Most Embarrassing Moment of My Life

By Snow Brooks

I was only 14 years old when my mother and I traveled to Europe as American tourists. Our first stop was a 2 week stay in London and Mom had already given me the When in Rome, do as the Romans lecture. For months before our departure she’d preached the etiquette of each country to ensure I was properly prepared and wouldn’t embarrass myself with some cultural faux pas.

Twelve days in London and I had managed to blend in well! No one suspected I was American until I opened my mouth and my Southern drawl made it blatantly obvious. As long as my lips were sealed, I had everyone fooled or at least I did until I met the Piano Man.

You see, Piano Man wasn’t your run-of-the-mill musician. He was a pianist at one of the swankest restaurants I’d ever set foot in. All decked out in tuxedo and bow-tie with manicured salt and pepper hair that looked like it took days to perfect.

As Mom and I dined, I became enamored with the guy’s performance. His fingers danced across the keys with effortless grace and, as a 4th generation pianist, I appreciated his abilities. Mom was a pianist too and understood why I kept gawking at Mr. Mozart and his flying fingers.

It wasn’t just his talent that had my attention. While he performed, Piano Man would sway and lean toward me, the weird girl who kept staring at him, and flash his pearly whites.

Was he playing just for me now? Perhaps he could see how much I appreciated his musical abilities.

He grinned again just before flowing into a new song. An American song! Yes, Mr. Piano-dude was definitely playing this one for me! He must have overheard the twang of my accent.

There was a glass globe with money next to him, so I strolled over and tipped the gentleman. His smile widened as he continued playing my song. I was so honored that I decided to sing the lyrics to show my appreciation.

I began, “My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.”

Why was Piano Man frowning?

I went on, “Land where my fathers died.”

Why was Mom making cut-throat gestures?

“Land of the pilgrims’ pride,” my voice trickled off, sounding more like a question.

Why were one hundred angry eye-balls of fellow diners glued to me?

I cringed, press my lips together, and skulked back over to my chair.

Mom’s face was beet red. “What on Earth are you doing?” she chastised.

“I was singing.  America. You know,” I explained with an innocent shoulder-shrug.

“That’s not America,” she breathed through ventriloquist teeth. “Here, it’s God Save the Queen!” she informed, hiding her eyes behind a palm.

“Oh,” I sunk into my chair, feeling like the one who needed saving.

 

12 thoughts on “Most Embarrassing Moment of My Life

  1. I laughed so hard I had to get up and tell my coworker. That’s worse than when the cook/owner of a restaurant in France looked like I spit in his face after asking for marinara for my calzone. He thought I wanted ketchup.

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    1. Ketchup? The scandal! *gasp* How funny!
      Well, if it makes you feel any better, I managed to embarrass myself in France too, pretty much the moment I walked into the hotel (you’ll appreciate this).

      My maiden name at the time ended in “er” but in France the typical version of this ended in “ier” (pronounced ee-ay), which is exactly how the guy at the front desk called it out. Not realizing he had announced my name, I stood there like a stump with eyes glazed over unaffected.

      There was a group of others also waiting so he moved on and called out the next name, and the next, until I was the last one there. At last, he repeated the missing person’s name AGAIN with his “ee-ay” accent and I lost my patience wondering why he was calling out someone else when I was clearly the only one left! He repeated again, rather loudly, so I marched up to him to find out exactly why I wasn’t on his little list. At which point he angrily pointed to my name in print and informed me that he’d been calling my name out for 30 minutes. I responded, “Oh,” with a sheepish grin and slithered off with my luggage.

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      1. Haha thats amazing! Everytime I saw him I’d be like “thanks for saying good morning, heres a tip…thank you for looking at me, here’s a tip” haha. And oh man, you don’t even know about the ketchup thing. I thought I was going to get kicked out of the restaurant. We finally got the right translation and was like “so sorry, I’m from California” all of a sudden this guy was like my best friend and his wife was telling me about their son who was at rugby practice and maybe we should meet. It was such a big turn around from “silly American wants ketchup” to “please be my Californian daughter in law” haha it was crazy.

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      2. That’s why I never say I’m American. It’s always California and yes I surf everyday even though I live in the northern valley, 3 hours from the nearest beach and that water is freezing and I’ve never touched a surfboard haha! You’re always a cool New Yorker or Californian surfer dude. Anything else just gets labelled as “silly American”

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  2. Oh, that’s so funny! I think I would have felt more than embarrassed. As for your poor mom – I bet she wished a hole would open in the floor and swallow her up. I had no idea that the tune we have for ‘God Save the Queen’ was used for any other song. Your mom was very wise to ‘gen you up’ on other countries and their customs. But we’re all different, with our own idiosyncrasies – and, in my view, that’s what makes the world such an interesting place. Still, singing ;America’ to ‘God Save the Queen’ was, perhaps, an unfortunate thing to do. Then again, at fourteen, how were you to know!
    A great piece of writing.

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    1. Millie, I think most children in the U.S. learn “America” also known as “My Country, Tis of Thee” in elementary school. The melody originated in the 1600s and was used by Scotland and England as “God Save the Queen/King” long before Samuel Francis Smith adapted the lyrics as a patriotic song for America in 1831. And yes, Mom was mortified. We laughed about it later.

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      1. I found the story hilarious, and the funny thing is, I know lots of people here who really don’t like ‘God Save the Queen’ as the British anthem. It’s very old fashioned, to say the least.
        On a different note, I’m just about to post Day One of the Three Quotes Challenge. It’s a nice challenge to do, but there’s no obligation to accept, of course. (I know it’s all time you may not have.) I’ve done it several times now. See what you think.

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