I picked up one of those trashy magazines in the supermarket checkout line the other day and got a laugh or two from a feature in one of them describing readers' most embarrassing moments. I assume they were readers. They had first names and cities of residence under each little blurb.
You know the kind of things I am talking about. Lucy from Mobile spilled her purse at the airport and her unmentionables tumbled out, not in front of God and everybody but in front of her minister and everybody, which was close enough. Did I mention that she was chaperoning a youth mission trip and that her unmentionables were really unmentionable in a church setting?
And Hugh from Albuquerque had waited months for an opportunity to kiss a certain girl in his high school class and finally found himself alone with her, under a full October moon, on a youth group hayride. Did I mention that the hayride followed a weenie roast? Didn't think so. At any rate, just as he moved in for the long-k awaited smooch - how to put this? - OK; Hugh had occasion to regret having said yes to that second serving of baked beans.
You get the picture. But I found myself wondering, "Who reads this stuff?" Besides bored old men in supermarket checkout lines, I mean.
I also found myself thinking about what I might consider my most embarrassing moment. Trust me, there have been lots of them - but honesty compels me to admit that I have done a lot of things that should have been embarrassing, according to my wife and kids, that really weren't.
But there was that one day - back in the third grade - that I will never, ever forget. If you've heard this story before please indulge me. It's too good not to tell again.
I was raised in Porterdale, of course, and back those days - those days being the late 1950s - there was a White's Department Store in Porterdale, right there on the corner where folks now flock to eat fried chicken and vegetables at Smiley's. And in those days, when the Porterdale Mill was a mill and not a venue for upscale loft apartments, White's opened at 7 a.m. so folks getting off the third shift in the mill could shop, if they needed to, before going home to bed.
Now I told you all that to tell you this. I had hit a growth spurt, as 9-year-olds will sometimes do, and needed a new pair of overalls. I had slap worn the knees out of mine and they had gotten so short that they would have been perfect for wading high water. My mama told me to stop by White's on my way to school and let Bobby Smith put me in a pair of new ones.
No problem. I had done that type of thing lots of times. Except on this particular day, White's didn't have a pair of overalls in my size. But Bobby Smith wasn't going to let a little thing like that keep him from making a sale. I don't know if Bobby worked on commission or not, but I do know that he sent me to school wearing a pair of overalls that were about three sizes too large. He just cinched up the bib and rolled up the pants legs and let the stride of the pants hang down around my knees.
I was busting slack 40 years ahead of my time. Kids today buy pants that fit like that on purpose.
I must have looked pretty funny, but nobody in my class said a word about the way my pants fit. Their mamas had taught them, just like mine had taught me, that people wore the best clothes they had and that she'd better not catch me making fun of anybody for how they were dressed.
Things rocked around pretty well until recess. Yes, we had recess back then. It was my turn to slide down the big sliding board on the school playground, but I was in the third grade and third-graders weren't content with sliding down the actual board. We liked to wait until the teacher wasn't looking and climb out on the support pole and slide down it, fireman-style.
I waited until Miss Elizabeth Willis wasn't looking and launched myself down the pole. The only problem was that the stride of those overalls got caught on a bolt. They ripped off me and stayed right up there at the top of the slide. There I was, in just my T-shirt, my brogan shoes and my step-ins.
I did what any other rational 9-year old child would have done. I ran home.
When I got there my father, who worked on the second shift at the mill, was sitting at the kitchen table, reading the morning paper. He looked up from his reading and there I stood. And I still remember what I told him. I said, "Daddy, we've got to move."
We didn't though. I had to go back the next day. A week or so later a female classmate, who shall remain nameless, wet the floor during an oral book report, and my incident became old news.
So there you have it, y'all. My most embarrassing moment. And you didn't even have to buy one of those trashy magazines at the supermarket.
And, no - I won't tell you the name of the unfortunate book report girl.