It is with a surprisingly still-visceral sense of utter shame and vermilion embarrassment that I report one particularly memorable occurrence from childhood: the most embarrassing moment of my life.
I was in a “Gifted and Talented” program at Cold Spring Elementary School in Potomac, Maryland. For one of our fourth grade field trips, we Magnet students piled into a school bus and headed over to beautiful Sandy Point State Park along the Chesapeake Bay. I vaguely recall that we were supposed to be learning about ecology. In particular, and I remember this vividly because it would soon become an integral part of my most embarrassing moment ever, we had all worn swimsuits earlier in the day while mucking about on the beach and in the Bay. When the day came to a close, we were all supposed to change out of our still-wet swimsuits, board the bus, and go back to the school.
However, I was not paying attention at all when the teacher was giving the finer instructions on this point. I was, and I still remember this clearly because the whole incident is seared into my memory, fantasizing about rocket ships. Had I not been occupied with daydreams of fantastic voyages to alien worlds, I would have heard the teacher’s instructions that all of the girls were to go change behind the school bus (which was parked alongside the road) and that all of the boys were to go change somewhere else. To this day I do not know exactly where we boys were supposed to change, but that I know exactly where the girls were supposed to change may foreshadow how this story will draw to a close.
After my teacher Ms. Sesler (who later married and became Mrs. Unger, though this is not strictly relevant) finished with the changing instructions and everyone started to disperse, I, having not heard any of it, ended up where I thought was the most logical place to change: in the restroom. It still haunts me to this day that I didn’t just follow the rest of the boys. By the time I finished changing and exited the restroom, I didn’t see anyone else. Thinking that everyone had probably already finished changing (as I had also, uh, “used the facilities”, and thus taken awhile), I headed in the only logical direction: to the bus. As I drew closer I saw several pairs of feet underneath the corner of the bus. Thus, relieved that I had located the rest of my peers, I cheerily asked “Hey guys, what’s up?” as I rounded the corner.
What followed next was the sound of roughly thirty nine-year-old girls in various stages of undress shrieking at the tops of their lungs — including the girl nearest me as I turned the corner who was one of my two best friends and who I had had a vicious crush on. I was instantly horrified at the thought that they would all think I was some kind of perverted Peeping Tom. This was followed shortly by one of the parent chaperones chasing me down across the road, screaming at me as I fled in horror. She was the hot mom of the class too, and was always involved in PTA events. I will admit to having a schoolboy crush on her as well, so this made it all the more traumatic.
Then, after things calmed down somewhat, Ms. Sesler came out and started yelling at me. Much to her credit, she quickly realized how shocked and disoriented I was, and that I hadn’t done it on purpose. She said she would “figure out my punishment later”.
But the worst was far from over, because, as you see, we had arrived by bus, and we had to leave by bus. What I really wanted to do was to go crawl into a hole somewhere and die, but instead, I had to get back on the bus with every student in our class — including all of the girls who I had just seen naked (in their minds anyway; in reality it all happened so quickly and there was so much going on that I didn’t even see a damned thing for all my troubles). The bus ride was an hour long.
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