It was a near-perfect afternoon for baseball at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia: temperatures in the mid-60s under a cloudless sky with a steady breeze blowing in from left field rippling the flags and pennants. Due to COVID restrictions, fewer than 11,000 people would attend the game, giving the event the feel of a spring training game with no crowds in the walkways or at the concession stands and a greater sense of intimacy with the players on the field.
Our bleacher seats behind first base were grouped into 2 sets of 4 that were 9 rows apart. Our other friends hadn’t gotten there yet when Sally and I arrived with her sister Lynn and brother-in-law Bill. Having arrived early for the 1pm start, we immediately decided to have lunch.
Since it was a long walk to the concession stands behind the bull pen, Bill and I volunteered to get the food. I told him that Sally wanted a cheesesteak and he told me that Lynn wanted one, too. They were sold at Campo’s where the line was short and fast-moving. I told Bill that I’d like to pay for lunch since he had driven and paid for parking, and he accepted.
When we got to the front of the line, he placed the order for the two cheesesteaks: both with onions and one with ketchup. At first I thought I would share Sally’s, but I saw something on the menu called ‘The Heater’ and decided to get one. I added that to our order along with 2 Diet Cokes.
When our food was ready a few moments later, I put ‘The Heater’ and a cheesesteak in one carry-out box and the second cheesesteak in another. Bill asked me ‘Is that it?’ and I told him it was. We moved forward in the line to pick up our sodas and I placed one in his box and one in mine. The attendant had just refilled a bowl with ketchup packets and Bill took several for Lynn. We each took a short stack of napkins from the dispenser and headed back to our seats.
I had just sat down when Bill asked if I had the right order and I told him I did. Our other friends had arrived while we were gone and it turned out that Lynn and Bill were in the seats 9 rows behind ours. We didn’t talk with them again until it was time to leave.
The game was a pitcher’s duel with the Phillies beating the Milwaukee Brewers 2-0.
I took a nap when we got home, but woke up with a start.
“Oh my god! I cheated Bill out of a cheesesteak!”
I replayed the event over and over in my mind until I fully understood what had happened.
As we walked to the concession stand, I told Bill that Sally wanted a cheesesteak and Bill told me that Lynn wanted one, as well. Neither of us said out loud what we wanted for ourselves. In my mind, then, I fixed our order at 2 cheesesteaks. It was a silly assumption to make.
Bill was ahead of me in line and so he placed the order for two cheesesteaks. I wondered how he knew that Sally wanted onions but no ketchup. In hindsight, it was crystal clear that he didn’t know and he wasn’t ordering for Sally. He was ordering 1 cheesesteak for Lynn and 1 for himself.
Furthermore, even though we were putting this on one tab, he would never have tried to order for both couples. That’s not the norm. Why did that not occur to me?
Having placed his order, Bill turned to me so I could place mine. Believing that the food for our wives had already been ordered, I added my ‘Heater’ order and the two drinks.
When I put two sandwiches in one box, Bill thought it was his order and I thought it was mine. He asked, “Is that it?” because there were four of us and only three sandwiches.
When we got back to the seats, he asked again if I had the right box because he was expecting two cheesesteaks (which were in the box I carried) while his box only had one.
He deferred to the certainty I expressed and assumed that perhaps he had made an error. Without saying anything else, he went back up the steps to his seat and then, unknown to me, made another trip to Campo’s.
There’s absolutely no way to gloss over or rationalize how faulty and flawed my thinking was during this episode. And even though Bill graciously accepted my apology, it had consequences involving others. Not good.
If you’re keeping score of potential symptoms, this episode qualifies as a failure in social cognition.
The final line for the game was 2 runs, 4 hits, 1 error.
The runs and hits belonged to the Phillies. The error was mine alone.
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