uranium in a 2.4-kilogram Lockheed tank. Luckily, most mistakes don't have such dire consequences. This is a good thing since it would really suck if people could get radiation poisoning just by putting too much bleach in the washer, or lose a spacecraft because they forgot to enter a check in the check register. I already have enough white patches on my jeans, I don't need them on my skin too.The Army recently discovered they made a mistake and tried to fix it. They realized that, as we enter the new millennium (a phrase I have to use because it's required by law to be inserted into every column), Trained Killer just isn't as high on peoples' list of career choices as it used to be. Thus, they found themselves 6,300 recruits short this year. To remedy it they offered a bonus of $6,000 to anyone who enlisted. This was is in addition to other bonuses, scholarships, and all-expense paid trips to exotic locales like Kosovo and East Timor.I haven't heard how the promotion went, but I doubt it did as well as they hoped. That's because they made another mistake. This is the new millennium—they should have offered stock options instead of a signing bonus. (Extra points for using the magic phrase in consecutive paragraphs!)It's good for us to learn from our mistakes. Hell, if someone like Moammar Khadafy can do it, any of us can. No, he hasn't learned how to spell his name, which has variously been printed as Ghadafy, Khadafi, and Stark Raving Lunatic. What he has done is realize the error of his ways, trading armed rockets for rockets on wheels. That's right, he's personally designed a car which he calls the "Rocket of the Jamahiriya" (literally: "Stupid Idea"). He unveiled it recently, claiming it will be a super-safe car that will protect passengers like no other. It should do for Libya what the Yugo did for Yugoslavia.This sets a good example, since trying to correct your mistakes is good for the soul. To a point, anyway. You have to wonder about the 25,000 dog owners who had their pets neutered, then realizing the error of their ways had Neuticles, artificial testicles, implanted in place of the real ones. Apparently their dogs are more fixed than most. Some people just won't ever learn. Look at the new TV season. Look at the movies in production like "Charlie's Angels", "Starsky and Hutch", and "The Courtship of Eddie's Father." Look at the thousands of people on the east coast who said "whoops!" when their beachfront vacation homes slid into the ocean thanks to Hurricane Floyd. Sam Kineson is probably in heaven right now screaming, "Why do you build houses on the beach when you know they get wiped away by a hurricane every other year?!?" Probably for the same reason people rebuild their houses in a flood plain so it will get washed away a few years later.I don't want to imply that I'm immune to making mistakes. In fact, a while back I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI to see how many of them they knew about. They claim I have no file. This certainly doesn't mean I'm an angel. What it does mean is that either they don't know about my mistakes, don't think they're as big as I do, lost the files, or have me confused with Waco and are covering it up. Or possibly they sent me that form letter by mistake. Either way it's okay. I'm human, I can forgive them. You know, that did feel rather divine.More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.comEmail: md@maddogproductions.com

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