My New Most Embarrassing Moment

I have a reputation for being a little clumsy. OK, that’s way too charitable – there is no English word or phrase that captures my special brand of clumsiness. My father first noticed this trait when, as a young boy, I often tripped going upstairs. He thought that was hysterical – the danger around stairs was supposed be mainly when traveling in a downward direction.

On top of the clumsiness, I have a bit of a daredevil streak, which is a dangerous mix. My wife and daughter have seen it all – tripping, falling off curbs, bumping my head. But last night I did something that belongs in the Klutz Hall of Fame.

After playing a few basketball games at the UW fitness center, I was walking through the parking lot toward my car. It was Freshman Orientation night so there were throngs of wide-eyed new students everywhere. As usual, I was deep in thought, pondering some programming problem. All of a sudden – THWACK – something smashed into my face, hard, almost knocking me over, followed by a kind of vibrating metal sound. I turned around and it dawned on me…I had just walked face first into a stop sign. I’m talking about your standard stop sign – the kind that’s embedded in two feet of concrete and generally doesn’t move.

It’s funny how when something like this happens, fear of humiliation trumps all other considerations. There was moderate physical pain, but my first thought was not “Oh my god, am I bleeding?”, but rather “I wonder how many people just saw that happen?”. I didn’t stop to survey my surroundings (lest I make eye contact with some youngster wondering how old you have to be before you start walking into inanimate objects). I quickly continued my saunter at a slightly more brisk pace and with a stoic expression on my face, which said to all the world “Of course I meant to do that”.

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