Earlier Today

True story. It happened earlier this afternoon, and I still cringe to think of it. I buy fifteen bucks' worth of gas at the station down the street, and I go inside to pay, and the gal behind the counter is new to me. Slim, attractive, dark hair—but what's this? She's wearing a huge fake nose—in the manner of a Groucho Marx nose, only minus the mustache, plus it's lumpy and deformed, like a potato with tumors. Okay, well, we're coming up on Halloween and the displays are out, so I guess she's just getting into the spirit of things a bit early. So I decide to play the game. Tease her, have a little fun, right? "Oh, my gosh!" I blurt out loudly, feigning shock, "what happened to your nose?" My voice resounds throughout the gas station. Calm and nice as you please, the girl replies, "It's a birth mark." That's when I realize it's her real nose. Kindly hand me a gun so I can shoot myself. I am ready to melt into the floor. I'm about to explain, "I am so sorry. I thought you were getting a jump on Halloween," but fortunately, my instinct for damage control kicks in directly after the word "sorry." Anything I can say beyond that is going to be no improvement at all. So I continue to repeat the first sentence like a mantra: "I am so sorry. Omygod, I am sorry. Sorry. Very sorry. Oh so sorry . . ." My Sorry Machine is in turbo drive. The gal is very sweet. "It's okay," she says. She doesn't appear to be even slightly offended. But I am sure that those in the line behind me are thinking, "What a jerk!" That's what I'd be thinking if I were standing behind me. From whence do I get this talent for making monumental gaffes? It extends decades back and seems to be improving with age. I'd rather it didn't—I wish it would just go away. But at fifty-eight years, I ruefully accept that my social graces are not spun from silk. More like cobbled together with pieces of burlap from an old potato sack.

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