It happened in 1971, I was a young single man in my early twenties. I was working as a technician for a company in Yorkshire, England. At the same company we had a lady in our public relations department, a middle-aged lady by the name of Priscilla.
Priscilla’s persona was the very antithesis to mine, in every way. She was very upper class, well bred with a plummy finishing school accent. She oozed refinement. Back to the embarrassing part.
My lifestyle at the time was simple—go out every night, consume many pints of strong beer, Tetley’s Best Bitter to be precise, and finish the evening with a fiery hot Indian curry. Tetley’s Best Bitter was a flatulence inducing brew. There was even a little ditty written about it…“Oh the men of Tetley’s brewery drink all day and fart like fury” And of course, we all know how an Indian curry can produce the strongest of intestinal reactions.
So, there I was driving to work in my Mini Cooper, recovering from the previous night’s excess of beer and curry. The weather outside was Arctic. Minus 5 degrees with a howling blizzard. I stopped at a red light. Alongside me was a bus stop. At the bus stop stood Priscilla.
She had dropped off her car for a service and was taking the bus to work. No courtesy lifts in those days. At the very second that I spotted Priscilla, I let out a fart of Olympic proportions. Overnight the beer and the curry had conspired to produce something reminiscent of rotten eggs fermented with last week’s boiled cabbage, the essence of decomposing corpses thrown in for extra effect. Ordinarily one’s own farts do not offend oneself, only innocent bystanders. But this had me gasping, it was evil personified.
Then the nightmare happened, Priscilla spotted me. With a huge smile, she leapt forward, swung open my passenger door and jumped inside. With her perfect upper-class accent she exclaimed, “Oh Steve how lucky that you came by. Thank you so….” The words stopped. Priscilla’s face contorted into something resembling the agony of a medieval prisoner being burned at the stake. Her eyes watered, her nose scrunched up in disbelief, her lips trembled. She gasped out a few words. “Oh dear Lord, oh I say…”
My bright crimson face stared dead ahead as I uttered the pathetic apology, “I’m sorry Priscilla.” What else could I say? Words failed me. The red light changed to green, I had to drive on, too late for Priscilla to leap out of the car to freedom.
In desperation she frantically opened the passenger side window a few inches. Her lips were tightly sealed, her nose angled to the icy blast of air that rushed into the car. It was a battle of two evils—the icy blast or my fart. Believe me, the icy blast was the far more acceptable option.
The drive to work was in total silence. On arrival I went hastily to my own department. Priscilla hurtled to the ladies’ toilet. For the rest of the day I skillfully manoeuvred around the premises to avoid bumping into Priscilla, the poor unfortunate lady whom my bowels had almost destroyed.
Late in the afternoon Priscilla had to visit my department. My supervisor said, “Priscilla, I know that you have to collect your car, should I ask one of my staff to drive you to the garage?” Priscilla gave me a sideways glance. “No thank you, I think I’ll take the bus.”
Can you beat my experience with your own most embarrassing moment? I challenge you.