Contest winner (and runners-up)

As promised, I present the winner of the most recent Book Contest, the prize being an autographed, hardback, first-printing edition of Faith versus Fact, with a cat drawn in it to the reader’s specifications.

As you may recall, the contest question was this:

Recount the funniest or most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you. (Note: it doesn’t have to be embarrassing if it’s just funny, or it can be both.)

There were 427 responses, though not all of them were official entries. Our Super-Secret Panel of Judges™ (which did not include me) had a very difficult time choosing a winner, as there were tons of hilarious and cringe-worthy incidents in the mix. In the end, the panel chose eight finalists, and then, after long cogitation, picked from them a winner. I’m reproducing all the finalists below. That said, there were many entries that didn’t make the cut but were still a hoot; do peruse the thread if you have time.

Thanks to everyone who entered, especially those forced to dredge up old embarrassments in hopes of getting a book. But be assured that your tales provided considerable amusement!

And now, sans drum roll, we present. . .

THE WINNER! LEO GLENN, write me and claim your prize. 

Leo Glenn

Posted May 6, 2015 at 7:32 pm 

While living in Japan in my early twenties, I embarked on a trip with a group of friends across the rugged northern island of Hokkaido. We travelled on the cheap, camping, hosteling, and stopping daily to take full advantage of the numerous local volcanic hot springs. We especially liked the little, out-of-the-way places largely passed over by the tourist trade.

The Japanese patrons were sometimes apprehensive at first to see foreigners at their hot spring, but they quickly relaxed when they saw that we knew the proper protocol–wash first at the shower stations, rinse thoroughly, and remove all clothing before entering the hot spring. After the initial surprise at our presence, we were mostly ignored, apart from the inevitable side-long glances at our nether regions, to satisfy their curiosity about what Westerners really looked like “down there”.

One day we happened upon a glorious, family-friendly hot spring waterfall, where clothing was required. I wore a brand new pair of bright red shorts. By the end of the day I noticed with mild interest that my red shorts had faded to a dull pink. When I pulled them off, however, I was shocked to discover that the red dye had transferred to my skin, turning everything from my navel to my upper thighs an incandescent red. The overall effect, in contrast with my naturally pale skin, was quite alarming, as if that section of my body was critically inflamed, or tattooed in some bizarre sexual ritual. My shock turned to dismay, of course, when I realized that we would be visiting another hot spring that evening.

My only hope was to try to wash it off as discreetly as possible in the shower area and to slip into the hot spring without anyone noticing. Needless to say, it did not go as planned. In my determination to rub the dye off, I only succeeded in genuinely inflaming my skin, making it appear even worse, if that were possible, and my vigorous rubbing only served to attract unwanted attention. I looked up to find every head turned in my direction–not subtle, surreptitious glances, but full-on, wide-eyed, open-mouthed stares. I could not have drawn more attention to myself had I pulled my shorts down to a fanfare of trumpets. There I was, a pasty white foreigner amidst a group of 30-40 Japanese men, all of us naked, with my naughty bits the color of the lurid red barbecued pork-on-a-stick you find in Chinese restaurants. I tried my best to act nonchalant as I edged toward the pool, knowing my Japanese was not nearly good enough even to attempt an explanation. The stares diminished after I sank to my neck in the hot water, although it did seem to me that I had considerably more space around me than usual.

The dye stubbornly persisted, despite my increasingly desperate efforts to remove it, and I got to repeat the experience daily for several more days. I can only imagine the conversations that must have taken place in those hot springs after I left.

As far as I know, people with tattooes aren’t allowed in Japanese communal pools, so perhaps that complicated Leo’s situation!

*******

THE RUNNERS-UP

Jean-Marc

Posted May 3, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Hi, I am French. This is important for my story.
Some years ago, I went to California with my wife, and we spent a few days with our American friends there. One day, we went to a restaurant near a beach. While we were eating I noticed a seal a few meters from us, and I told, in French, to my wife : “Oh, regarde, le joli phoque !” ( “Oh, look at this beautiful seal” ). And she said ‘Oh, what a beautiful “phoque”‘, and then, ‘Look, there is even a baby “phoque” over there’, and so on. 1 minute after that conversation, I noticed that everyone in the restaurant had stopped eating and was looking at us. My American friend just told me : “Seals. These are seals…”. As you have already guessed, the pronunciation for “phoque” is pretty much the same as for your F word…

*******

Markie Massey

Posted May 10, 2015 at 11:49 am)

It’s not very often that my delicate female nature is rattled. I’m not often compared to a soft spoken lady, because I’m usually the one being “one of the guys”. Dates were not something I did often, and I usually decided pretty quickly into the event that I’d much rather be doing a thousand other things.

This date was different. This particular person was fantastic, funny and cute, easy to talk to, all the normal swoony things. For once I remembered to order something not messy, not a burger or ribs to which to embarrass myself, and I was on a roll with conversations and jokes. I was doing just fine.

Until my stomach betrayed me. I’ll never forget it. It was like something out of a nightmare. Sitting side by side in a car, in the small lull between conversation, a very small “poot” sounded from under me.

Ice water trickled down my spine. Was that me? No. No…of course not!

“…did you just fart?” He asked, eyebrows raised.

I wanted to calm open the moving car door and leave. Just quietly climb out to my death. My cheeks were on fire, my eyes wide and horrified. “Uuuuh….”

Great response. I’m the best at being a sultry dame.

Luckily for me, the silence was shattered by his laughter. This knight swept to my rescue by telling me how amused he was by the horror on my face, which gave me permission to laugh. The night actually was a grand success after that, though I still get nauseated from recounting it.

That knight is married to me now. He swears it’s going to be the story we tell our kids.

I disagree.

*******

vothemort

Posted May 9, 2015 at 2:03 pm

It was the beginning my last year of undergrad and it was time to start my thesis project in microbiology. I was very excited. My first actual research lab experience with my own project. Stained lab bench, the smell of media, Bunsen burners and all.

Another student and I came in one early morning before lectures and had a meet and greet with the lab’s graduate students (As they do all the actual lab work). Seeming very casual, we stood around exchanging formalities. I placed my book bag down and leaned against the bench.

Down to business, the MSc student asked if were both familiar with general lab safety.

‘Oh yes’ I said, in my most confident and authoritative voice. We had just completed our 45 min department training session.

Before the MSc student could continue with his spiel, my fellow undergrad yelled ‘Dylan, You’re on fire!’.

After a brief scuffle, the pilot light from a Bunsen burner had created a baseball sized hole in my sweater. And in my ego.

Needless to say, every weekly lab meeting that year ended with a variation on ‘please don’t set yourself on fire’.

*******

arizonajones

Posted May 10, 2015 at 10:58 am 

Years ago, when I was a UPS driver, I was delivering to a house, knocking on the door when I suddenly hear the sound of little porcelain feet. The front door slowly and laboriously opens, and there, at my feet was a little pink smurf, 4 year old Melissa.

Bent over, hands on my knees, slowly and with great emphasis I said; “Now darling, I want you to go find your mommy and tell her that the ..EWE..PEA..ESS.. man is here!”. Melissa gave me a big toothless grin, scampered down the hall and disappeared into the kitchen. Suddenly,”Melissa, who’s that at the door?”. Melissa, with her feet apart, fists on her hips, in her most serious face, looked up; “Mom!” she replied, “It’s the PUS man!”.

Great. Here I am this big burly truck driver, and this little sugar cube has re-branded me “The Pus Man”.

Back at our office was a middle aged clerk, who had worked for UPS for many years, of fine character and great demeanor, named Rose. When I came back to the office, I told Rose how this little Munchkin had demoted me to “The Pus Man” and we both had a good laugh over it.

Two months later Rose retired from UPS. Being someone whom I was going to miss greatly, I got what thought to be a fairly restrained farewell card: “Yadi yadi yada; Live long and prosper”, signed – “Randy, The Pus Man

I handed her the card, she read it, and suddenly hit the floor in a state of hysterics, and I had no idea why because, quite frankly, the card wasn’t that funny.

It turned out, it was my fault. You see, I had no idea that the word “pus” was spelled with only one “S”. Yes, it’s true; I gave a married woman, I only knew through work, a farewell card signed – “Randy, the puss man”.

I offered to fix it for her, but she said no, it was “a keeper” and that she was going to take it home and show it to her husband.

*******

bobkillian

Posted May 5, 2015 at 10:09 am

I was sitting in a bank, across the desk from a loan officer as we were completing the paperwork for a loan. I saw on her desk name plate that her last name was Kekkonnen. “Is that Finnish?” I asked. She looked up and said “Yes, you can go now.”

*******

John Hamill

Posted May 4, 2015 at 10:21 am 

During May of 2014, I agreed to write a piece for an Irish newspaper on the Irish blasphemy law. The copy that I submitted included the following passage:

“… the Catholic Church can tell atheists that some day an Iron Age Jew will return to earth (riding on a cloud, while blowing a trumpet) and resurrect their dead bodies, for the singular purpose of torturing them in fire for all eternity. However, if an atheist simply states what they might think about this doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus and the character of Jesus Christ who preached it, they can be prosecuted for blasphemy in the civil courts.”

The sub editor that I was dealing with refused to publish the full paragraph as he believed (probably correctly) that many of his Christian readers would be offended by the idea of Jesus riding on a cloud while blowing a trumpet. I pointed out that since in Matthew 24:30-31, Jesus prophesized his own return in exactly these terms, it would in fact be blasphemous to suggest that the second coming would not occur in this manner.

As you might imagine, the sub-editor had little interest in debating the theological or legal definition of blasphemy and simply wished to avoid any prospect of litigation. As such, the easiest thing for him to do was simply to censor these words. The Irish blasphemy law therefore caused the words of Jesus to be censored as they were perceived as too ridiculous to be tolerated by Christians.

True story.

*******

rickflick

Posted May 3, 2015 at 8:51 pm 

It had just stopped raining and I was eager to get outside. I was all of 8 years old at the time and already a budding naturalist. My personal collection consisted of a garter snake, 3 or 4 chubs from the local creek, and toad found in the rhubarb behind the garage, and an assortment of bugs. You could say I was animal crazy and dreamed of having a complete menagerie of all the world’s creatures.

I was out on safari, you could call it, along the unpaved road a block from home when I spotted an enormous, black bird, standing still in the ditch, and soaking wet. I got pretty close and it cawed a bit but did not fly. But, how could it? It was slicked down with rain water. Clearly in distress, a little shaky looking. My instinct for capture was alerted as was my desire to rescue the gleaming beast. I would take it home and dry its ruffled feathers and feed it back to health. Then I’d release it here on the road where I found it so it could rejoin its family who must at this very moment be perched in the trees at the other side of the field. They must be watching me now, I thought.

I’d have to make a trap to get hold of the bird for I sensed it would not let me get much closer. I raced home running, and grabbed a cardboard box and string and a few slices of bread. Back again to the road I went, hoping the sad, wet, bird was still there. It was. I propped the box on a stick and tied the string at its base ready to pull. With bread as bait, I placed the box as close as I dared to the shivering bird. I tucked myself down low in the ditch on the opposite side of the road with the string in my hand to wait. The bird must be starving I knew and would soon be tempted by the bread. I decided to just wait him out. Soon he’d see that I was his and friend and rescuer, and I’d have him in my collection, at least for a while.

I was greatly upset when I noticed a man at some distance strolling toward us along the rain soaked road. He’s going to pass right over my sting and frighten the bird away! As he drew nearer I saw he walked with a cane, had a white beard, and black coat and hat. A tramp I thought. I was going to be thwarted in my mission of mercy by this hobo. There was nothing I could do to send that fool back the way he’d come.

Just as the man reached my string, he looked down,…and at my box trap, and then at the bird. “Come on Sammy”, he said, and the bird squawked once and flew up straight to the man’s shoulder. With the black bird perched on the black coat, the man continued down the road and didn’t even look back.

18 Comments

  1. Hempenstein
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Markie couldda had it worse. I’m pretty sure that PCC has never heard this one, but the following legend outlasted this guy’s time @ W&M. At least, he was long gone by the time I heard it. Dirty Ernie Donahauer (you’ll soon understand how he got his nickname) was apparently known for stuff like this, but it’s the only story I remember.

    Ernie asked a girl out to a movie from a sorority known for the, er, general un-attractiveness of its members. They settle into seats in the middle of the theater, and shortly before the movie started, when there were plenty of people but it was pretty quiet, he lets out a fart that reverberated in the space. Then he gets up and says, loudly, “You gross bitch!” and walks out. Naturally, the poor girl was in tears.

    Filed under Cruel Humor, I guess. I’m surprised that Ernie survived to graduate.

  2. Posted May 15, 2015 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Those are all great stories.

    I didn’t submit this to the contest, because it didn’t fit the requirement of being the most embarrassing thing ever to happen to me, but since some of your runners-up stories aren’t really embarrassing either, allow me to share the weirdest thing ever to happen to me.

    Back in the 1980s I lived in Eugene, Oregon. Early one morning I looked outside, and to my bafflement, discovered that a very large egg had been deposited on my front lawn. I mean, very large — about 2½ feet long, and almost too heavy to lift. Okay, it was obviously not a natural egg, but some kind of man-made object, but what the heck was it, and where did it come from? What does one do in such circumstances? I decided to call the police.

    The police call-taker took my information, although I don’t think I persuaded her that I was being completely truthful. After the call, I turned on my police radio scanner, and in due course I heard the following exchange:

    dispatcher: Five-adam-82, station one
    cop: Five-adam-82
    dispatcher: Complainant at 1292 Tyler Street reports that he found a giant egg on his property.
    cop: Ten-four, that’s where we left it.

    Yes, the police had left a giant egg in my yard.

    And that’s the last I heard of it. The egg sat there for a while, but one day it was gone. I think I know what happened. A couple of blocks away there was a house decorated with weird sculptures — twisted pieces of metal painted gaudy colors and so forth. An artist must have lived there. Probably the egg was part of one of his installations, and some prankster filched it, but finding it too heavy to carry very far, deposited it in the street in front of my house. A passing cop had removed the road hazard to the nearest patch of grass.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 16, 2015 at 4:05 am | Permalink

      That’s funny! 😀

  3. TJR
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    The weirdest thing that happened to me:

    When I was about 30 I rebelled against a corrupt and self-serving priestly hierarchy. They didn’t like this and had me executed.

    Then, a few hundred years after my death, people created an even more corrupt and self-serving priestly hierarchy, and did it in my name!

    I could have died of embarrassment.

    – Jesus

  4. Mark R.
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the great stories and laughs! I can see how the judges had trouble picking the best one, but I think they got it right.

    Rickflick- was it a tame crow? I’ve heard they could be tamed, but didn’t know they would actually heed one’s beck and call.

    • rickflick
      Posted May 15, 2015 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      Apparently yes. It must have been the guy’s pet crow.

      • Mark R.
        Posted May 16, 2015 at 1:01 am | Permalink

        When reading your description, I sort of thought of him as an evil Stephen King character. Move along sir…wtf? Maybe the best thing that ever happened to you is you didn’t catch that bird. Muwahahaha. That would have been an invitation to the Twilight Zone.

        • rickflick
          Posted May 16, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink

          In my memory now, I figure, by the way he was dressed, he was an elderly local farmer originally from Eastern Europe. This was in the west suburbs of Toronto, and there were tons of immigrants in the outlying countryside.

      • Diane G.
        Posted May 16, 2015 at 4:06 am | Permalink

        I absolutely loved your story!

        • rickflick
          Posted May 16, 2015 at 7:36 am | Permalink

          Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Posted May 15, 2015 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    congratulations, Leo Glenn!

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Congratulations to the winner, and a h/t to the runners up.

    I and many others at least have the consolation of revealing some of our most embarrassing stories for posterity on the internet.

  7. Posted May 15, 2015 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Congrats, all!

    b&

  8. Posted May 15, 2015 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Excellent choices, all! Solid evidence of the absurdity of human existence.

  9. Posted May 15, 2015 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Congrats, Leo! I pegged you for the winner. The top ones were all fun to read.

  10. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Excellent one, Leo.

    Moral: when you’re in the middle of deep doodoo, and wishing you could just disappear, just think – ‘this will make a great story one day’.

  11. Diane G.
    Posted May 16, 2015 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    Congratulations Leo, and all finalists as well! Thanks to everyone who submitted a story for the sleep I lost and the chores I neglected just trying to keep up with the influx. Srsly, they were good for so many belly-laughs–it’s a good thing to be so pleasantly and consistently amused. And to remember that into each a life, a little humiliation must fall…

  12. Sarah
    Posted May 16, 2015 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Hilarious stories, and all very well told!


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