Friday, March 20, 2009

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

I can totally relate to the President making what seemed to be a harmless little quip but, in retrospect, a retrospect of approximately two milliseconds, one realizes that was an oh-so-wrong thing to say.

My verbal missteps are legion. Usually they take the form of me making a snide, yet hilarious (to me), statement to someone about someone else’s taste or behavior. And I belatedly learn that the person I am making the remark to is the cousin/sister/brother/wife/take-your-pick of the person I am making the remark about.

When these inevitable ignominious events occur, I usually call my friend Christine to bemoan my latest gaffe. She listens, there is dead silence for about thirty seconds and then I hear Christine’s voice sadly intone “You never learn, do you?”

The answer to that, Christine, would be ‘no’. No, I do not ever learn. I don’t think I will ever learn to keep my mouth shut.

Especially when I am stressed.

Here is one example.

I had a job interview last year. It was when I couldn't drive because of my broken shoulder, but I never stopped looking because I had been out of work for six months at that point. My Dad generously drove me. When I drove anywhere with him, I usually kept my eyes closed so I would be unaware of my imminent death. But I was grateful all the same.

We get to where I am interviewing, a think tank outside of Princeton. I get out of the car AND SO DOES MY DAD!!! AGGHH!! I figured he was going to go get a cup of coffee or something and come back for me, but NOOOO, he comes into the office building with me and sits down in one of the lobby armchairs. What was I going to say, ‘Dad, go away’?!? This sweet man was driving me everywhere. I started praying he wouldn’t be sleeping when I came back down.

One of the interview team comes to get me and I have to introduce him. "Um, this is my father..." I am 54 years old. Oh my God, it was mortifying.

But it got worse.

I joke a lot when I am nervous. It is a VERY VERY bad trait, because you can inadvertently say really inappropriate things to people who are interviewing you!

My interview is being conducted by the charming young man who had come to get me and a very personable older woman. The interview is going great. They love my background. After discussing my professional credentials, the woman asks me the classic, ‘tell me one of your weak points.’ It is one I ask as well when I am hiring and the response actually does tell a lot about the candidate. Do they use it to make themselves shine, do they tell the unfortunate truth or do they look like a deer caught in the headlights?

This job was a public relations position, so I decide to promote my social side. And I say to her, "Well one of my weak points is that I get so interested in people, we could go on and on and I can lose track of time. I love hearing people's stories, even from the very beginning, you know 'I was born a poor black child...'" ha ha ha

Yep, to my own horror, I ACTUALLY SAID THAT!!!

Did I mention the young man interviewing me was black? And from the appalled look on his face, was not a huge Steve Martin fan. He probably was too young to get the reference. But the woman cracked up. She cracked up in an ‘Oh you poor thing did you just completely blow it but thanks because this will give me a story to tell forever’ kind of way.

I could not get out of there fast enough. On the plus side, Dad was awake and oriented when I got back to the lobby. Needless to say, I did not get the job.

The lesson here? Be oh so grateful you are not me.



The Mother said...

We all do that. Open mouth, insert foot indeed. But it's heartwarming knowing that someone else does it too. Makes us all feel just a little bit better.

Can't be easy, being President, and not being able to open one's mouth without 300 million people listening.

Marie Reed said...

Marie!!! Hi! Marie's need to stick together:) I still have a big old crush on Obama! The interview was so warm and human. I didn't even notice the little booboo!

JD at I Do Things said...

Oh, my gaw, that's hilarious. I mean, I'm sorry your foot found your mouth so easily, but that's a great story, and you told it perfectly. Of COURSE the male interviewer would turn out to be black. Geez. You may not have gotten the job, but you did provide a great story for the interviewer---and for your blog!

Marie said...

Mother: I know, I really felt for him because he is SO under scrutiny.

In my case, I think the title of the movie I was citing was very apt. lol

Marie: Yes indeed, we Marie's do need to stick together. You all need to hide me! lol

JD: It actually was pretty hilarious afterwards. It is just as well I didn't get the job. A Think Tank is clearly not the place for me, as I obviously do not think. lol

Anonymous said...


A five-second delay between brain and mouth seems called for!

lilaphase said...

That's hilarious!

Don't you love knowing that you are someone else's 'funny story'?

Anonymous said...

I can relate - that's me - Open mouth, change feet

Lin said...

Oh no! Nice move. I felt for Obama because I am known for sticking my foot in it waaaayyy too often. It happens, we're human. Like you, I tend to say things when I'm nervous and it's not always good. I'm tired of this PC world we live in--it's just so ridiculous .

I thought it funny that you referenced "The Jerk" as I was just singing the thermos song in the car today and my daughter thought I was nuts. "Didn't you ever see 'The Jerk'?" I asked her--she looked at me like I was nuts. Glad you're nuts with me!

Marie said...

Dan: Only five seconds?! lol

Lila: I fear I am many people's funny story. :(

Grace: So sorry you share the trait!

Lin: I agree, cut the guy a break, it was an innocent remark.

"The Jerk" is still funny after all these years!

Deronda designs... said...

Shaking my head and wiping soda off the monitor...

Marie said...

Deronda, that made me laugh out loud! You are the kind of reader I adore. Someone who spits soda over my life! lol

Rick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rose of Walk in the Woods, LLC said...


I was a party once and their was folk music playing, it was very good, yet solemn and mournful, not what I would coin "party"music. Well, I don't even remember what exactly I said, but I said something ... to the musician!

What were the freakin' chances of that?

Next day though ... he stopped by my business with a gift CD. :) Precious!

Michelle said...

Hi Marie,
Thanks for visiting my blog, ( and leaving a comment. I enjoy your blog, and have made it a daily read of mine!
Sorry your interview didn't go so well, but pretty funny story for you and for your interviewer(s)... I'm sure eventually they both found a little humor at your expense... I too joke around too much when I'm nervous... at an interview one time I was asked which of two positions I would choose, I told them we'd have to host an arm wrestle tournament and name the winner... funny thing was that they actually offered me both jobs! I turned them both down, not because of the jobs but because of the relocation hassle... I guess you never know! :)

Duni said...

Your post title caught my eye, so I just had to read the entire post. I didn't expect to be laughing by the end of it! Sorry, I know I shouldn't be laughing at your expense, but that was just too funny.
I laughed so hard I woke the dog...and he's downstairs.

Unknown said...

Oh Marie- what a story. I totally laughed when I read the "I was a poor black child" because I knew just where you got that from.

But I can imagine the Deer in Headlights look came over you when you heard it come out and saw his expression.

I will never hear that quote quite the same way again. :)

Marie said...

Walk in the Woods: Too funny! What a good sport the musician was!

Michelle: You must have really made a great impression with your response, which I would have loved if I had been the hiring manager. Too bad they weren't right for you otherwise.

Duni: Poor dog! I have to tell you, this story even makes me laugh now. lol

Jenn: Oh man, I can only imagine the look on my face when I realized how what I said sounded. I think my eyes popped out like a cartoon character! lol