Thursday, November 27, 2008

Even when on your very best behaviour...

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page
November 26, 2008

I'm not one for dressing up, but sometimes you just have to don a suit and tie for those special occasions. Anything less would be inappropriate.

Last weekend, I attended a large business banquet with about 700 other people. My table colleagues were interesting and we spent the evening talking about a variety of topics, including business, politics, society and life in general.

Now, I'm not the most cultivated person on Earth, but I like to think I know which cutlery is used for which course during a formal dinner like the one I attended. I also know enough to keep my napkin on my lap when I'm eating and not tuck it into my shirt like I'm having dinner with the families from Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons or The Beverly Hillbillies.

I was on my best behaviour, conscious of my terrible swearing habit and making sure the worst word out of my mouth was "gosh." I also tried to hide the fact that my blazer was too big for me now that I've lost 115 pounds.

I should also say that I attended the banquet with a female work colleague who shares an irreverent sense of humour, so between conversations with gracious dinner guests, we kept ourselves entertained by making each other laugh.

The food was great and very tasty, as it usually is at these sorts of events. The hotel pulled out all the stops to make sure that everyone was well fed.

At some point, I felt the need to wipe my mouth. I reached down for my napkin, brought it up to my face and would like to say that I dabbed away delicately at the corners of my mouth like an 18th century snob having dinner with the king, but I have to admit I pretty much just tried to clean half my head with about as much class as a clumsy bull in a china shop.

As I practically covered my entire head with the napkin and scrubbed myself clean in a very indelicate and unrefined manner, it was then that I realized that the pretty pattern on the napkin that strikingly resembled my tie was indeed my actual tie. Not having looked to ensure that I had grabbed my real napkin, I'd mistakenly grabbed my tie and had proceeded to practically bathe with it.

When I realized what I'd done, my heart sank. What would people think? Would I be made to stand on a table in the middle of the banquet tables and be mocked and jeered at like some big unrefined loser?

Oh I just reeked of class, I tell ya. What was next? Belching out loud, rubbing my bare belly and yelling, "Well, Ma, them vittles were sure good! What's for dessert? Porcupine pie with possum ice cream and squirrel sprinkles?"

Actually, the angels were looking down upon me at that moment, because the others at the table were happily chatting each other up like there was no tomorrow, so they thankfully did not witness my momentary colossal uncouthness.

My work colleague, however, had seen everything and burst into laughter as if having just been given an overdose of laughing gas by her dentist. Once I realized my etiquette faux-pas, I quickly dropped my tie and grabbed my napkin, hoping that no one would notice except for my work colleague, who I was then contemplating having to kill after the banquet to ensure none of this became public.

After having a good laugh about my mistake, I decided that a trip to the rest room was necessary. Maybe I could even wash the gravy out of my tie. Before washing my hands before going back to my table, I flipped my tie over my shoulder to ensure that it did not get even dirtier. (Not that it couldn't have used a good scrubbing anyway.)

I returned to the table at the front of the room right next to the stage. I must have walked by a couple of hundred people to get to my seat, not to mention a few dozen mingling around the hallway outside the banquet room. I sat down.

Of course, my tie was still flipped over my right shoulder. Perhaps I should have just started dancing a jig and playing a tune using the spout on an old and cracked bottle of moonshine.

This stuff only seems to happen in front of large groups of people. Luckily, I can laugh about it now, but I was mortified at the time. Perhaps I need an etiquette coach or something. I'm not sure. You've heard of "My Fair Lady"? Well, maybe it's time for "My Fair Brian".

I should just scrap my (somewhat pitiful) tie collection and switch to wearing turtlenecks. But then I'd just turn into one big ball of sweat since I'm not one to wear sweaters. You might as well set me on fire than make me wear a sweater. I'd be cooler covered in flames than I would be wearing something made out of wool.

I know what! I'll just staple my tie to my shirt before the next formal banquet I attend. It may look a bit odd, but at least I'll avoid embarrassing myself.

Or maybe I'll just become a nudist. Does anyone know where I can buy a barrel of hair removal cream? I may be etiquette-challenged, but I do have my pride, you know!

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