This is a slightly edited version of a post that first appeared on Writing Boots in 2010. Apropos of yesterday’s piece on my networking freak-out, I thought I’d run it again—with an invitation for you to share your own gaffes. —DM
At the wedding reception, I stood beside the wedding cake, deep into the bottomless glass of champers and telling an animated story as part of the wedding toast. Someone rushed up and pointed out that there was white icing on my black suit coat. And pants. Lots of it.
“Goddamnit, you Murrayed the cake!” the groom bellowed and we all screamed with laughter, because thankfully, the couple like funny stories more than they like cake.
And also, because I Murray everything.
I Murray salad bars, I Murray dinner tables, I Murray people’s laps. (During a business flight I spilled a glass of gin in a colleague’s lap—twice.) I Murray bathrooms and guest bedrooms. I once Murrayed a wake.
At a business dinner I was not hosting, I once obliviously ordered a $180 Kobe beef steak, and when the guy sitting next to me kiddingly told me it looked awfully good, I stabbed a $30 medallion with my fork and generously slapped it on his plate. He was a vegetarian. He was not amused.
I wish drinking was always the culprit, but it in fact is rarely the culprit. I’m actually less likely to Murray things when I’m drinking, because I’m less awkward and dorky when I’m drinking.
Last week, at the outset of my visit to my big client, McMurry, I carefully quizzed my client/boss about the names of two business heads who had interviewed me two years ago. In case I ran into them, I wanted to get their names right.
Stan, I remembered. Who was the other? Fred, my boss said. Right! Fred!
That was on Tuesday. On Friday afternoon—miraculously, I was an hour away from escaping Phoenix without having Murrayed anything major—I see one of those big guys coming up the stairs.
I don’t know if he remembered who I was, but I leaped at him.
“Fred, it’s fantastic to see you again!”
“It’s great to see you too,” he said. “And I’m Stan!”
Yep. I even Murrayed McMurry.
I’m an accidental menace—as Woody Guthrie would say, “a disaster, just goin’ somewhere to happen.”
But I know I’m not alone, because I have seen a corporate CEO give a confident speech with his fly down. And I’ve seen this:
What’s your most embarrassing professional moment?
Let’s start a collection, to comfort all people who are long on enthusiasm and short on grace:
Onward & Awkward.