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.