When wrong is right (and vice versa)

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Have you ever thought you were Ivory soap (99.44 percent) sure of a fact, only to decide that you were 100 percent WRONG? And, then, have you discovered that you were only wrong because you THOUGHT you were wrong, but you were really RIGHT all along? It happened to me recently.

During most of my adult life, I believed my father served in the Kansas Legislature with former Sen. Bob Dole during the early 1950s when they were both young combat veterans getting on with the business of rebuilding their lives. Through the years, I apprised countless people of that fact.

But when husband Ray and I attended the recent festivities at the Dole Institute of Politics, I began to doubt my long-held belief. As we perused the Institute's exhibits, I perceived a problem. The exhibits showed Bob Dole going directly to Congress from his position as Russell's county attorney.

"Hey," I said to Ray, "they show Dole's election to Congress after his time as county attorney instead of state representative. That's weird!"

As usual, when I am perplexed, I sought guidance from Ray. "Am I an idiot?" I asked, "or did these bozos foul up?" (Ray is an experienced husband, so he didn't attempt to answer that question.)

I am proud that I voted for Bob Dole each time he was a candidate. But I can't help but wonder -- if I hadn't thought he and my late father were friends, would I have spent all that time at fairs and festivals handing out gallons of pineapple juice in small blue cups? I can answer that question in two words: "Snowball's chance!"

"What's the deal?" I huffed, as we were driving home. "A lot of people that I told that story to knew better ... but did they tell me so? Did they say, 'Oh, Marsha, you're so full of it!' as my sister Lesta does? No, they didn't, and neither did Dole when I mentioned it to him many years ago when we had our photo taken together." (I'm still waiting for my copy of that picture.)

I concluded the reason no one said anything is because so many people resent being told they are wrong. Take the woman who dialed my phone number -- a wrong number -- THREE times, each time insisting that she had dialed correctly when I knew she was transposing numbers. When I politely tried to tell her what she was doing wrong, she said icily, "I just wish you'd quit answering this number!"

I can't reflect on my humiliating Dole blunders without remembering a long-ago embarrassing goof that occurred when my friend Roberta and I were trying to sink an orange juice can floating down the Wakarusa River (it was a slow day) by throwing rocks at it. When our best efforts proved unsuccessful, I said, "Let's throw a full-i-sade at it!"

Roberta looked puzzled. "Do you mean a fusillade?" she inquired.

"Probably," I said, remembering that I first encountered that word in Wake of the Red Witch -- one of my mother's Literary Guild books -- when I was in grade school. The pirates (I think they were pirates, although they may have been warring navies) in that book were constantly firing dozens of fusillades every which way.

At any rate, I decided on full-i-sade as the pronunciation for fusillade when my age was in single digits and continued to mispronounce it until Roberta corrected me. Thank goodness fusillade is not a word that comes up often in conversation, the world fortunately holding only a limited number of orange juice cans that require sinking.

But I digress. At the dedication ceremony on Dole's 80th birthday, I shared with friends Darlene and Jim that I was wrong about Dole serving in the Kansas House. Fact is, I was wrong about THAT! I apparently overlooked the display relating to his time in the Kansas Legislature because he did indeed serve a term there before he was county attorney.

So I am admitting in print that I was wrong ... not once, but TWICE!

What a lot of ammunition that gives Ray, whom I've finally convinced (after years of trying) that if I argue a fact, not only am I RIGHT, but I can PROVE it.

Would I have argued the point with Dole about his term or nonexistent term -- whichever -- in the Kansas House? It's unlikely ... simply because I was only Ivory soap sure of my facts. But it might have been an interesting exercise had I done so. It would have been worth it to hear Bob Dole exclaim in exasperation: "Oh, Marsha, you are SO full of it!"