My next-door neighbor called me some days ago to ask if I’d seen any suspicious activity at his place the day before. His reason for asking was that the gutters on his house had been stolen. All of them. We both thought that was weird. Beyond weird. Whoever heard of someone stealing gutters off of a home? He reported the theft to the local police and our HOA security chief.
The next day he came over a bit chagrined with an explanation. The neighbor on the other side of my house had contracted for new gutters. The houses are similar in design and when the contractor came to remove the old gutters, the home description fit and he didn’t double-check the similar addresses. When the workers showed up to install the new gutters, the mistake was discovered. The “stolen” gutters were replaced with brand new ones at no cost.
Sir William Arbuthnot Lane was a turn-of-the-20th-century British surgeon and physician. He diagnosed many people with severe abdominal pain as victims of what came to be known as Lane’s kinks, and began surgically removing major portions of the large intestine from sufferers, eventually performing total colectomies. People from all around the world flocked to him to be parted from their bowels. After his death, it was revealed that Lane’s kinks were entirely imaginary. Something else was causing the pain. (Thanks to Bill Bryson in The Body for this anecdote.)
Lesson to be learned? Jumping to conclusions can lead to unnecessary calls to the cops or to needlessly losing various body parts.
My guess would be that almost everyone who might read the foregoing has jumped to the wrong conclusion at one time or another, and/or has experienced someone jumping to wrong conclusions about oneself. Extreme examples can be found in various justice systems where a person was convicted of a crime based on unsubstantiated presuppositions or faulty/misleading evidence.
So, to borrow an oft-quoted phrase originating in the 16th century: look before you leap. To be sure, judgments need to be made, but they need to be made based on serious, thorough homework . . . double-checking, triple-checking before, for instance, cutting out someone’s body parts.