Now, Why Did I Say That?

Now, Why Did I Say That?

You didn't have to be a meteorologist to notice the dark thunderhead clouds on the western horizon one summer day many years ago.  My entire family was with me in our car as I proclaimed, “Wow, that sky looks deafening!” 

No, that is not a typo – I actually said that the “sky looks deafening.” 

Another time, years later (and many times in between) it happened again.  This next flub occurred as my wife returned and unloaded groceries from a shopping trip.  She had just purchased some snacks, candy, and other nonessential food items from a local bulk grocery store and started to unpack them. I knew what goodies our family usually purchased at that store, so I quickly announced, “I have ‘dubs’ on the red licorice sticks.”     

Family takes comments in stride…

That declaration drew a loud giggle from my daughter-in-law who heard that announcement from another room.  The rest of my family had become accustomed to hearing my flubs, but for her the experience was new.  She quickly got acclimated, though, as I followed that up with many more verbal slips through the years.

Not long after that flub, I was watching a football game and took notice that when a player removed his helmet he had an odd haircut.  As much as I should have known that the name for that hairstyle was a Mohawk, it did little to curb my quick tongue.  “The league should outlaw those Iroquois hairstyles,” I declared to those around me.  

Now, chances are good that you too have produced your fair share of blunders.  For me, however, let’s just say that I've had an extra allocation in my lifetime.  

For instance… 

A local pharmacist once asked for my opinion concerning gifted education.  He knew that I was a former teacher and that my own children were part of the gifted program in our local school.  He worried that the other children in his child's class might resent those who received supplemental instruction. 

I spoke with certainty, saying, “Oh my, yes – there is definitely an astigmatism associated with some kids in the gifted program.”  To make matters worse, I didn’t realize just what I said until later that night.  I sheepishly apologized to him the next day.

My wife agrees with my analogy regarding my propensity to proclaim pratfalls.  I have always admitted that my mouth is cruising at an interstate speed of 70 mph, while my brain is laboring along at a school zone speed of 15.

Not a silver-tongued orator…

A good example of my mouth motoring a mile a minute occurred at a local jewelry store.  I wanted to inquire as to whether some inherited earrings, bracelets, and necklaces were of any monetary value.  Meaning to ascertain if they were made of precious metals or just costume jewelry, I instead asked if a particular piece was “real silver or just cosmetic jewelry.”

Later, as I told that story to my sister, I realized that I didn’t even comprehend that I had made a mistake.  When I explained my conversation with the jeweler to her, over the phone, there was dead silence on the other end.  After what seemed like many minutes, she asked, “Did you really say ‘cosmetic’ jewelry to that woman?”  

When I answered affirmatively, she howled like a coyote during a full moon, laughing hysterically.  She also was all too familiar with my verbal embarrassments. 

To exemplify:  Imagine my humiliation as I once attempted to refer to the cortex of a woody stem in my biology class.  A number of tenth-grade students caught the mistake when I used the term Kotex of a stem instead.  

I would love to cast blame on my advancing age regarding my tendency to speak too quickly and incorrectly.  However, in honesty, I’ve made slip-ups like these as far back as I can remember.  Take my great uncle’s looks, for example.  I hadn’t seen him in years and when I finally did see him, I observed age lines located in the outside corners of his eyes.   I affirmed my observation to my aunt when I said, “Wow, Uncle Frank has fish tails on the sides of his eyes.” 

Of course, I meant to say, “crow’s feet.”  My Aunt Bee almost wet herself when she realized what I just said.  

Oh, as a coach, I had many slips during athletic practice, too.  At times, either in a hurry or when I was angry, I’d let verbal assaults fly like the wind.  In many instances, the other coaches would have to cover their faces in a futile attempt to hide their amusement.

One football player turned his head away from me as I began to chastise him.   I meant to say, “When I talk to you, you look at me!”  But what came out was, “When I look at you, you look at me back.”  That line has been repeated by my colleagues more than I care to count.

You can take Gomer out of the country...

At times, a quick retort can possibly get you into some real trouble, too.  Such was the case as my wife and I were leaving on foot, after a nighttime, Pittsburgh Steeler home game. We were on the way to meet our hotel shuttle bus, which was to pick us up a few blocks away from Heinz Field.  

Another important component of this story is the fact that I was still recuperating from two open-heart surgeries, could barely breathe as I walked, and both of my knees were shot.  Not only could I not defend myself very well, but I could not walk away from trouble with any quickness, either.

I can only surmise that my behavior that night and gimpy gait gave others the distinct impression that I was a visitor to the city.  A young man boldly walked up to me and asked me for a few bucks.  Not trusting the stranger, I quickly replied, “Sorry, but no.” 

His pleading continued, though, as he uttered something like, “You look like a blue-collar, hard-working man of Pittsburgh.  I bet you're a union man who would gladly do a favor for someone in need.  Come on, help a guy out.”   

Again, I replied. “Sorry, but I can't help you.”

His barrage was relentless as he then gave me a sob story.  “My car is broken down just down the street and if you and a few other people would kindly spot me a few dollars, I could call a tow truck and get the car hauled to a garage.”

This time, I gave him a tacit reply by slowly moving my head side-to-side indicating a negative answer.  And we kept walking, albeit slowly.

The dialogue continued as we purposely worked our way closer and closer to a traffic cop, who was stationed at the intersection directing drivers from all directions.   Both my wife and I felt a tad safer as we got nearer to the corner.  

In a final desperate effort to hoodwink some cash, the begging man loudly asked, “To show that I'm telling you the truth, do you want to see my disabled car?  It's parked just down that alley. ” He pointed emphatically to a small street nearby.  

But, you can't take the country out of Gomer...

“Look, buddy,” I said, as I raised my voice in disgust, “I don't have any bills smaller than a fifty in my wallet, and there's no way I'm going to give you a fifty-dollar bill.”

“And I doubt, too, that you'll give me change,” I retorted with a scoff-like accent enhancing my words.

I couldn't make eye contact with the stranger as those words came out of my mouth at speeds that broke the sound barrier.  I did happen to glance at my wife, though, and without uttering one word, her expression spoke volumes.  Her eyes, wide open, declared, “What in the world are you saying?”

I think I'll check with the Guinness World Record Book. I may have set a communicative blooper record, at least for words never to be uttered on a city street late at night. 

As upset as I was with myself, I was also pleased that we were now positioned too near to the policeman for the con man to continue his scam.  He finally disappeared quickly – no doubt to search for another target.

Appropriate conclusion…

As I approach the climax to this story, I'm reminded yet again of another blunder.  During a life science lesson in my classroom many years ago, I meant to ask the students to define an organism.  Thank goodness my seventh graders were too young to catch my slip-up when I asked for a definition of another word, so close in spelling to organism, that I felt I had to end my lesson a few minutes early. 

I guess that lesson had reached its crescendo and there was little sense in continuing any further.  

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My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA