At my old job we used to have a tradition anytime someone new was hired. On your first day, you had to tell your most embarrassing story. Not just the new person . . . everybody. It was a great way to be introduced to a group of people. Just pool the embarrassment of the group and rejoice in the hilarity.
After a few new employees joined us, our boss discontinued the practice, mostly on account of my story. Here it is: Heather and I were students at Moody Bible Institute. We had been dating for just a few months, so she was still not entirely aware of the depths to which my mind could descend. Something somewhere in the recesses of my subconscious decided it was time for Heather to see another corner of the sordid tapestry that was (and is) the real me.
At the time, Culby 2 was to Moody what The Max was to Saved by the Bell, what The Peach Pit was to 902 . . . what Dorothy's kitchen was to Golden Girls. Where was I? Oh, yeah, the second floor of Culbertson, where the menu included nachos, pizza, loads of other garbage, and the Avalanche. An Avalanche was like a Blizzard, only not at Dairy Queen. Same type of iced dairy product. Same selection of candy to grind. Just a different wintry disaster for a name.
We were in line, having the same cool conversation any meant-for-each-other dreamers have while they're waiting in line, basically ignoring the fact that a dairy-related decision was lurking at the front of the line. When my turn to order finally came, I had my heart set on a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Avalanche. The girl behind the counter looked to be a freshman, an aura of Moody innocence shining unspoiled all around her. She broke the news to me that there was no Peanut Butter Cup option. There was peanut butter. There was Reese's Pieces. But no cups.
So there I stood, debating between peanut butter and Reese's Pieces. Peanut butter . . . Reese's Pieces. Reese's Pieces . . . Peanut Butter. The words tumbled around in my head until the answer came to me like a lottery ball. And then I said it.
"Reese's Pianist." Only, I didn't say pianist. It sounded kind of like pianist. More of an organ, actually.
I was shocked. The girl behind the counter (GBC) was frozen. An avalanche of embarrassment engulfed us. But there was still that small chance, that tiny window of hope shining through the piles of frigid awkwardness, that maybe, just maybe she and everyone else could believe they just didn't hear me correctly. That gap of breathing room was quickly filled in by the next words to come out of my mouth.
"I mean pianist. . . . I said it twice!" And I did. I said that word that sounds a lot like pianist twice, and then I said that I said it twice. Forget a slip. It was a total Freudian wipe out.
GBC's expression didn't change. Her male (and far less innocent) co-worker was seriously in danger of dying from laughter. He shouldn't have tried to stop. It really could have killed him. Heather was shaking her head, laughing, and looking at me in the way I've since come to understand means, "For some reason, I love you even more . . . and I'm not all that surprised you just said that, and it's too late to turn around and run for my life, so let's just move on back here toward a place I like to call 'Normal,' okay?"
I have to give GBC credit. She kept her composure and just tried to move on. Yeah, her eyes were bugging out, but her voice never wavered in her attempt to restore order by asking the question I'm sure was on everyone's mind: