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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Foot-In-Mouth Disease

A few years ago the web went crazy over a video of a teen pageant contestant who answered a question by going over the river and through the woods, missing Grandmother's house completely, using a lot of words, and saying nothing. I think we relish these moments because deep down we are ecstatic that it wasn't us. I know that while I have the ability to be a reasonably good communicator, I was also born with an impairment that enables my brain to go on about it's business while leaving my mouth running blindly at a lower speed.

Yes, I am one of those. A sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease. You know, when your brain doesn't stick around to take care of your mouth, you could get in a lot of trouble. I first realized I had a runaway brain when I was in third grade. While I was playing with one of my classmates during recess one day, I heard a fire engine's siren. Thinking that a kid might be hurt, I said something along the lines of, "I hope nobody fell in the ditch! There's a fire truck coming." Only it didn't quite come out of my mouth that way. Somehow fire truck was considerably shortened, and ended up with only four letters. I am sure I do not have to tell you what those four letters were. 

My eyes goggled out of my head as I clapped both of my hands over my mouth. I had never used that word in my entire life, and I was horrified. Naturally, being a true friend, my third-grade classmate said, "I'm telling the teacher on you!" I did manage to convince her that I had not meant to use that word and begged her not to tell. She did not, and I survived my humiliation and shock mostly unscathed. 

Fast-forward to me training a group of newly-hired telephone customer service bankers. I was recounting a funny true story of a customer service call gone wrong. A lady called one of our bankers to say that she had a serious problem. There was a psychic, she said, that was dematerializing the checks she wrote, changing the amounts, and then rematerializing them. The banker tried very hard to deal with the situation, but had to pass on the call to her manager. The manager then had to pass it on to her manager. When the customer wanted to speak with her manager, the manager of the entire call center, she asked another same-level manager to "be her boss." 

By now about forty-five minutes had passed. Marcia said to the customer, "I want you to know that XYZ Bank hires the best and most powerful psychics to put protective force-fields around all of our buildings. I assure you that none of our customers' checks can be dematerialized and rematerialized." The caller thanked her and everything was over and done with. One of the trainees said, "So the banker should have just said that in the first place?" My reply? "Well, I know if I had said that to a customer and my call was being monitored, I'd have gotten a big, fat, flipping fail on it." Do I really have to tell you how it ended up coming out of my mouth? I didn't think so.

I guess it could be worse. Instead of accidental swears, it could be stuff that makes me look really dense. I could be the girl who asked our seventh-grade Science teacher how rocks had babies. He thought she was being smart-alecky but she was being sincere. Or there was the time that one of my best friends had a brain meltdown, also in a Science class. Our teacher asked for ideas on conducting an experiment to measure whether the center of a glacier moved faster than the sides. One of our classmates suggested putting down stakes and measuring how far they moved. My friend had a confused look on her face and asked, "But if you put steaks on the ice, wouldn't the animals eat them?" 

I'm not sure which version of the curse is worse. But I still manage to put my foot in my mouth from time to time. Perhaps it would taste better with ketchup?