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In the early 1970s, when I was in my mid-20s, I crewed for a guy who raced a Flying Dutchman class sailboat (a 19' two person open boat). One winter he invited me to accompany him to Florida to compete in the nationals. We didn't stand a chance, but I wasn't about to turn down an opportunity to escape the cold Michigan weather for a couple of weeks and play with the big boys at the owner's expense.
The drive south was uneventful except for a minor incident in Georgia. While cruising down the freeway, the car's engine quit. We coasted to a stop on the shoulder and popped the hood. The coil wire had come loose. It was a simple fix and we were on our way again in a matter of minutes.
The weather at St. Petersburg was ideal for racing. We didn't come in last, which was sufficient cause for celebration (as if we needed an excuse). The only glitch was in the fourth race when the rudder broke and we had to be towed in. No problem though. The owner had a spare.
On the way back home we stopped for gas in Georgia. We sat in the car for several minutes politely waiting for someone to serve us. As more time passed, we began griping to each other about the poor service, wondering out loud why the scraggly looking attendant lounging in a chair beside the front door of the service station seemed to be ignoring us. I finally got out of the car, walked over, and asked him (in that dissatisfied customer tone) "Can we get some service?"
He looked at me, pointed to a sign attached to the face of the building that read "Self-Service" and asked in a southern drawl "How do you get by boy? Jes' how do you get by?"
For some reason, that minor embarrassment made an indelible impression and prompted me to be more observant. Even so, there have no doubt been countless times since then that I've seen what I wanted or expected and missed what was right in front of me. Yet, somehow, I've managed to get by -- so far.