Living Between the Lines

Another Embarrassing Moment – repeat

First published on 7th July 2010, I thought you might enjoy re-reading this one.

Those of you who know me, will also know that Beverly, the sister mentioned in this post, died on 25th November this year quite unexpectedly, from a massive stroke. This is not meant to be a tribute to her, it is merely a way of remembering the laughter we shared. After my post for World AIDS day, which I had pre-scheduled, I felt the need to lift the mood despite recent events.

I thought I was Queen of the embarrassing moment. Let’s face it, I have had more than a few. There was the unforgettable time I needed to renew my passport photo for instance.

It was busy in Boots the Chemist’s. The queues for the checkout were long but I ignored them and went straight to the photo booth that was strategically placed opposite the longest queue of all.

The black curtain that would shield me from prying eyes was fastened to one side. I tweaked it and it swished to behind me, so that only my legs would be visible. I settled myself down on the little stool and pushed in my coins. The previous occupant must have had a long body, because the stool was set so low I couldn’t see my face in the little screen at all. Painstakingly, I swiveled the pedestal around and around until it began to rise, slowly and very noisily. If I’d had a can of oil with me I would have used it. As it was, it creaked and squeaked until it was at a level with which I could cope. There I was, squarely in the frame – excellent.

The helpful automated voice, telling me to check I was sitting correctly and advising me which background to use, seemed rather loud. It seemed to grow louder with every false ‘flash’ I set off. I was aware that everyone in the queue outside was bearing witness to my pathetic attempt to ‘get it right’. How they must be sniggering, I thought. The voice advised I could have one last try. I pressed the button for the final time and tried to maintain a bland expression while the camera geared up for its final performance. I didn’t look at my feet, peer behind me to check for interlopers or lean forward, squinting at the camera to see if it was still working. No, this time, despite the length of time it seemed to be taking, I sat still.

“Your photos will be ready in 3 minutes,” shouted the disembodied voice from within the machine. With a sigh of relief, I stood up and flung back the curtain. The queue of shoppers was still there, composed of some new faces of course. A few turned to look at me as I came out of the booth, I smiled and shrugged in what I hoped was that, ‘Isn’t it a pain, using a photo booth,’ sort of way. I seemed to be drawing some odd looks so I went to stand by the tray and wait for my photos to appear. The minutes ticked by. I shifted from one foot to another. The queue changed again. A new line of people eyed me with total disinterest. I began to think the photos would never come. In fact, I was so convinced that the photos had been destroyed in some ‘post photo shoot vendetta’, that I decided to cut my losses and pretend I was waiting for someone instead. I made a show of looking up and down the shop as though I were searching out an errant husband or child, whilst slowly, very slowly, moving away from the booth.

10 minutes had gone by and I had reached the far side of the aisle when I heard the tell-tale, “Shloop!” as slightly damp photo paper hit the metal tray. Feeling a little silly, I retraced my steps, bent down and retrieved my photos.

I would complain! This was not good enough … the photos were blurred and over exposed – I couldn’t possibly use them. I was about to take them to the nearest sales person and demand my money back when I looked up at the curtain I had pulled across the booth a few minutes before. There, pinned to it for all to see, was a large sign saying,

“Out of Order”.

I was far too embarrassed to look at the people in the queue or the girl on the checkout who might have witnessed the entire episode. It was as much as I could do to maintain my dignity and walk away, head held high, before I collapsed into helpless giggles outside.

Mind you, this episode pales into insignificance when I recall the incident in the tile shop.

My husband was re-fitting the bathroom.

“Let’s go choose some tiles,” he suggested, “we’ll go to Tiles-R-Us”. Great idea, I thought, so off we went. The weather was changeable. As an afterthought, I grabbed a sweater from the basket of clean laundry, just out of the dryer.

As we drove into the car park, the sun slipped behind a cloud and a cold gust of wind caught my shoulders. I picked up the sweater and followed my husband into the shop. The shop seemed on the cool side so, as my husband disappeared along one of the aisles, I paused to don my sweatshirt. I managed to slip it over my head. I pushed my arms down the sleeves. I began to unravel its body and that’s when the sparks flew and the contents of my lingerie drawer spilled over the shop floor. A cascade of unmentionables tumbled out from within the folds of the sweatshirt, where they had lain since being tumble dried hours before.

With a furtive look to my right and left, noting that no one was nearby, I dropped down to the floor and began scrabbling around for the wayward undergarments. Stuffing as many as I could into pockets and handbag, I could only be thankful that no one had witnessed the spectacle.

Standing up, I removed a stray, lacy number, that had remained glued to the sleeve of my sweatshirt throughout and took a deep breath. Then I saw it – the large, CCTV screen in the corner of the shop, on which I featured, in glorious Technicolor, as the star attraction.

Needless to say, I made a hasty retreat and did not go back for some time.

Today it was not my turn. Today, it was my sister’s faux pas that made the front page of ‘Embarrassing Times’.

The car park was full, the sun was shining. We three had spent the better part of a highly successful hour, in a local boutique. Eager to visit a number of other establishments in our local town, we decided to ditch the cumbersome carrier bags of goodies that we had acquired, before we continued.

Hence, there we were in the car park, my friend fumbling for her keys, my sister trailing behind (or so we thought) as we approached my friend’s car. Opening the driver’s door, my friend bade us throw our bags into the car. I threw mine in and looked round for my sister.

I was just in time to see her open the rear door of the car next to ours and throw her bags on the back seat before climbing in herself. I don’t know who was the most surprised, the little dog sitting on the back seat who found himself covered in designer gear, my sister who was mentally thinking, ‘something is not right here,’ or the driver who was on the phone to his wife at the time and had turned round in amazement as the strange woman took up position on his rear seat, only to shriek in horror when she realised her mistake. To his credit, the driver was charming and found the situation as funny as we did.

“I thought my luck had changed!” he commented as he gallantly, helped her out, grinning at her reddening face.

There’s one good thing about embarrassing moments, most of them make great anecdotes. I don’t think I will mention the other sort. Now that really would be embarrassing!

Until next time,

Debbie 😉

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Hilary

    Hi Debbie .. some good times to be remembered .. at what must be such a difficult time (thank you for emailing me) .. too funny .. cars and keys – or lack of them .. and underwear .. I hope you can have some light moments in these dark days – the suddenness with all the ‘processes’ that you and the family will be going through ..

    With many thoughts .. to you all .. Hilary

  • Martha Mawson

    I am so sorry to hear about your sister. I send my love and my own little thought that as long as she is remembered with love, she is never really gone and never will be from your heart and mind…

  • Zoe

    Ive heard these stories before but they still make me laugh out loud, is it because you’re my mother and I know your mannerisms? Should I really be laughing when such similar events happen to me on a weekly basis, being your daughter and all? And the designer bags mixed with such humour just sums Auntie Beverly up! X

  • Hilary

    Hi Debbie and Zoe .. seems like a lot of things are right .. and Beverley’s passing will continue to be both sad, but with some extremely happy memories .. it’s really not easy .. but tears and laughter are so interlinked – as I do well know …

    My thoughts are still with you all .. with love and hugs – Hilary

  • John Cowton

    Lovely memory of your sister Deborah. I also enjoyed the description of your ordeal in the photobooth. The way you described your discomfort was pure comedy.
    One of my many banana skin moments was a few years ago when I took my weekly walk to the newsagents to settle up my newspaper account. My wife had asked me to remind the newsagent that she had not had her magazine delivered. There was a new shop assistant, a young lady who appeared to be working alone. As she opened the ledger to find my account, imagine her discomfort when I interrupted her and said, ” I haven’t had a woman this week.” The magazine was called Woman. She quickly recovered when I clumsily put things right by relaying to her what I really meant. My recovery took a little while longer.

  • Normal is a Dryer Setting

    Hi Deborah. I’m so sorry to hear about Beverly – this is a tribute to her whether you meant it to be or not. I want to thank you for telling your thoughts on my latest blog post. I think like this, too – that we may not know why our paths are crossing, but there is always a reason. I really recommend reading The Speed of Dark – though fiction, it was written by the mom of a young adult with autism. Most of the main characters have autism. Anyway. I cannot imagine the changes you’re experiencing and I am sending big hugs to you as you grieve and process and keep going. Hang on. Much love…

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