There’s a great old joke about two men who were visiting in a coffee shop.
“Boy, did I commit a faux pas this morning!” exclaimed the first man.
“Faux pas, what’s that?” his friend responded.
“You know, that’s a French term for a social blunder. Like when you mean one thing but say something else.”
“What did you do?”
“Well, my wife and I are planning a trip Ohio so I went to the travel agent to buy airline tickets to Cleveland. The lady at the travel agency was rather buxom and had on a low cut blouse. When she asked me what I wanted, I blurted out, ‘Two tickets to Cleavage.’ Boy was I embarrassed!”
The friend thought about this for a minute and then said, “You know, I must have committed a faux pas this morning, too.”
“What did you do?”
“Well, over breakfast this morning I meant to say to my wife, ‘I hope you have a lovely day, Dear.’ But, what came out was, ‘you’ve ruined my life you wretched woman!’”
Go ahead and groan; I’m used to it. And when it comes to faux pas and other blunders, I’m used to them, too.
For instance, I once inadvertently tried to use a gift certificate from a local restaurant at another local restaurant and then didn’t have enough cash (or my checkbook) to pay the bill. Only my daughter was more embarrassed than I was.
Then there was the time acquaintances stopped by our house with their three young sons. The youngest child had pulled himself up at my knees and I cootchy-cooed him the way most folks cootchy-coo babies. When he wanted to walk away I let him. How should I know he couldn’t walk yet? The poor little kid fell on his nose and cried big baby tears. I felt awful.
Not long after moving to Sioux City I was invited to a Chamber of Commerce committee meeting at a downtown motel meeting room. Though I thought I was early, the meeting was already in progress when I arrived. I found an empty chair at one of the tables and poured myself a cup of coffee.
After a minute or two I noticed a Kiwanis Club banner hanging at the front of the room. “This isn’t a Chamber of Commerce meeting, is it?” I whispered to the gentleman seated at my left. “No,” he replied with a smile, “this is a Kiwanis meeting.”
After exiting as discretely as a large person can, I checked at the front desk and discovered that the Chamber meeting was scheduled for a meeting room on the second floor. I had no idea there was a meeting room on the second floor.
Then there was the time I wrote a thank you note to my wife’s best friend for a cherry pie she had baked for me. We occasionally bantered back and forth in our very limited German so I wrote the note in German. I used the wrong word in the salutation and instead of a cordial greeting I wrote an amorous one. Fortunately, everyone ̶ including my wife ̶ had a sense of humor.
This list goes on. I take some comfort in the knowledge that everyone commits a faux pas or other type of blunder now and then.
An acquaintance told me about the time they drove to a strange town for a wedding and, after having been seated in the sanctuary, discovered they were in the wrong church. Their friends were being married in a nearby church.
A former co-worker returned to her desk from the rest room one afternoon with a train of toilet tissue trailing from the waistband of her skirt. She was glad I pointed it out to her; at least that’s what she said.
Dad used to tell the story of an Eastern European immigrant who worked as a hired hand for a neighboring farmer. In addition to learning English, he had to learn the Low German dialect commonly spoken in that community.
At a threshers’ dinner the young man was offered another helping of food. He attempted to respond in Low German, intending to say, “No, thanks, my belly is full.” Instead, he said, “No, thanks, my pants are full.”
Faux pas and other blunders remind us of the fact that we’re only human. Some of us are reminded more often than others.