More Mishaps & Memories

“I’ve learned so much from my mistakes … I’m thinking of making some more.”

Cheryl Cole (b. 1983; English singer and television personality.)

Well, I don’t know about you, but this past week has been quite a week for me. I daresay that it would have been for you, too, if you had disclosed as much about yourself–for the whole world to see–as I did last week in my “M & M’s: Mishaps and Memories.”

I mean, it wasn’t too bad that I fessed up to not remembering the mishap that prompted the post in the first place, and it wasn’t too bad that I shared two foot-in-mouth mishaps. But what on earth possessed me–at the end of the post–to mention my IQ test.

Without a doubt, I did not need to bring up my IQ. Even now, after considerable reflection, I don’t know why I did. It’s not as if I don’t have an IQ. I do. But–brace yourself–I had to take my IQ test twice to find out my score.

Right now, the foot in my mouth is getting harder and harder to swallow, so I had just as well tell you all about my IQ test mishap so that I can gulp–and you can gasp–and we can all be done with it.

I was in the third grade. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention to the test directions. I don’t remember. I just thought that it was one more fun thing to do on one more fun-filled school day. And everything was going along just fine until I got to the third test question. It was a math question, and it must have been a real challenge. I kept working away on it, and just when I figured out the answer, the exam time was up.

I flunked my IQ test.

“What do you mean? Of course, Brentford Lee has an IQ.”

“But it can’t be determined because he only answered three questions. He didn’t finish the test.”

“Well, give it to him again and make sure he knows that he has to answer all the questions.”

The whole mishap was more embarrassing for my parents than it was for me. It didn’t bother me too much because, in my mind, I blamed them. After all, they were the ones who had taught me:

If a job is once begun

Never leave until it’s done.

Be it’s labor great or small,

Do it well or not at all.

Naturally, when I was challenged by that math question, it became my job. I kept working on it all the way to the end of the exam time. In my mind, that question became my great labor. I was fiercely determined to figure it out. Until I did–and I did, eventually–I couldn’t begin to think about all those other questions. In my mind, they didn’t even exist.

Well, like I said, I had to take the test again to establish for someone’s benefit that I had an IQ. I guess I showed them a thing or two because I didn’t have to take it a third time.

But don’t ask me to tell you my IQ score. I can no more remember it than I can remember my Myers-Briggs personality type. I always have to have Jenni remind me. (Dear Readers, you do remember Jenni, right? She’s my dear colleague, who set me up for this mishaps-and-memories nonsense in the first place.) Anyway, I’m 75% certain that I’m an ENFJ. It’s the 25% J part that always causes me to ask Jenny. Unlike me, she remembers everything.

Here. I’ll prove it. I just sent her a text message:

What is my Myers Briggs type?

If I recall correctly, aren’t you ENFP?


I know the E and P for sure. The other two I think are right…

See. I told you. Jenni remembered. I am ENFP, and I’m sticking with it for now.

Wow! I’m glad that I told you all about my IQ mishap.

Now I can move on.

I mentioned last week that the mishap that sparked last week’s post might have had something to do with cooking or baking.

Now, however, I don’t think that it had anything to do with baking. I have shared my one memorable baking mishap already in my “Baking Up My Past.” Remember? In my first childhood baking adventure, I measured the baking powder incorrectly. Neither I nor my mother knew until batter oozed out the door of our South Bend, woodburning-cookstove, onto the kitchen floor.

Obviously, I have had other baking mishaps down through the years. But I have my reputation to protect–in my own mind, at least, even if nowhere else–so I’ll keep those to myself.

As for cooking mishaps, I do have one that always makes me laugh. It proves, once again, how naive and innocent and unschooled I am in the ways of the world.

I’m not certain, however, that it can be considered cooking. Is popping popcorn cooking? And it involves a microwave. I’m fairly certain that preparing anything in a microwave can not be considered cooking.

Nonetheless, here’s the laughable mishap that might have been related to cooking, depending on your culinary views.

For years, I would have nothing to do with microwaves. But the time came when my oldest sister Audrey talked me into letting her gift me with a microwave. As near as I can remember, it would have been around 1994 when my now full-time home in the Shenandoah Valley was then just a weekend getaway. She thought that I could use the microwave, if for nothing else, for popping popcorn. I mean, who doesn’t like popcorn? So I accepted her gift, not realizing how big the microwave was nor how much it weighed. It was, after all, 1994, and by then microwaves had advanced a lot, and they were much smaller than the commercial refrigerator-sized RadarRanges that Raytheon brought out in the 1940s. I assumed that my gift would be modern and small, too.

Small? Not. It was huge. It took up nearly all of the island counter space in what was then my super-small, weekend kitchen.

But, hey. I’m always up for a popping good time. So I bought a box of Jolly Time popcorn packets.

I put a pack in my clunker microwave and stood there in full anticipation.

Nothing. No popping sounds. No popcorn aromas.


I tried again. Nothing. As my IQ test mishap demonstrates, I don’t give up. I went through the entire damn box and my entire damn evening. Nothing.

The next day, I took the box and all of the unpopped packets back to the store.

“I want to get my Jolly Time money back. This popcorn must be old. None of it would pop.”

I walked away with a refund.

A few weeks later, my sister called to see how I was enjoying the microwave.

I told her about my disappointing popcorn experience.

“What cooking mode did you have it on?”

“Say whaat? Cooking mode?”

She explained the controls and the various options.

“Run into the kitchen and check. I’ll stay on the line.”

I was back in a sec.

“It’s on … Defrost.”

Dang. Defrost. Needless to say, I felt like an idiot. For some reason, I never did like that microwave after that memorable mishap.

At last, I remember the mishap that started all of these confessions. It was decidedly a technological mishap, even more embarrassing than the microwave one.

This mishap happened in the late 1980s or early 1990s when Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone introduced Caller ID to its subscribers in Washington, DC. I had just launched my own side gig–Potomac Research Organization (PRO)–and I felt a compelling need to monitor my incoming calls.

Instanter I went downtown and bought myself new phones so that I would know who was calling me.

As soon as I installed them, I called my sister in Richmond:

“Hey. I just bought these new Caller ID phones. Call me so I can see who’s calling.”

She did. Her name and number did not show up on my phone.

I did the same thing with my oldest sister in West Virginia.

She called me. Again, her name and number did not show up on my phone.

I unplugged my phones, boxed them up, and on Monday, I marched in the store, asking that my defective phones be replaced.

What do you mean by defective?

I explained in detail my two “test” experiments with my two sisters.

The salesperson looked at me with a smirky smile that still makes me cringe:

“Have you enrolled in Caller ID with Chesapeake and Potomac?”

“Say whaaaaat? Do you mean to tell me that I have to buy new phones AND enroll in Caller ID? Well, I have never.”

I got my money back, and I was perfectly happy living my life exactly as I had been living it: answering my phone without knowing who was calling. Or not answering it at all.

Yes, indeed! Caller ID was the mishap that sparked the idea for last week’s post and for this one, too.

I wish that I could say that I have learned a lot from my mishaps. I haven’t. And I wish that I could say that I won’t have any more mishaps. But I will. And I will keep right on laughing through all the memories.

M & M’s: Mishaps & Memories

“To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.”

William Arthur Ward (1921-1994; American motivational writer.)

Memory of an elephant. Yep. That’s exactly what I’ve got, and you–My Dear Readers–can vouch for me. As you know, I can drone on and on about many things, especially about my elephant memory. I did so just week before last in “Dating after Twenty-Three.” Remember? Of course, you do.

But here’s the thing. For this week’s post, I’m in a bit of a pickle. I’m having a memory lapse.

Don’t worry. I’m sure that it’s minor, and I’m sure that it’s momentary. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what the hell this post is supposed to be about. I don’t mean in the broadest sense of its content. Of course, I know that fully well: mishaps and memories.

The idea sparked as miraculously as spontaneous combustion one day last fall when a dear colleague and I were exchanging lighthearted banter, and I ended up fessing up to one of the many mishaps that I’ve suffered down through the years that ended up as memories.

As soon as I shared it with her, she quipped:

“That would be an excellent angle for one of your blog posts.”

I agreed. Almost immediately, I started a draft and made it as far as the preliminary title: “Mishaps and Memories.” In an instant, the two M’s seemed sweet enough to melt in my mouth, so the working title became the final title of today’s delectable treat: “M & M’s: Mishaps & Memories.”

Immediately, I loved the quadruple alliteration as well as the double ampersand. I still love them. Plus, in high school, I learned that every good title has a main title and a subtitle, separated with a colon. Can you believe that I remembered that little rule after all these years and used it here with a full measure of success?

But I sure wish that I could remember the memorable mishap that sparked this idea the day that my colleague and I were having such frivolous merriment on paid college time. (Oops! Did I just say that? Well, so be it. It’s not a problem for me anyway because I’m no longer on the college’s payroll. I’m reinventing myself at my own expense. It’s no problem for my colleague either because I have not disclosed her identity.)

Let’s see. What can I do to jog my memory? I know. I’ll use my alphabet technique for remembering things. Starting with the letter A, I’ll slowly work my way through the alphabet, lingering on each letter for a bit. When I get to the letter of whatever it is that I’m trying to remember, the entire word will flash apocalyptically across my mind.

Well, I’ve been from A to Z and back. Not once. Not twice. But three times. No apocalypse.

Well, duh. Why don’t I just text Jenny? I’m sure that she would remember our conversation. On the other hand, doing that would give me a ready answer and spoil all my fun and yours, too.

If I keep at it, I’m sure that I’ll remember. Aside from my foolproof alphabet technique, I have another technique for remembering things. But right now, I can’t remember it either.

So where was I? Oh, yes. I remember. I was trying to remember my memorable mishaps.

Well, let me just start sharing some, and as I share, maybe–just maybe–I’ll remember the one that Jenny thought was so riveting.

The mishap that I am about to share was the result of my naivete and innocence coupled with my polite and courteous outspokenness, for which I am so well known.

When I started my Federal career, I was part of a large editorial team. One of my co-workers was Ed-h B-l-–r. After a year or so, I transferred to another editorial position in the same Federal agency, but in a different building.

On my first day in my new position, I was introduced to one of my fellow editors, H-l-n B-l—r.

Since their last names were the same, I assumed that they were related, and I was so delighted with myself that I had a perfect way to get into a perfect conversation with her.

“It’s an honor to meet you. Are you related to Ed–h B-l—r?”

“Do you mean the bitch who stole my husband?”

What an embarrassing mishap. Now, though, it’s a funny memory.

Okay. Let’s try another mishap confirming that I am naive, innocent, and downright dumb when it comes to being politely and courteously outspoken.

Fast-forward, if you will, a good number of years. Same Federal agency. Different position. Different building.

In that position, I had to review everything that the staff ghostwrote for my boss, the director.

One memo caused me to have some major concerns, and I called them to B-n’s attention.

“Go down there right now and tell N-r- that this is nothing but a piece of sh-t.”

I did as directed.

“Good morning, N-r-.” I flashed my widest smile as I handed her the document. “B-n told me to tell you that this memo is nothing but a piece of sh-t.”

N-r- stormed out, taking the stairs to B-n’s office on the sixth floor. I took the elevator, hoping to warn B-n. Fury must have wings. She beat me to his office where I found her giving him a piece of … her mind.

Sadly, these two foot-in-mouth mishaps haven’t taken me any closer to the mishap that I’m struggling to remember.

Maybe it had something to do with technology?

Maybe it had something to do with cooking or baking?

Maybe it had something to do with both?

Surely, it didn’t have anything to do with my IQ test. I don’t think that I have ever disclosed that mishap to one single solitary living soul. No, not one.

And, please, please, please, Dear Colleague who was with me when the idea combusted originally: do NOT reveal your identity by commenting on this post to tell me the memorable mishap that I can’t remember. You must remember that I have done everything in my power to keep it concealed.

Also, doing so would make me look really dumb. Work with me. Give me a little more time. By next week’s post, I’ll surely remember the memorable mishap that I can’t remember right now.