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One pretzel, 2 soft serves ... that's $213 and no sense

This was supposed to be a column about mistakes ... until I realized I was wrong, and that it’s really about something else.

More on exactly what it’s about in a bit.

There are those who are quick to euphemize mistakes as “learning opportunities,” as though that will make the committer of said error feel better about themselves.

The flaw in this soothing ointment is that it presumes that once a mistake has been launched into the universe, steps will be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

I find that a tad too optimistic for my liking, and feel assured in asserting that none of Burke, Santayana or Churchill ever spent $42 on a pretzel ... then spent $165 on ice cream.

The other evening, standing in my driveway, I felt the need to call our cat-sitters.

(After all this time, you should know there’s always a cat involved even if, as in this case, somewhat tangentially.)

We weren’t requiring their services, but we did have a pertinent question to ask after returning home from a spur of the moment venture to get some soft serve, with a twist.

“You don’t happen,” I asked of each, “to have a key to our house laying around, do you?”

I might have said “lying,” which would be another mistake.

(Unless, of course, I've messed that up again. Entirely possible.)

Neither cat-sitter, both being the conscientious type, still had such a key — but they each asked the same follow-up question.

“Where’s your key?”

Well, at that moment, my house key was in the house, sitting next to a figurine of a perched cardinal (bird, not clergy) on the kitchen counter.

Our new vehicle comes equipped with one of those smart-fobs that doesn’t require a key to open a door, as well as the smart push-button ignition system.

The obvious mistake the automakers make is that they put all this smart technology in the hands of people who might not be equipped for the challenge.

Enter the $42 pretzel.

Years ago, on vacation visiting family in Florida, one of us — not me, or the cat — had a hankering for a whole wheat pretzel, the type of which they sell gazillions of for two bucks each in Florida shopping malls.

We stopped at the mall, got out of the car and headed into satisfy her craving.

It was only after returning to the parking lot that we discovered that some schmuck had left the rental car running with the doors locked.

Which is just another reason why using your vacations to visit is, at best, a questionable strategy — a mistake we repeated a year ago, leading to the nice shower in Room 119 of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on Wiley Post Way in Salt Lake City.

The locksmith arrived, looked askance at the tourists (one taking guilty bites out of a pretzel) and charged 40 bucks to get the car door open.

“Well,” I thought at the time, “there’s a mistake you only make once.”

Consider it a learning opportunity.

Enter the $171 soft serve.

The twist in this case, however, was that (unlike in Florida) we had the car “key” and we weren’t visiting relatives — unless you consider the cat, which was looking out a front window wondering why we hadn’t come in to feed her, pet her, or just grab the keys on the kitchen counter.

The ice cream had been a treat at the end of a long day of errands. At this stage in life we buy the smallest portions available, and as we stood in the shop parking lot we were relieved that everything we had to do was accomplished without a hitch.

It’s here where this column about mistakes hit upon its actual topic marriage.

You might have wondered as this tale developed why we are only talking about one set of keys. After all, our home is not a rental car in Florida — so we certainly must have more than a single key.

She hadn’t considered bringing hers because they’d only weigh down a purse that was always burdened by dozens or cards, enough change to purchase a half-dozen pretzels, and various and sundry items with seemingly no purpose.

Besides, after 40-plus years she had come to rely on her husband always having his keys with him.

And that, of course, was her mistake — presuming (nah, assuming if correct in this instance) that a man ill-equipped to deal with smart technology have made a seamless transition to carrying his house key separate from the vehicle fob.

The locksmith arrived, looked at the homeowners (one holding a soft-serve-stained napkin, and — 165 bucks later — popped open the door to the house.

“No offense,” I found myself saying, “but I hope this is the only time we’ll meet like this.”

“That’s what most folks say,” he replied.

As he left — and we stood there debating whether anyone would ever consider looking under a rock, flower pot or welcome mat for a spare house key — I hoped we would find ourselves among his repeat customers.

They’ve locked Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin into a room at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com and thrown away the key.