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Are you ready to humble?

Gene Weingarten on

WASHINGTON -- I recently reported that my car had been towed, but the city parking enforcement guy couldn't find it in his records. He said it must have been stolen and told me to call the police.

"It can't have been stolen," I whined.

Why, he asked.

"Because it's a piece of crap," I said.

"Thieves steal crap," he said.

"And it's a stick shift."

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"Whoa," he said. This argument seemed more persuasive. Car thieves in my city are often very young and are not known for the versatility of their driving skills. Many thefts are brought to a close literally seconds later, by a tree.

But the cop on the phone wasn't convinced. Probably stolen, he said. He asked me to go outside and write down the address in front of which I had been maybe, possibly technically slightly illegally parked. I did, but when I was walking back to my house, I noticed, in the distance, on a whole separate block. ... Well, you know what I noticed. I had evidently forgotten exactly where I had parked. The ensuing phone conversation was personally humiliating.

I specialize in the personally humiliating. Once, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the following occurred:

I was in the street, waiting on a corner for the light to change, in the middle of a knot of other pedestrians. In my mind I was mulling the details of a play that I was writing, about a female gunshot victim who was paralyzed from the waist down. I'd been searching for a certain line, and finally, right there, at the corner, I figured out what I wanted her to say. I was elated. Then I noticed that the people around me were sort of slowly edging away, giving me a wide berth, as though I had emitted something unpleasant.

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