My father drove up to a convenience store, handed me some change, then asked me to run in and get a copy of the latest “Green Sheet”, which I found out later was what locals called the San Diego Tribune. Based upon his description, I assumed that the paper would be green (which, I’m told, it was). Not wanting to seem silly by asking for a more detailed description, I was confident I’d be able to pick out the right paper. I was fourteen. I certainly didn’t need help buying a newspaper.
This particular store had many stacks of newspapers along the front windows. None that I could see were titled “Green Sheet”. I guessed that, since the one I was looking for was referred to as “green”, most other newspapers probably weren’t green. Frankly, I still don’t know if this is true. Anyway, scanning the confusing array of papers, most of them seemed to be of a similar shade. However, there were a couple of darker ones. Since there was no paper entitled with the word “green”, my primary guiding instruction was now to select the green paper. I deduced that for this to be the key characteristic, it must really stand out. So, I picked up the darkest paper, paid for it, and returned to the car.
“WHAT’S THIS? I TOLD YOU TO GET THE GREEN SHEET. IT WASN’T A COMPLICATED REQUEST. THIS ISN’T EVEN GREEN!” He huffed, got out of the car, went into the store, and came out with a different newspaper. Turns out, I had selected a blue paper… some obscure county publication. Returning with a blue paper when instructed to pick a green paper was so flummoxing that his sympathy circuits simply blew a fuse. We rode off in silence. I don’t recall conveying an excuse for my blunder.
While my outward reaction was muted, I was devastated. Partly because I had disappointed the father I visited only a week each year. But mostly because I felt that there was something profoundly wrong with me. This didn’t result from adolescent carelessness. It wasn’t a stage I was going through. It was an invisible, uncontrollable flaw that could surface during any human interaction, if I wasn’t particularly careful.
A few decades later, my father apologized, recognizing that his reaction had been somewhat overblown. The incident had stuck with him too.