Damien on… Embarrassment
Twain said, “Man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to.”
My most embarrassing moment occurred one lazy, Sunday afternoon, when I was about twenty. I was alone in West London (on my way to somewhere or other) and found myself walking down the steps to Gloucester Road Underground station.
For this tale to mean anything, you have to understand the geography. Gloucester Road is a Victorian cut-and-cover station.
Today, it looks like this…
…but FORTY YEARS AGO, it was SPARTAN – and on that day, CROWDED.
It being a Sunday, instead of a train popping along every couple of minutes – you had to wait more like TWENTY. And from the looks of things, a train was about due on BOTH SIDES.
As I wandered along the platform, my eyes rested on a chocolate vending machine, standing against the wall. I realised I was hungry, so checked my change. I had ONE ten pence coin.
At that moment, I heard the sound of an approaching train – coming to MY side. So hurriedly, I put the coin in the slot.
It fell straight through to the coin return tray.
Behind me, the train burst into the station.
I fumbled for the coin and went to re-insert it.
The train slowed and stopped.
I pushed the coin back into the slot. This time, it held.
The train doors opened.
I YANKED on the tray containing my desired delicacy. It refused to open. At this point, I had a decision to make – give up and jump into the train – or continue to attempt to obtain that for which I had paid.
I was HUNGRY. This machine had taken my MONEY. I wanted my CHOKKY. I yanked again.
The train doors closed and the train began to slide away.
I yanked HARDER.
The train was now sweeping past.
I pressed the coin return button and checked the coin return tray – nothing.
The train was gone.
I BASHED the coin return button. Still nothing. I returned to yanking on the tray with MY chocolate in it – then all the OTHER trays. STILL nothing. The machine LAUGHED at me.
It had taken my MONEY, given me NOTHING – and now I would have to wait TWENTY MINUTES for the next train.
So I KICKED it. Then I kicked it AGAIN. And then I kicked it SEVERAL TIMES MORE. Being constructed from sheet metal, the noise it made was COLOSSAL. But then I noticed that it carried the scars from having been kicked many times before. It occurred that others had been down this road – perhaps many. And now my FOOT was beginning to hurt.
I realised that adding an injured foot to my troubles would not help matters and so, finally admitting DEFEAT to the infernal machine, turned to sit down on an adjacent seat.
It was then that it suddenly dawned on me that while my platform was now deserted – the FIVE HUNDRED-ODD people on the opposite platform were STILL THERE.
And they had NOTHING to do – other than stare at the bloke on the platform facing them, kicking the crap out of a vending machine.
I stood there, watching a THOUSAND eyes send my image to five hundred minds – all of which shared a single thought…
No chokky, no money, a twenty-minute wait – and now I had to SIT there, confronting a sea of humanity who were examining me – and finding me SADLY WANTING.
THAT was the most embarrassing moment of my life.
It would be another five HUMILIATING minutes before the train arrived to take my accusers away.
Naturally, had it happened today – things would have been different. I would have faced the throng opposite and done a ten-second soft-shoe-shuffle, followed by a Shakespearian bow. I might even have elicited a round of applause.
You see, four decades of LIFE have since passed before me, during which I have observed that EVERYONE is at LEAST as big a prat as I.
So these days, I would have to do something SPECTACULARLY stupid, to justify feeling even a PANG of embarrassment over anything I could do.
Just consider John Boehner (pronounced boner, of course) or Rick Perry – or the undisputed KING of the field – George Wan… sorry, WaLker Bush.
I’m an AMATEUR.