Shell Shocked: It’s an embarrassing world
Someone asked me the other day what the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me was. I didn’t have to think long and hard about that one.
I’ve experienced many embarrassing moments in my life. They ranged from greeting people by the wrong name to showing up at important events with my fly open.
Sometimes I felt like Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies as played by Peter Sellers. Clouseau was a clumsy, bumbling French detective who kept tripping over himself as he attempted to solve crimes. He would always pretend that every time he snipped his own tie by mistake or fell down the steps that it was a calculated act.
It wasn’t a calculated act when one day I was confronted by an alligator. It slithered right up to me and I feared the worst. It was standing a foot in front of me. I was frozen and shocked. But then it seemed to look me up and down, sniff me and walk away.
I sighed with relief but then it hit me that I had just been rejected by an alligator. I wasn’t good enough for it. My fear turned to embarrassment. How could I possibly explain this to my wife and friends?
I was also embarrassed the time a waiter dropped a plate of pasta in my lap. I was embarrassed the time I walked into the wrong house thinking it was mine. I had to do a lot of explaining to the man of the house so that he wouldn’t call the police.
And what about the time I put on one of my wife’s dresses to surprise her only to find my golf buddies waiting for me in the living room?
Or was it the time I was singing an aria in the shower only to have the police knock on my door to tell me that neighbors were complaining that I was disturbing the peace.
When I was younger I wore my hair in a way that resembled the hair style of Robert Kennedy. I was approached by strangers occasionally who took long hard looks at me. They thought I could be Bobby but they weren’t sure. This got to be embarrassing.
So I began to put on a Boston accent and talked about Cuber. One day a distinguished looking lady approached me directly asking if I was Bobby Kennedy. I winked at the lady and said “Tell no one. No one is supposed to know I’m here. I’m on a secret assignment that involves national security.”
The lady nodded her understanding and discreetly backed away. I was in my late twenties when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated But that still didn’t stop a number of strangers from casting their eyes on my face and begin to register shock. I was hoping that people would then mistake me for some Hollywood movie star but being told that I resembled Woody Allen wasn’t exactly all that flattering.
One time I was invited to a catered wedding at a facility that conducted multiple wedding ceremonies. I wandered into a reception area assuming that it was the wedding I had been invited to. I looked around and didn’t recognize a single person.
I turned to my wife and said “Didn’t the groom invite any of his friends? I don’t see any of them here.” I saw the groom from the distance and went forward to greet him. “Bob,” I said, approaching him from behind. The groom turned around and it wasn’t Bob. I was at the wrong wedding. Another embarrassing moment.
He gave me a puzzled look. He was trying to figure out who I was. Was I a distant cousin? A relative from the bride’s side? I spared him his agony. I said “I’m a guest at the wedding across the hall. But I love greeting bridegrooms at any wedding and you’re no exception.”
He gave me a wide smile, introduced my wife and me to his bride and asked us to have a glass of champagne. My wife and I left before he attempted to introduce us to his entire wedding party.
But my most embarrassing moment ever came in the sixth grade. I was a champion speller and won every spelling bee our teacher conducted. I was entered into a school wide spelling bee which took place in the auditorium. The entire student body sat in the audience.
I was called on to spell my very first word. The word was “favorite.” I looked out at the sea of faces in the auditorium – and immediately froze. My mind went blank. I was nervous and couldn’t think properly. I misspelled that easy word badly and had to slink off the stage. My classmates couldn’t believe that I had been stumped by such an easy word. Not only was I embarrassed but felt that I had let them down.
Never again would I misspell the word “favorite.”
-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.