View Full Version : Public Humiliation

John Ravenscroft
02-17-2005, 03:04 PM
Wasn't sure where to post this. This seems like the closest place.

I have a book called Writers' Stories of their Public Shame - and it's very, very funny.

In the preface the editor, Robin Robertson, says:

'Humiliation is not, of course, unique to writers. However, the world of letters does seem to offer a near-perfect micro-climate for embarrassment and shame. There is something about the conjunction of high-mindedness and low income that is inherently comic...'

That's perfect. And oh so true.

Anyway, I read a few bits to my wife and she reminded me of the time I was on Lincolnshire Radio being given silly things to do (don't ask).

One of the things I had to do was tell a joke.

I'm crap at telling jokes, so I picked the easiest one I knew. It was so simple, nothing could go wrong.

'What do you call a fly with no legs?' I asked the interviewer.
'I don't know,' he said, feeding me nicely, 'what do you call a fly with no legs?'
'A walk!' I said.

I waited for the roars of laughter, but the guy just looked puzzled.

'I don't get it,' he said.

I went over my joke in my mind and my guts lurched.

'Oh bugger,' I said. 'I got it wrong. It should have been: What do you call a fly with no wings!'
He nodded. 'A walk,' he said.
'Yeah! See, it's got no wings... so it has to... er... walk.'

When I got home my wife, who had been listening on the radio, stood at the door shaking her head.

'Welcome home, dork,' she said.

* * *

So - who else has stories of public humiliation?


02-17-2005, 03:21 PM
:D Thanks for re-humiliating yourself for us, John!

I don't remember any *public* humiliations (not that they haven't happened-- just nothing popping to mind), but I did have that very recent thing...

(If you read the Absolute Write Newsletter, you'll have already heard this one.)

While interviewing Celine Dion two weeks ago, I was doing an impression of her. I flopped backward, hit my head on the edge of her couch... wait, I'll paste the transcription here:

JG: I saw your sound check the last time I was here. You didn't know I was there, but I was sitting in the audience. I was so amused.

CD: Was it the day I had my face painted?

JG: No, I saw that, too, but this was another day.

CD: Was I being goofy?

JG: Yes. You were great. You were walking like this, and you were signaling to Michel that you were tired and you were laying down on the stage like...

(Jenna flops backward, smacking the back of her head on the arm of the couch.)


CD: Are you OK?! (Claps and supresses laughter... barely.)

JG: OW. Damn. Okay, that hurt.

CD: Ice! Ice! Are you OK? Oh shoot, I'm wondering if there’s metal in there because you really heard that... that went “whack!” Are you sure you’re OK?

JG: Yes.

(Celine smacks couch for sneaking up on Jenna like that.)

JG: Remind me not to do impressions of you anymore until I have the layout of this place down.

It went on from there. During the interview, my head began throbbing. Had a big bump, got a little dizzy. Had a minor concussion.

Next day, her whole staff was asking me how I was. I said, "I see Celine told everyone. Nice. Real nice." They suggested I could sue. Celine offered to testify against the couch for me.

02-17-2005, 03:48 PM
So there I was at my first reading of Taking Down Syndrome to School. My brother (who has DS) came with me, and we took turns reading pages of it to a class of 2nd graders.

That went off beautifully. Then came Q&A time, which ALSO went beautifully, except for this part:

I forget the exact context, but I think one of the kids was asking me about what it was like to be a writer, and I was telling her about how it's a lot of fun, but a lot of work, too.

Brother chimes in helpfully to tell them how little sleep I get. Then he says...

"She has to go to her doctor to get pills to knock her out so she can sleep because she has such ludicrous hours. Then she takes these other pills..."

The teacher and I both butted in right there with something like, "Okay, Paul, I think that's enough about that." :ROFL: Gotta love the boy.

02-17-2005, 04:20 PM
My first and only public appearance unless you want to count some embarrassing moments as a schoolteacher, hehe: I was presenting professional research at a national APA convention, complete with transparencies for illustration. My helper, who shall remain nameless although I will say she was my professor, dropped the tranparencies. I spent as much time coaching her through which was which as I did explaining the data and what it meant.

02-17-2005, 05:50 PM
My first live T.V. appearance for my second book just had to be the 6 o'clock news on NBC. I was so nervous and distraught that I drank myself silly the night before, ending up on the floor, wallowing around like Stephen King did, slurring, "I'm gonna' die...ugh...I can't take it anymore...oh...woe is"--suddenly my mother burst in and kicked my legs. "Get up, you fool! Is this anyway to prepare for your big premier?!"

Well, I made the news spot with the worst hangover in history. When the lights hit me, I answered my questions with my eyes closed. Even the makeup girl said I was beyond hope. "He looks like wax", she snorted.

My first radio talk show was at KGO, with non-conformist, Al Collins. I had a sudden urge to hit the bathroom and had to excuse myself during the live show. I knew that the entire branch of the United States Geological survey was listening because they were my co-workers. Everytime I answered questions to the lit up board, my audience members would laugh at me. I thought this strange. Maybe they loved me! When I got home, I ran the tape of my show to hear everything said, and discovered that right after I'd gone to the bathroom, Al Collins had taken some calls and explained that, "Chris had to take a leak, he'll be back."

Oh...my...gawd. He actually said that. When I got back to work everybody just hung their heads and put their arms around me.



John Ravenscroft
02-17-2005, 06:20 PM

These are good.

Who's next?

02-17-2005, 08:26 PM
If I started on all the times I have humiliated myself, put my foot in my mouth, or otherwise caused embarrasment to the family, I wouldnt know where to stop.

Brady H.

02-17-2005, 08:55 PM
As an actor, I have plenty of stories to tell, mostly involving forgetting lines on stage or missing my cues or doing something wrong (like forgetting to leave a prop for the next actor!!). Then again, most often the audience don't notice. It's only humiliating because the other actors and crew and directors do.

John Ravenscroft
02-17-2005, 09:13 PM
Years ago I went for an interview for a teaching post.

The traffic was much easier than I thought it would be and I got there an hour early. About eight in the morning.

Can't remember why I didn't park in the school carpark, but I didn't. I parked opposite the school and sat listening to the radio to calm my nerves.

I watched the kids arriving, wondered if I'd end up teaching some of them.

After about forty minutes there was a tap on my window. I looked up and it was a couple of policemen.

I wound my window down, and they asked me what I was doing there.

Seems a concerned resident had phoned them up to say there was an odd-looking man parked by the school, watching all the kiddies going in and muttering to himself.

'I've come for a job,' I said.

The coppers didn't look too convinced. Must have been the dirty mac and the magazines that did it. One of them got on his radio and checked out my story.

When I finally got into the interview room, there was a panel of four waiting for me.

The head looked up, grinned, and said: 'Ah yes. Mr Ravenscroft. So, how long have you been a pervert?'


I got the job, though.


02-17-2005, 09:23 PM
It wasn't my very first submission ever, but pretty close. A little personal-essay-type-thingie to an online zine. I realized a week or so after I got the rejection that the file I had sent them was the version that exposed all my revisions and changes and, everything. When I realized, I felt like I'd dropped by their office and forgotten to wear clothes.


02-17-2005, 09:55 PM
Ever work for a large company with email aliases? That's what they used to be called, anyway. There's one address that goes to all the people in a particular department...one for the whole company, and one for all the little groups and divisions in between. Think of the danger. Especially in the technical writing group, where everyone has too much to say. Those of us who were especially irreverent set up a little alias for ourselves.

Somehow, one of my co-workers wrote some absurd little email that came out sounding as if he were accusing another fellow of having sex with his own mother. I could not resist and replied, "So, how is your mother?" The next person who replied made a mistake in the reply address and sent the whole disgusting thing to the whole department, my contribution being the only part that had a name attached to it.

Talk about "reputation" points! I lost a few that day.


02-17-2005, 10:11 PM
When I was a cop I once fell asleep in the radio car while on duty, it happens. On this particular evening however, I had been detailed to keep an eye on a certain area where several commercial break and takes had occured. I woke to a camera flash, not the press but my captain with a camera captured the image that was eventually blown up and displayed in the locker room.
My head is resting against the drivers side window, the inevitable 16oz. coffee cup is wedged against the windshield on the dashboard, it gets better trust me. In the distance, maybe fifty yards away, you can clearly see the broken plate glass window of an industrial supply and equipment rental company from which two large and very expensive power washers had been stolen while I nestled comfortably in the heated comfort of the Crown Vic police car.
In my defense I would to like to say, and I did say at the time, that I had been working double shifts for three days in a row. It didn't seem to matter to the captain who saw to it that I spent the balance of that winter on foot writing parking tickets.
In case anyone is wondering why on earth the captain would have been stalking me with his camera in the first place? It seems that a concerned citizen who was on his way to work early that morning saw me in the car like that and for a brief moment feared the worst. That citizen was a photography buff who always had a camera with him, my captain.
If it wasn't for bad luck..you know the rest.

02-22-2005, 09:01 PM
I was meeting a group of former nursery school mommies the fall our kids had all started college. Most had rejoined the work force or gotten further education, but I'd stayed home, writing and raising our kids, and was nervous about their professionalism in contrast to my mom-ism.

Usually when you tell people who aren't particularly interested in reading that you write, they pretend to be impressed as their eyes glaze over, but this group had a few readers who wanted to know what they might have seen that I'd written.

My one-act play, "The Usual Percentage," had been produced at a regional theatre, but no--I told them I'd written "The Usual Suspects."

A proud moment! I'm sure some went home wondering when I'd had my break with reality.


aka eraser
02-22-2005, 10:27 PM
I wrote about my most embarrassing incident in one of my early columns. Although its relation to writing is tenuous at best, I'll reproduce it here:

Baron It All - Issue #15

I bumped into a woman's protruding naughty bit while Christmas shopping a couple of weeks ago.

It was my fault of course. I was engrossed in my mission: finding something... anything, that might make a suitable gift for someone... anyone. I was bent at the waist, scanning a row of books. Seeing nothing of interest, and deciding my next foray would be to Electronics, I turned suddenly while in the process of unbending from the waist.

My left elbow made a brief, temporary, but palpable indentation to a woman's breast. I didn't know she was standing slightly behind me. She obviously didn't expect a man of apparently middle years to be capable of moving with the swiftness and grace of a panther.

She winced. I apologized profusely while managing to stifle the automatic impulse of parents everywhere to make it better by rubbing the boo-boo. She soon managed a smile and did the proper Canadian thing by insisting that no, she was to blame for standing too close. We swapped apologies and forgiveness for the next minute or so and went our separate ways.

The incident was embarrassing and brought to mind The Most Embarrassing Moment Of My Entire Life.

It was 1967. Grade 11 French class. I was a lanky, long-haired 16 year-old and one of the 2 or 3 self-appointed class clowns. Our teacher was a young, (in retrospect), 20-something woman given to wearing short tight skirts and blouses with the top 2 buttons undone. She had what my mother would have described as a "cute shape."

I forget what I was asked to write on the blackboard while she addressed the class. I just remember that it took several minutes. Her back was to me as I wrote on the board. She could see the class. The class could see both of us.

I was writing while standing directly behind her. Occasionally, as she spoke, I would turn my head to face the class and make faces and move my lips. I would stick my tongue out, slacken my jaw and pretend to drool. You know, the usual high-concept comedy bits that are part and parcel of school days.

I was rewarded and unfortunately, encouraged, with a few grins and muffled titters.

In hindsight, I blame the teacher. Obviously she was nearsighted and too vain to wear glasses. The smirks from the class should have tipped her off. She should have turned around and glared at me. I probably would have stopped.

But she didn't. And I didn't.

Emboldened, I stood directly behind her, facing her back. I dropped both my hands to the level of her rear end and made clutching motions while leering at the class over her shoulder.

She took one step back.


As I was in mid-clutch.

For a split-second I had a double handful of derriere de la professeur.

The next minute was a red-tinged blur. I remember shrieks, most of which were laughter, one of which might have been the teacher's. The low moan was mine.

Soon I was outside in the hallway, making my familiar trek to the Principal's office. My face could have illuminated Santa's way for a dozen Christmas's. But underneath my embarrassment was a small thrill of triumph. This was one for the ages. Students would pass it along. Teachers would chuckle in the safety of their lounge. Frank's French Fondle would become a part of Eastdale High's folklore.

I wasn't suspended. I endured the lecture and couple of week's detention with stoic grace. I got used to hearing hushed whispers of recognition from the little grade niners as I passed them in the hall. The teacher made no direct reference to the incident again. Nor did she ask me to write anything else on the blackboard.

She went to another school the following year and I never saw her again.

I hope she started wearing her glasses.

02-22-2005, 11:15 PM
HAHAHAHA!!! There isn't a smiley big enough to describe how hard that made me laugh, Frank! Poor teacher. hehehehe

02-23-2005, 06:21 PM
Oh, Frank...That's just too funny!

02-23-2005, 06:53 PM
Oh, now Frank's story reminds me of this one...

I just started college and I wanted to check out the gym. I went for a swim. Afterwards, while trying to get the water out of my ears, I went into the changing room to change. There was someone else there using the shower. As I was putting on my clothes, the shower stopped and the curtain drawn, and to my surprise, a very cute young woman stepped out of the stall. We looked at each other -- she was completely naked, and I was, well, almost naked -- but we didn't say anything. My face was so hot... She sat and started to dress, and I hurried up putting on my clothes and left. I looked at the door and it was clearly marked "WOMEN." I still don't know why the poor girl didn't scream or kick my perverted ***...

That was not really public humiliation... it was just between me and the girl. But this one was:

The summer of 95, a bunch of my friends and I went to the wave pool for a fun afternoon. I had really dark shades on and I was too eager to get into the wave pool so I just marched toward the changing room.

Anyway, I went to the one I thought was marked "MEN." Little did I know, when I looked over as I rounded the corner, a wall blocked part of the word: it was actually "WOMEN." My friends kept yelling behind me and I just thought they were being obnoxious (you should know my friends). Anyway, I had my shades on and I just got out of the sun, so I couldn't really see anything. The room was QUIET, but I could see shapes of people around me. I thought it was odd.

I took off my glasses and to my horror, the room was filled with mothers and daugthers and grandmothers in all stages of dressing and undressing. No one said a word. I think everyone was so shocked. My then-girlfriend came in and dragged me out of there. It wasn't until minutes later that we all laughed hysterically. I was lucky I didn't get arrested.

Oh, the wave pool was fine.

02-23-2005, 09:57 PM
Try this one on for size:

I was a 23 year old newly minted drug salesman, fresh out of college, having just completed my whopping THREE days of training in the alien world of pharmaceuticals. I was nervous beyond belief and praying my first week would go smoothly, just as my fellow salesmen had assured me it would. Never listen to a salesman.

My first call on the second day was a doctor notorious for his dislike of "drug reps", as we're known. I dutifully presented my business card to the receptionist and was immediately ushered through the waiting room, past several grumbling patients, and into the nurse's station where I was told to wait.
"He's in with a patient. He'll be out in a minute. And keep it short, if you don't want your a** chewed off," I was told unceremoniously as she went back to her post, leaving me alone in the room. I glanced around at my surroundings. Patient charts littered the countertops, a microscope was perched by the telephone with a slide of who-knows-what under the lens, and somebody's half-eaten bagel rested on a napkin by the centrifuge. Not only was my first call of day a reputed jerk - he was a slob to boot.

So I waited. I was sweating profusely in my new cheap suit, my poorly knotted tie biting viciously into my neck as I went over and over my rehearsed presentation when, unexpectedly, the door to the waiting room flew open and a woman rushed in. She was carrying a child of maybe five or six years of age, bouncing him repeatedly in an effort to quiet his persistent moaning.
She glanced around frantically, turning in circles, and I got a good look at the boy. Face white as a sheet, eyes sunk far into his skull, lips thin and colorless; this kid was definitely sick.
Mom rounded on me. "Where's the bathroom?" she pleaded, bobbing the boy up and down which, as it turned out, was definitely the wrong thing to do.
I looked around helplessly. "I don't know. I don't work here...."
That's as far as I got before this poor kid erupted.


He began to vomit. Not just vomit, but projectile vomit, with amazing reach and apparent aim, not to mention limitless volume. Mom was still whirling around in search of the bathroom so he took on the appearance of a lawn sprinkler, covering everything in a 360 degree spray of what appeared to be Fruity Pebbles, or maybe Froot Loops; it was hard to tell at the time.

I backpedaled furiously, trying to escape the carnage. I finally backed into a wall and just happened to look to my left, spotting the elusive bathroom. I got Mom's attention, pointing stridently. She gave me a glare as they entered the bathroom and slammed the door, the boy wailing all the way between gurgles, and then all was quiet. Deathly quiet.

I could only stand there in shock. Nothing in my training came anywhere near explaining how to handle something like this. Vomit covered everything. It soaked the patient charts; it dripped off the counters; it dribbled down the telephone. And the half-eaten bagel would definitely remain half-eaten.
And then, as I surveyed the devastation, the doctor exited a patient room and walked toward the nurse's station before stopping. His eyes swept the room in disbelief before spotting me, the only person in the room, as I cowered against the far wall.
"Who the **** are you?" he roared. For a moment I thought my bladder was going to let go. "And what the ****'s wrong with you?"
Strangely, I couldn't say a word. I could only point weakly toward the bathroom as the nurses appeared, as if by magic, and began to shriek. Pandemonium ensued. All I wanted to do was leave and I began to inch toward the door but the doc blocked my path. I thought for sure he was going to take a swing at me; he looked furious. Just as I was ready for blows to fall, Mom and Junior finally exited the john and the entire matter was resolved. Doc even laughed a little.

Believe it or not, 15 years later, he's still laughing about it.
True story.