Not knowing what to do. It's a continuum. Some people know what to do and others don't. When I was young I never knew. It was as if all the other kids had learned the secret handshake. For instance: One day when I was in second grade my mother packed fried chicken for my lunch and I wasn't sure if it was acceptable in the school cafeteria to eat it with my fingers. So I opened the top of my lunch kit straight up and scrunched behind it to eat. Around the same time, kids used to ask, Are you a Texan or an Aggie? I had no idea what they were talking about, even though my mother was a Texan (alum of UT) and my uncle was an Aggie (not alum of Texas A & M ; once an Aggie, always an Aggie). I didn't even know enough to ask my parents what those terms were.

In the next decades, I've been less at a loss. For instance, now I know that there's a monitor at the airport that tells you which carousel your luggage is coming through. (Is carousel the right word?) But then yesterday I was picking up a pair of glassses that had been languishing at the optical place since forever and I also got my eyes checked. Afterward I met with the paperwork guy and made an appointment to pick up the new contacts next week and get my eyes dilated. Then the guy said, Do you want me to put it on a card for you? I said, No, I'll write a check. I assumed he meant did Iwant to charge it. But he meant did I want him to put write down the date of the appointment on a card.

On the one hand you could say that language itself is such a miracle that it's amazing that we can communicate with one another even approximately. On the other, I bet the Aggie vs. Texan kids would have known what the optician was talking about.