young woman with bubblegum popped all over her face

“Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive anyway.”
—Mark Twain

Embarrassment of Glitches

Upwardly Mobile
I was talking to my boyfriend, cell phone glued to my ear, while running errands. I always keep my important gear stuffed in the front pockets of my jeans: money and keys in the right one; cell phone in the left. I was patting myself down to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, when suddenly, midstride, I panicked: my left pocket was empty. “Oh no,” I wailed to my boyfriend. “I’ve lost my cell phone.” In a gentle voice, he pointed out that I was using it to tell him I’d lost it.

Look a Fright
It was Halloween, my favorite holiday. I saw a woman dressed in a wacky costume and laughed out loud. “What are you supposed to be?” I asked delightedly. Sharp words followed a sharp intake of breath: Her ensemble wasn’t a costume.

The Sound of Silence
My older son was born during hockey playoffs. The next day, in the hospital room, my wife was listening to the nurse’s demonstration of the lactation pump while I watched a game on TV. Suddenly my mother-in-law touched my arm.  “Jim,” she said, “it’s too loud; Katie can’t hear the nurse.” “Oh, no problem!” I said. With my eyes still peeled to the screen, I leaned back and turned off the softly humming lactation pump. It was only when the three women started laughing that I realized she’d meant the hockey game, which was still blaring.

One to Remember
I wanted to honor an older doctor who had been my mentor. So when he and I were invited to the same hospital fundraiser, I decided to make a donation in his name. Only I marked the wrong box, and instead of “in honor of,” the printed program listed my gift as “in memory of”—causing him to glare at me from across the ballroom.

One Big Happy Family
I needed to introduce the mother of my son’s classmate to my husband, but I’d forgotten the woman’s name. In my distraction, I gestured toward my husband and said, “This is Tommy’s mother.”

Hot Enough for You?
Earlier in the evening I’d left a message for my younger brother, who was spending the summer in Utah, so when the phone rang I just assumed it was Greg. “Hey Greg,” I said, “how you doing?” The deep male voice answered, “I’m hot.” “Of course you’re hot!” I chirped. “You’re in Utah.” There was a pause, then the voice said something that made me realize it wasn’t my brother after all; this obscene caller’s heat had nothing to do with desert temperatures.

Leap of Faith
Decades ago, when I was a young man, the mechanics at our local garage used to allow us to sit inside our car as it rested on the lift. One day as the family car was being serviced, my daughter and I sat in the front seat talking. I suddenly realized I’d forgotten something. Before my daughter could warn me, I opened the door, stepped out—and toppled six feet to the garage floor.

Mum’s the Word
I was one of four girlfriends who had decided to spend a weekend in rural Vermont to see the fall foliage. Our friend Cissy had made reservations at a beautiful bed-and-breakfast. Soon after our arrival, we decided to go out drinking and asked one of the owners whether there were any clubs nearby. “Well, there is one place on Main Street,” she said. “But you wouldn’t want to go there. It’s very straight.” Suddenly we caught all the clues we’d missed earlier: two women owned the bed-and-breakfast together; all the other guests were women; and Cissy was hopelessly naive. We felt like imposters the rest of the weekend—straight and closeted at the same time.

Where There’s Smoke...
I saw smoke billowing out from a building and immediately called 411. “What city, please?” I heard. “Boston!” I shouted. “What listing?” It was then I realized I should have dialed 911. So I did, and soon firetrucks were roaring down the street. I had been standing by for several minutes when the fire chief approached me. I was a hero! Well, not quite. It turns out that if I’d simply walked around the corner I would have seen the workers sandblasting the building’s brick facing.

Raze the Roof
I was attending a party at a friend’s antique colonial, which was built around 1800. During the dinner conversation I mentioned that a neighbor’s house was slated for demolition, adding, “It’s a house like this one that’s been condemned.” It’s only when my hostess laughed nervously that I realized that, in alluding to her home’s vintage, I had also accidentally insulted its soundness.

Play the Fool
We were in the final minutes of my high school football team’s big game. As I was going out for a pass I ran smack into one of the goalposts. But that wasn’t the most embarrassing part; it was when my mother ran onto the field to check on me.

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