I like to think I’m charming and kind. My mama raised me to respect others and to think twice before I spit out the first thought that pops into my head. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. This episode is about putting your foot in your mouth, or more specifically, some of the times I have put my foot in my mouth. I’m Michael Blackston and this is a helping of embarrassing moments from my Funny Messy Life.
Maybe you always look both ways before crossing a verbal highway, but just take a look at social media and you’ll quickly see that most people don’t bother to do that. In fact, on Twitter or Facebook, it seems like people do the equivalent of jumping right out into the middle of traffic on a busy verbal highway, wearing a blindfold, music blaring at top volume in their earpods, and screaming something political at the top of their lungs they know absolutely zero about, other than something snarky they saw from a friend who thinks the way they do screaming in a meme that featured Kermit The Frog or Willy Wonka. Sorry for the run-on sentence, but it had to be done. I’ve done my share of blind posting, too, but that was before I came to the realization that I do a jam-up job on my own of saying things I immediately regret, without attaching it to an adorable photo of Betty White.
And sometimes it’s completely innocent.
Let’s take this very podcast as an example. I call it Funny Messy Life. I like that name. I think it’s swell. I think it’s catchy. And I think I almost peed myself when, after several episodes in and shortening the title in some posts to FML, my son says to me …
Dad, you know what FML actually means, don’t you?
No, son. Is there another meaning?
Yes, there is. And you’re not gonna like it.
What does it mean?
It means (Blank) My Life. It’s what people text when they’re upset.
Ha ha ha! You’re such a cute, silly, boy child. Of course not. “Blank” doesn’t start with a “B”. It starts with and “F” ….. Oh.
Well, what was I supposed to do? I’d already done everything to build Funny Messy Life. I wasn’t going to go through the work of changing it, so I stopped using the acronym whenever possible. I felt a little stupid, too. It seemed like I should have mentioned it to somebody beforehand, but how was I to know? Things change so rapidly that as you get older, the more you find yourself treading the deepening waters of language. Or at least, dodging the scooters and mopeds of the verbal highway.
I may have told this story before, but it bears repeating, if for nothing else than to educate you about the perils of assumption.
The scene is a chain restaurant - Red Lobster, to be exact - and my family had eaten there enough to know the staff on a first name basis. Our usual waitress was a large young woman with a beautiful smile and a bubbly personality to boot. We liked her and, of course, her size was of no importance to us, other than the obvious concerns about her health, which, we concluded, could not be helped any by her being so closely engaged with all those garlic cheese biscuits they serve with reckless abandon. Her girth was hew business, though, and we loved her no matter what.
On one evening, she approached our table with the requisite eight baskets of Cheddar Bay Biscuits, and she appeared extra bubbly. She was, in fact, glowing. One family member asked why she was in such a good temper.
I say, what puts you in such a good temper, good woman?
Oh my, she replied. I am on top of the world, sir. I have delivered a girl child and she is a doll, you see. Simply a DOLL!
My family was genuinely happy for her and told her so as she topped off our drinks. Bully for you, my dear. May your days be filled with the joy and merriment brought about by the delightful sounds of your precious princess. Hazah!
That should have sufficed, but I’m not one to leave a thing unspoken …. Sadly.
I said, THIS WHOLE TIME, I NEVER KNEW YOU WUZ PREGNANT!
If you’re reading this, you’ll realize that I typed that in all caps. It’s because that’s exactly how it felt the second it came out of my mouth. It felt like I was yelling, because while every part of that statement was completely innocent, NO PART of it should have been spoken.
Yes Virginia, there IS and idiot.
I hadn’t meant to insult her weight, but in one glorious sentence, I managed to dump a whole shaker full of awkward onto our table and if I recall right, we didn’t see our waitress as much as usual that night. I borrowed a couple hundred dollars to leave as a tip, but the damage was already done and the rest of the dinner was spent with the men laughing too hard at jokes that weren’t funny, my mom, my sister, and my wife glaring at me like I’d just beheaded a puppy in front of everybody, and the occasional sounds of consolation coming from the direction of the kitchen. There, there. You’re not fat. He’s just a very stupid man. Now, put down that biscuit.
And then sometimes I haven’t been innocent. There have been times that I was a total jerk-wad dork-face and deserved the consequences of my actions.
And much as I hate to admit it, I used to have a really bad habit of making fun of people behind their backs. I know the psychological reasons behind it, but there was never any justification for it and there came a time when I was caught in the act and the guy confronted me. It may have been the very moment I did some growing up and realized I was being, essentially, a bully.
It was the first radio station I ever worked for and I was a young man in my late teens or early twenties. Back then, I could still chase down a fly ball without pulling a muscle or breaking my hip, and I thought I was made of Kevlar. Nothing could hurt me. In my mind, I was so clever, I could poke fun at anyone I wanted to and as long as I never did it in front of them, I was the life of the party. When I think about how cruel I could be sometimes, I want to go back and force young man me to walk barefoot across a field of Sweetgum tree balls.
I had a co-worker at the station - a fellow DJ with more experience than me - who had a very distinctive voice. It wasn’t the typical radio guy booming voice that resonates in your socks, but instead, it was more to the tenor side. It was a voice a person would recognize immediately as him the second they heard it, and that’s a valuable thing when it comes to radio.
Unfortunately, the guy had a super quick temper and it had gotten him in trouble at other places, which made him a journeyman in the local radio circuit. This got under my skin and instead of being a friend about it and seeing what I could do to help, I decided it would be better to be a fourth grader and make fun of his voice.
One evening, another jock and I were working late in the recording studio, hammering out some commercial spots, and got carried away making fun of the DJ with the distinctive voice. And the meaner we got, the funnier we thought were. We started to recorded our private roast once we began mocking him by doing impressions of his voice.
Any ex radio person who remembers working with an old reel-to-reel recorder will tell you that unless you pass the film over a magnet, the audio stays there. Well, we forgot to erase the tape and guess who was slated to record ads first thing the next morning.
The next evening, he was there as I came in for my shift and when we were alone, he came in and shut the door behind him. He was red in the face, but I could tell he was trying to keep his composure. He’d never said an unkind word to me and I had been a friend to his face, but that night would be different.
I had forgotten about our making fun of him the night before and in those recordings, I had attributed his voice to that of a beloved muppet, so you can imagine how my heart sank when he started by asking …
Do you really think I sound like a popular muppet?
Beloved muppet, I answered weakly.
At that moment, I thought I was about to have to fight for my life, but he held his cool and explained how he’d found the audio this morning. He told me he was deeply hurt and that if I had any problems with him, I should have come to him personally.
There was no way of explaining my way out of a thing like that and I was hurt too, because suddenly, a light was shined on what a cruel person I was. It wasn’t because I’d gotten caught, either. I really felt bad and I can’t remember attacking anyone in that way since.
There was nothing funny about that, but these last two are hilarious now that they’re over. One was a near miss and the other was … a really unfortunate bulls eye.
The near miss:
I know good and well I’m not the only person to accidentally send a text message to the wrong person from time to time. But on this occasion, I had been texting to my wife all afternoon while I was out of town and because we still like to get frisky every once in a while, the texts got further and further down the road to FOR-YOUR-EYES-ONLY town. I’d been working on a stone for a family who wanted to come in later to see it when I finished, so they could give their approval, and since I finished it right at closing time, I left and went to my hotel. Along the way, I thought of something to text to my wife - something you’d find right in the middle of the town square of FOR-YOUR-EYES-ONLY, but I was driving and couldn’t immediately deliver my steamy little message, which involved a detailed description of one of my body parts and some activities thereof. Again, it would have fit best in a schoolyard commentary between immature boys. These are the same boys who would later giggle uncontrollably in geometry class when the teacher uttered the words, Grand Tetons.
The owner of the monument company, who is to this day a dear friend, a beautiful woman, a wife, mother of two wonderful children, and a child of God, sent me a text as soon as I walked into the hotel room. The customer had just been by and loved the etching. I replied to her that I was glad. Then my mind went immediately back to the dirty thing I wanted to send to my wife because while I do inhabit the body of a man, I still have that fourth grader in my head that thinks passing gas in church is funny. You can tell where this is going, can’t you?
I composed in my head, the perfect filthy comment concerning my body parts, without hesitation. I typed the lurid statement into my smart phone without thinking. I also did those things without changing who the message would be delivered to and so we find my finger hovered perilously above the send button.
I yelled like a girl and dropped my phone like it was molten lava, just in time to save the monument company owner an eye opening surprise. That was close. A near miss. I did tell her about it in the office the next day, saving her the actual details of the text, and we both had a good laugh. But it happened again just the other day and this time, I wasn’t so lucky. Neither I, nor every member of the praise team at church.
Several months ago, we had a slight flooding in our basement and several boxes of stored books were damaged. I was going through them to throw them away and I took one of them, a book of nursery rhymes by Mother Goose, to use as kindling for a bonfire I was trying to start to burn some old pallets. As I tore through the pages, my eye caught on an old poem from days of yore that had to do with a kitten. A baby kitten, in fact, but it didn’t use the term kitten, nor was the word it did use, followed by the word cat. It was titled, My Little … I’ll let your imagination run wild. It was an adorable poem, full of lighthearted, childish prose, and nothing at all perverted. Unless, of course, you have a fourth grader living in your head and a wife you could text.
So I took a picture of the poem.
I posted the picture in a text with a laughing emoji, as if to say, Hey, I know this isn’t perverted and all, but if you imagine yourself on a playground and take it out of context, it’s pretty funny, right?
Unfortunately, my mind had been on a lot of other things, including some important music information that I’d been going back and forth about with the praise team.
Guess who, once again, didn’t think to check who my new text would be going to and to make matters worse, I partner with my wife at the church as the Worship Leaders. We’re on staff.
Again, my heart sank and my skin went cold. I sent an immediate apology to the group and explained that it was supposed to be a private message to my wife only and please forgive and I’m sorry and embarrassed and please forgive me and forget you ever saw that. In fact, go right now and wash out your eyes with soap. This is your Worship Leader speaking!
Later that night at rehearsal, we all had a big laugh about it, but I think I’ve finally learned my lesson about putting anything out there where satellites can get a hold of it if it’s meant for private eyes.
And while I won’t do that anymore, I know my days are not over for sticking my foot way up into my mouth, because in my head, there’s still a little boy who wonders if you can really create a blow torch by passing gas in front of a lit match.
So just be patient. Eventually this topic will have a part two.
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