Of course it's not the most embarrassing thing ever to happen to anyone. It hardly seems worth taking the time to talk about. So insignificant. So mundane. Practically boring. Silly actually. I mention it only because it is the kind of thing that can occur when one is rushed. A result of other's demands and impatience with us. Had it been up to me. If I were in control and less prone to give precedence to the whims and wishes of others, my memory would be unstained. I would not still fall victim to the cry of "tell about the time..." that never fails to find me at social gatherings.
It's not nearly as embarrassing as daughter Bridget losing her skirt in Long's Drug parking lot. It certainly can't compare to Aunt Mimmie's shame when we learned she wore only sheer panty hose under those tweed wool slacks that literally split at the seams while we were in Maine mackerel fishing on Frankie Poland's boat. And it isn't as explosive as the time my sister neglected to turn off the gas in the Fairhaven Beach Pavilion hamburger stand where we worked one summer. Or should I say, one week? That resulted in the loss of the boss's eyebrows and moustache when he struck a match to light the stove pilots in the morning. Plucky kid that I was, I did threaten the man that if he fired my sister, he would have to fire me. Danny DeVito feigning apoplexy reminds me of how he looked when he accepted my offer. Afterward, my sister and I spent the summer happily hanging out on the beach.
My friend Molly's (not her real name) mistakenly sending her boss a blistering, profane text she had written describing him and meant for her husband's eyes only, frosts the cake beautifully for me when it comes to embarrassing moments. My little incident pales when compared to the mind screeching, nerve jangling, breath wrenching event that dilly must have generated. The after effects can't come near the depression the lady felt when she lost her job. I suppose being the church secretary and her boss being the minister could have left the option for forgiveness open, but it did not.
My little moment took only an instant. It was one of those gray, New England days with ice slicks on walkways and dirty old half-melted snowbanks still lining city streets. A day as cold and hard as the shells of sea mollusk's that inhabit the waters of New Bedford. People pulled their scarfs and jacket hoods tightly to protect against the swirling ice cold Atlantic wind. I was no different. My daughter had picked me up and we were headed for shopping at the Fall River mill outlets. But first, I needed to drop off some articles at the dry cleaner.
Bridget pulled the car up in front of the cleaner's glass door. "Hurry up. I want to get going." she chided.
The wind was cold, it was icy and I grabbed the clothes out of the back seat and headed for the door without looking up. As I entered the establishment I vaguely took note of the abundance of clothes hanging on racks around me. I saw the counter ahead of me and made my way toward it. A man wearing a red jacket stood at the counter watching me and smiled as I emerged from the tunnel of racks and clothing into the light of the sales room. I laid the items of clothing I had brought in with me on the counter and pushed them toward him.
"Will you dry clean these for me?" I asked.
"I am so sorry, I can't." He replied pleasantly.
Thinking he was being impudent, I was about to get rude myself. "Well, why not?"
"Because," he smiled pleasantly at me again. "I am a customer."
I came to enough at that point to realize I was standing behind the counter, next to the cash register and the real clerk was standing on the same side as I was, but at the opposite end. He looked at me and grinned happily. The lovely man in the red jacket had come in to pick up his dry cleaning and the clerk had momentarily disappeared to retrieve it. I had entered the establishment by the back entrance and it not once registered with me I was on the employees side of the business. An awkward moment made a little less so by the pleasant man in the red jacket, was enhanced when I had to give my personal information to the laughing clerk in order to get the clothes cleaned.