I generally try to keep a low profile, and therefore have been lucky enough to have largely avoided humiliating moments throughout my life. But in the past week, I've had TWO.
The first one occurred last week at the grocery store deli counter. I patiently waited until it was my turn, and then asked the nice 20-something clerk for a half pound of oven roasted turkey and a quarter pound of sliced Muenster. When he asked what else he could get for me, I scanned the case for a moment and said, "Can I have about this much [holding thumb and forefinger about two inches apart] of your hard salami?"
He looked at me for a moment, pressing his lips together and clearly stifling a laugh, and I immediately turned beet red and died. I calmly took the bag of sliced salami (two inches worth, just as I'd asked - what a gentleman), thanked him, and walked away as casually as I could, mumbling "ohmygodohmygodohmygodIcannotbelieveIjustsaidthat" under my breath.
I am sure everyone behind the deli counter got a good laugh out of that one. I bet it even made it back to the produce guys.
AND THEN. Yesterday I had an all-day strategy meeting with a bunch of coworkers, and since I happened to be sitting at the head of the conference table, my boss asked me if I'd mind standing up and writing the key points on the flip chart behind me. I said sure, and proceeded to do so, tearing off paper as I filled up sheets and reaching up to tape them to the wall. After about 10 minutes he called for a break, and one of my (female) coworkers came up to me and whispered, "Did you know you have a hole in the back of your jeans?"
WHY, NO. NO, I DID NOT KNOW THAT. If I had, perhaps I would have declined to be the flip chart writer, for fear of showing my BARE ASS to everyone in my division.
These sort of experiences used to make me burn with shame and horror, inspiring a physical cringe every time my traumatized brain dredged them up again. Now, not so much. Maybe it's my advancing age, or increased apathy, but I think it has more to do with a slowly acquired understanding that it's just a dumb waste of time to take myself too seriously. I mean, what's the worst that will happen if I slip and say "sex" instead of "six" to the chairman of the board, or tell my friend at the party I'm glad she didn't bring that loser she was telling me about, only to be introduced to him seconds later? Yeah, I might get a startled look or two, maybe some laughs behind my back. But I think mostly people will just be glad it wasn't them, and then they'll forget all about it. I'll go back to being the mostly-dignified person I always am. And I'll have a good story.
Today the office supply delivery guy stopped me in the hallway and said, "YOU look fantastic today." Now, I have come to understand that this guy is a a little, um, eccentric. When he first started delivering to our office, he developed a crush on my poor coworker, who was pregnant with TWINS, for god's sake, and would bring ALL the office supplies down to her office whether they were for her or not, just so he could talk to her (AT LENGTH. Eventually she started arranging for deliveries on her day off). He tells strangers way more than is appropriate about his personal life. Today he announced that he'd recently done an on-the-spot astrological reading for someone in our office hallway (the one dressed all in gold, he breathed, fluttering his hands. We have no idea if this is actually a real person.). So, yeah. He's out there. But he's also kind of endearing. He clearly doesn't care what anyone thinks about him; he is who he is, and he seems pretty happy about it. You gotta admire that.