Cutting carefully through the tensioned plastic tags that hold this stack of socks together in three sub-stacks, I frown, wondering as I often do how they insert these tags without ruining the things being secured. But as the socks fall away, released from their captivity, I frown harder. Why do I have an odd number of white socks? I have an even number of feet.
Dagnab it, I must be short one sock. I check the cardboard band that had been wrapped around the sock stack: There should be 10 pairs. I lay out the socks: There are 9.5 pairs.
There is no question: I am short one sock. But, especially given the discount-store price I paid–an expenditure approximating the price of a good cup of coffee–what matters is not that my first reaction was right. What matters is that my first reaction was negative: I’ve been robbed! It wasn’t: Oh, look! They gave me a spare!
Now, in some things, being right matters: writing calculus exams trudges to mind. In a very few things, it matters a lot: using calculus to determine loads on bridges springs to mind. But in much of life, being right is not nearly as important as being happy, or even being grateful.
I might as well consider that I paid for nine pairs of socks, and received nine and a spare. Maybe next time that possibility will be my first thought.