When you first hear this word, the immediate thought is that it has something to do with law. Who hasn’t heard of the presumption of innocence? However, the word is more broadly related to our lives. Many of us sometimes suffer more from presumption than actual facts. Let me give you an example. A week or so ago, I submitted the final grades for the spring semester. The grade submission deadline coincided with the proposal submission deadline of a certain prestigious composition conference. I had been working on a project for the proposal, analyzing the data that I had gathered and reading a few articles about the topic. After submitting my grades, I proceeded to the library, so I could work in peace on the proposal. I chose the library over my excellent office because I expected some activity in the department and did not want any disturbance. However, after sitting in a computer lab in the library for close to an hour, I was bored and tired and decided to return home to keep working on the proposal. I hadn’t slept very much the previous night because of the grading that I still had to do to meet the deadline for submitting the grades.
Perhaps because I was tired, upon reaching home, I did not find my flash drive, which I had used in the library. I drove back to the campus in my flip-flops. I entered the computer lab I was sitting in and saw that a girl was working on the same computer that I had used. I asked her if she had seen a flash drive attached to the CPU. She shook her head. I politely asked her permission to examine the CPU myself, bent down and did so. No flash drive. Surprised, I again asked the girl if she was sure she had not seen a flash drive. I also asked if there was someone else besides her who had used the computer after I left. She said no to both of my questions. I left the library, returned home, and looked everywhere I thought I might have put the flash drive. I did not find it. I returned to the library and, this time, spoke with a staff member. I explained the situation and then added my suspicion that the girl may have taken the flash disk and may be lying to me about it. In that instant, I felt certain there was no other possibility. I almost always put a flash disk in my shirt’s or pants’ pocket, or I slipped it inside one of the pockets in my bag. So I was convinced that I did not drop it somewhere unknowingly after coming out of the library. Since I did not find it in the lab, or at home, the only logical conclusion was that somebody–that girl–stole it.
The staff member at the library seemed both moved by my plight and peeved at my presumption. We returned to the lab. No flash disk. He told me that he knew the girl and did not think she would do such a thing. I replied that even I did not think so and had at first returned home to check, but that having not found the disk either in the lab or at home I was forced to conclude what I had: the girl had taken it. He asked me if I wanted to speak to his supervisor. I declined and left the library. I mentioned this incident to no one and had almost forgotten about the disk when, yesterday, my wife found the disk in our bedroom. It had slipped out of my pants’ pocket and lay in a corner, near the nightstand. I felt deeply ashamed at having doubted and accused an innocent girl, who was absolutely right when she said that the disk may have slipped out unbeknownst to me. When she said this, I actually thought it to be a further confirmation of her guilt, so convinced was I that she had stolen it. I went to the library today and apologized to the staff member with whom I had spoken. I also asked him to convey my apologies to the girl if she came by.
Presumption is not a mere legal term. It has a greater hold on us. We presume things about other people and we presume things about things. An example of the second kind of presumption is when we think that a certain article definitely needs a certain section or part or discussion. In reality, we may be mistaken. In fact, we may be better off without the section in question. Presumptions should be observed and questioned and analyzed. By doing so, we can avoid unnecessary heartaches or headaches.