At one time or another, we all--peons to presidents--have been red-faced, victims of The Big H.
It can be trivial, like showing up in a khaki suit when the occasion calls for Black Tie. Or catastrophic, such as being the object of scandal in public office.
But usually humiliation is fleeting and can be banished--or at least minimized--if you know what to do. Here are some humiliating situations and what you can do about them. Tres Bien
A former waitress working an all-you-can-eat lunch in the Catskills loaded up her tray with everything from strawberries to kasha ("the grits of the Catskills"), all in the name of saving a trip back to the kitchen. Sure enough, the tray tipped--all over an impeccably dressed matron's shoulders.
After the longest hour in that young woman's life, a longtime restaurant pro pulled her aside and whispered, "Look, kid, if it ever happens again, go down with the tray."
"Go down with the tray?"
"Yeah," said Norman. "So instead of them saying, 'Look at that klutzy kid,' they'll say, 'Oh my, the poor overworked girl fainted. Get a doctor.' " Booking It
Caught swimming in the Tidal Basin late at night? Did Watergate bring you down? Former husband booted from Congress for taking money from a fake Arab sheik? Turn humiliation into happiness and profits. Get yourself an agent and write a book. The number for the William Morris Agency in New York: (212) 586-5100. Let Them Eat Chicken
Disaster in the kitchen. One hour to go before your dinner guests arrive and everything possible has gone wrong: the souffle' has fallen, the boeuf bourguignon has burned and the corn is wormy. Initial panic sets in before a cool, calm rationale follows. What would Julia Child do? She'd probably start over again and without missing a beat prepare another meal and be ready on time.
But you're not Julia and you've already wasted 15 precious minutes in a comatose state. Help can be on the way with a phone call to Avignone Fre res (265-0332). After being in business for over 65 years, nothing phases them; they've done it all before and can whip up a meal (for $20 to $25 per person) almost on the spot.
Smaller budget? Call Howie's Chik 'N Bucket and get "A Big Family Special" that feeds five: two chickens, a quart of cole slaw, a box of french fries or potato salad (25 cents extra), and old-fashioned muffins, all for $18.25. They deliver in most parts of Northwest D.C. and are open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday (966-2740). The Missing Car
Friday afternoon and you're finishing the week with flair. A table is waiting at Le Lion D'Or and so is the lovely Ms. you've been trying to wine and dine for weeks. Running late, you park your car illegally and decide you'd rather play roulette with the D.C. Department of Transportation than keep her waiting any longer.
After a meal from escargot to chocolate mousse and a few bottles of Dom Perignon, things are going so well that you've decided to continue the date with a few drinks at the Four Seasons. Check paid, you come out of the restaurant and discover your car's been towed. Unless you act fast, your stock with the lady is going downhill faster than Jean-Claude Killy.
Wait, there is a solution. Find the closest phone booth (not to play Superman, you've already blown that) and call Humiliation Elimination, Inc. (298-5522). They'll untangle the paperwork for you in about half an hour while you slip into a nearby bar for a drink. Then, on request, they'll send a chauffeur-driven limousine, complete with wine, snacks and flowers on a silver tray and take you and your date to the impoundment lot in style. Or, if you prefer, HEI will pick up the car and bring it directly to you.
At least you'll have made a long-lasting impression on your companion. One-year membership fee for Humiliation Elimination, Inc.: $45. Handle With Care
"My hand," yelped the boss to his secretary, "my hand is stuck in the drawer handle." Boss and secretary removed the drawer, wrestled it to the ground, considered calling in the fire department, the police, an ambulance. They tried every possible angle, but neither drawer nor hand would give.
When the 3 o'clock appointment arrived, the executive exuded savoir-faire, even though a drawer was hanging from one hand as he shook hands with the other. Miraculously, after the 3 o'clock appointment had exited and three other employes shimmied, shook, twisted and pulled, the drawer and hand parted company. Moral: Never let humiliation get the upper hand. When Credit Is Due
The man took his most important client for a three-martini lunch at a cushy restaurant. Pro forma, he presented his major charge card to the waiter at meal's end. The waiter, returning with card cut in half, declared that credit had been denied and the authorization company had demanded that the card be destroyed immediately.
That never should happen, according to an American Express spokesman. What should happen is that the person in the authorization department should ask to speak directly to the customer. If the cardholder has notified the company that the new card has not been received, if it has been reported lost or stolen, or if the cardholder is "grossly delinquent," the authorization people are instructed to tell the merchant not to accept the charges.
Usually, says the spokesman, the matter can be resolved over the phone, but it takes 24 hours before a new card will be issued.
Meanwhile, pray for an understanding client. Brain Drain
You keep bumping into old friends on the street and can't remember their names. What's worse is that you're with someone and you can't introduce them. Stop off at the library and pick up a book by Dan Halacy, How to Improve Your Memory. Zipper Zap
Five minutes before your report to the board of directors, you discover to your horror that you've broken the %*??**!!! zipper. What to do?
One enterprising executive confessed that when it happened to him, he carried books between waist and knees; another wore an overcoat. (But in summer?)
Lachman Keswani, a tailor for Saville of London always has pins under his lapel "so I could pin it up if need be. But most men don't have pins. A jacket sometimes helps to cover, but not much."
Diverting attention is the key. Smile your million-dollar corporate smile. Use sweeping hand gestures to elaborate each eloquent sentence. Spot your tie with brown gravy stains, black ink, yogurt, anything.
And maybe no one will notice.