The most embarrassing moment of my life

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.

By the time we arrived back at the school I was so fraught from enduring an hour’s worth of taunting, cries of disbelief from the boys just hearing the story, and worst of all, hushed whispering and furtive glances in my direction, that when I weakly asked my teacher what my punishment would be after disembarking the bus, she said that I had already suffered enough. I never heard of the incident from her again. Thank god for that small kindness. Of course, I heard no end to that incident from my peers.

This story spread like wildfire throughout the school for weeks on end. I gained some admiration from the boys — after all, who else “saw” all of the girls in our class naked? — but this admiration was heavily tempered by my insistent claims that it had all been an accident. The questions about what girls looked like naked never did stop though. The girls in the class, meanwhile, thought that I was just a huge pervert regardless of my protestations of innocence. Even a year later I would occasionally field questions from kids at school grades below me who had heard the story through the rumor mill but didn’t believe it. I was a sort of legend.

Thankfully, after a couple days of refusing to speak to me, my best female friend did eventually forgive me, and things went on with her as they always had (which is to say I never fessed up about my crush). Over time I’ve largely gotten over it, but every once in awhile, probably about once a year now, the “bus incident” just randomly pops into my mind and I experience the repressed flood of emotions all over again. To say it was a traumatic experience in my childhood might be an understatement. To say it was a defining moment in my childhood might be more accurate. And I think the moral of the story is, if you’ve pretty much irrevocably pissed off half of your peers to the point that they won’t believe a word you say in defense, you might as well lie about it to the other half of your peers so you’ll at least be respected by some people.

If you have an embarrassing moment that you think rivals or even tops mine, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

8 Responses to “The most embarrassing moment of my life”

  1. T2A` Says:

    I recall staring intently at the hot girl’s chest who sat diagonally across from me in 5th grade. I’m pretty sure I was thinking about something else, but I was staring directly nonetheless, and girls have been developing rather early the past few generations. Of course, she caught me and asked rather loudly why I was looking at her chest. D:

    And I recall riding the bus in 6th grade with one of my good friends. I don’t remember what kind of dumb shit was going on, but at some point he had leaned his head back and his eyes closed and I went to pinch his nose shut to prevent breathilization. Naturally, one of the “cool” kids saw it and proclaimed loudly that I was trying to pick his nose, which I suppose it may have appeared. That one, of course, didn’t go away, and luckily enough, all the cool kids decided the front of the bus was cool that year rather than the back, so I had to walk by them to get to the back every day.

    And I recall in some grade one of those bully types asking me if I liked boobs during gym. I don’t remember exactly what I said, I think it was something along the lines of, “What do you think?” in a sarcastic manner. But whatever the case, he misheard me, perhaps purposefully, and for the rest of the year he randomly and loudly proclaimed I was gay or the guy who didn’t like boobs or some other shit like that.

    Public school kicks ass. D:

    I’m racking my brain but I don’t think I ever really had that one defining embarrassing moment. I’d probably remember it clear as the day it happened if I had. I think I just had a lot of random annoyances. I also never got in a fight during school, and I’m still fightless to this day. I think most guys get in at least one but it never happened to me.

  2. William (green) Says:

    I don’t have single embarrassing moments, as much as a constant stream of stupid things I do. I think it keeps my karma even enough that I usually don’t have any major screwups. Or something? I can only hope, you know?
    I’ve never had a knock-down, drag-out fight, but I’ve been involved in a couple of scuffles.

    The first one I recall, my friend was getting beaten up by an older kid. I snuck off about ten feet, got a good run going, and hit the kid in the stomach as hard as I could. It knocked him away from my friend and down a small slope into a chickenwire fence. This was in 2nd grade.
    The next scuffle was another big-kid-beating-up-my-friend thing. Didn’t have to do anything, just made my presence known and the guy backed off. Helped my buddy up off the ground and it was all pretty much okay. This was in 4th grade.
    The last one I can remember from my obligatory school days was in 8th or 9th grade, and is even less impressive than the others. I was sitting on the bottom row of bleachers with the friend from the previous one (Hank) and someone I knew but wasn’t really friends with (Matt) walks by and slaps me, then Hank. A few minutes later, he comes back and slaps Hank, and almost gets to me. I did… something, at the end of which he was lying face-down on the floor and I was standing above him, holding his arm up with my foot on his shoulder.
    Anyway, it was an accident, and he was crying, so I helped him up, and we both said we were fine when the teacher asked what was going on.

    I’ve always secretly wanted to get into a fistfight, just to see what it’s like. To see how I would fare, too, I think. To just have done it.
    I know consciously that this is stupid, but it’s a subconscious thing that I haven’t been able to get rid of in ten years.

  3. drinian Says:

    How would we be human without doing stupid stuff and getting embarassed? It’s the reason that your story is actually pretty funny to hear in retrospect. I don’t remember much before fifth grade, but I have the sneaking suspicion that’s a good thing.

    So here’s a story that hasn’t been told in public before, although there’s probably about a hundred people or more who still remember it. It’s embarassing for a couple of reasons, not least among which was my adolescent support for the future President Bush during the 2000 election.

    As a known conservative and occasional Republican, I was asked to give a short speech to the whole upper school in support of Bush. Other students were speaking for Gore and Nader. (For the record, I am eternally grateful to my school for teaching public speaking and rhetoric). I had of course written out the speech the night before, and practiced it to death, but I was still rather nervous when I got up, and began to skip over words extemporaneously.

    The first line out was a comment on the Nader speaker, who had gone before and was remarkably passionate about workers’ solidarity or some such thing. “I’m not sure how I can top that, but…” The next line, my written opener, was written down like so: “I would like to ask you what comes to mind when you hear the name George W. Bush.” However, this got changed as I read it into “I’d like to ask you the first thing you think of when you hear the word Bush.”

    I went to an all-boys’ school, and of course there was only one place for their minds to go. In a panic (since, looking at my original writeup, it didn’t occur to me what was so funny) I just waited a few minutes until everyone was done laughing, and continued with my speech. That one stayed with me for a while. You have to admit, though, it was pretty funny.

  4. Cyde Weys Says:

    T2A`: I’m fightless as well. I think I may have been hit once or twice in a heated situation (not in the face, thankfully), but I deigned simply to shrug it off, and it didn’t go any further from there. I’m guess I’m kind of proud that I never got into a real fight. And even though I didn’t get into traditional fights, that’s not to say I didn’t fight back in various ways (mind games were the best). I was thus thankfully not bullied very often at all. And although I did go to public schools my whole life, I was in one Magnet program or another essentially from first grade on, so there was always some barrier against the rest of the more uncouth “regular” students. Whereas nerds in regular schools get picked on a lot, whole groups of nerds in special devoted Magnet programs generally don’t get picked on, at least not in my experience. The bullies bullied the rest of the regular students instead, leaving us alone.

    William: The closest thing I ever had to a real fight was when I was having a heated philosophical argument with a nerd and it got physical and he kicked me in the nuts (yeah, real gentlemanly of him, right?), and I retaliated likewise. The fight didn’t go anywhere from there. I think we may have both sat down to recover, and weren’t in a fighting mood after that. And I think most guys harbor secret wishes of wanting to get into a fight, just so they can prove how tough they are. It’s part of the male psyche. It’s the reason UFC is so popular: it touches on those exact same male fantasies. Of course, my conscious mind has a huge list of good reasons why it’s best not to get into a fight despite how “cool” it may seem, and so far, my conscious mind has always won.

    Drinian: Yeah, the story is very funny now, to me as well as to others. I made my peace with it awhile ago, kind of in a “if you can’t laugh at it you’ll cry” mindset. Isn’t it funny how if you see one person naked, they’re the one who’s embarrassed, but if you see dozens of people naked, you’re the one who’s by far the most embarrassed? And yeah, the most embarrassing part of your story is that you supported Bush, not that you misread your line :-P

  5. A friend Says:

    i get embarrised all the time but i never saw a girl naked. Still i get embarissed all the time and we people tease me about it i just laugh it off and sarcasticly agree with them. Why should you care what other people think of you unless it is someone who matters. Also the seeing naked girls story, well you were in elementary school. I’m it wasn’t embarising but more pleasurable.

  6. Alicia Says:

    my most embarassing moment happened actually 10 minutes ago. I was going for a walk and forgot to tell my parents. After about 20 minutes of walking aimlessly, I noticed this silver car was following me. It looked like my dad’s, but I was positive it wasn’t him. Whenever I walked forwards, it followed. Whenever I turned around, it turned around. Now, I get scared pretty easily, but this set off my BS meter. I started bawling and ran past the car. This sweet middle aged couple walking their dog saw me and asked what was wrong. I was gasping for breath and cried that some car was following me. They offered to walk me home. I felt awful because they had to turn around because my house was opposite the way they were walking. About 10 minutes later, the car pulled up. Oh shit I thought. Because sure enough, it was my dad. He was pissed and I was embarassed. Turns out that he was coming home from work and saw me and wanted to see where I was going. He’s still super mad cause he said that the couple could have called the police saying he abused me. (which isn’t true) But I feel awful for taking time out of their walk for my petty problem and that I caused my dad such a problem as well.

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