9 Aug, 2021

Oh the embarrassment!

The other day I read about a conversation between a novelist and a historian.  They were disagreeing about a health problem.  Suddenly a breakthrough, with deep embarrassment and laughter when they realised that one had consistently misheard the other.  The topic was, how shall I say, rather risqué, so it won’t appear here.  It did set me thinking though ….

We’ve all been in such situations.  Casting my mind back I’ve recalled three so far, but there must be more.  When they surface in the DP memory bank I’ll publish them, if they’re decent.   Here are my three:

Age 13 or 14.  A case of mis-hearing a word.   At school, in a class of about 30 boys, the History master was introducing us to the Reformation and the critical part played by Martin Luther who nailed ninety five theses to the door of a church.  That’s disgusting, I thought, and anyway how could he do it?  So I asked the teacher.  “What do you mean” he replied.  Blushing, young DP wanted to know how it was possible to nail even one faeces, let alone ninety five.  Oh the laughter!  Oh the mockery!  Oh the embarrassment!  Never forgotten.

Age 24.  This was the little oil camp with just seven or eight westerners, mostly American, described in various blogs from April 9 to May 3 last year.  We lived in two-man trailers, each man having a small room with bed, cupboard, desk and chair; and a shared bathroom in between.  One evening my Texan neighbour Roy and I were packing.  Mad Bruno would be skidding in early the next morning in his light aircraft to get us to Tripoli airport, the end of our 42 day session, with 21 days leave ahead before returning for the same again.  “Darn it!” said Roy – actually that wasn’t the word he used: I have to protect my more delicate readers.  “My alarm clock’s stopped working!”.  “Worry not Roy”, said I warmly.  “I’ll knock you up in the morning”.  Do I need to explain why a Texan oil man in his 60’s might not take that as the generous gesture I intended?

And about twenty years ago, in London.  An old college friend was visiting with his wife and an American couple, all of them leaders in their local churches.  They’d booked a good, rather stylish restaurant so we settled in and started studying the menu, which was quite imposing, as was the waiter.  A very superior waiter.  Going round the table, we chose starters and then moved on to the main course.  My companions ordered meat or fish, and prompted by the waiter added ‘well done’,  ‘medium’, ‘medium rare’, ‘rare’, ‘off the bone’ and so on.  My turn.  I decided on something I’d never eaten before so, wanting to sound confident, I put on a confident voice.  “Steak Tartare”, “And medium please”.  Silence.  Slight, polite smiles on the faces of my companions.  What’s up? I wondered, perspiring somewhat.  The waiter, polite and enjoying his superiority, explained.  Do I need to explain here?  No. Let me relive the embarrassment and cringe alone!

 I can’t bring any more to mind at the moment. Thankfully.

6 Comments

  1. These are brilliant!! I’ve suffered various embarrassing moments during my life but a fairly recent one was particularly cringe – worthy.
    I was leading a quiz with a group of elderly ladies at an afternoon tea club and the subject was memorable events in the life of the Queen. What, I asked was the year of the annus horribilis? Unfortunately I pronounced it as anus horribilis! There was a moment’s silence, then a loud guffaw from the friend who helps run the club, followed by much tittering from the genteel ladies. Not for nothing was I branded Mrs Malaprop by my English teacher.

    Reply
    • I do believe faeces on the door would be a definite occurrence with an anus horribilis.

      Reply
  2. Q2 – multiple choice. What did DP knock up in the anus horribilis?
    A) Faeces
    B) Roy
    C) Steak tartare
    D) All of the above
    (Sorry!!)

    Reply
  3. As you know David, I was very lucky to survive a Brain Haemorrhage in my late 30’s. Quite a few years later I was doing some consultancy work with a group of senior medics. During a break in our meeting I went to the Gents and was followed by one of the consultants. Making conversation, as you do at the stalls, I asked him what his speciality was. “Neurology” I heard. “Ah” I said, “I owe my life to one of your colleagues.” He looked puzzled and looked down into my stall surreptitiously. I then realised I had misheard and he was a “Urologist” Oh Dear!!

    Reply
  4. I remember an embarrassing moment, albeit it was caused by my mother’s error. Nearly every year we used to travel to France for our family summer holidays, staying at they same beach just east of Nice. We knew all the people who worked there so were on really good terms with them all. None of them spoke English but Mum’s French was excellent so no problems there. Mum and I arrived at the beach one morning and saw they guy who dealt with all the sun beds and the ski instructor chatting. We approached them and Mum in her excellent french asked for some sun beds. The guy called Milou smiled back and asked her how long she wanted them for and she said ‘all day’, at which point they both started smirking. Milou then asked her how many she wanted and she said ‘one for me and one for my daughter’, at which point they both burst into laughter. Where would you like them asked Milou. ‘Well over there under the umbrellas’ replied my mother. More laughter. Then then asked if father would be needing one later to which Mum replied that he would be wanting one after lunch but would like one of the larger ones. At this point they both literally collapsed with laughter. Eventually my very perplexed mother insisted they tell her why they were laughing so much. It transpired that instead of using the word ‘matelas’ for sun beds my mother had used matelos meaning ‘sailors’! She had in fact just asked for two sailors for herself and her daughter, under the umbrellas and for the whole day and a larger one for my father after lunch!!!! What a difference a letter can make!

    Reply
  5. I recall you tried sushi. Once…

    Reply

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