A Comedy of Errors

I apologise for borrowing the name of Shakespeare’s play for this post. But while it may not be the most original of titles, I found it to be the most appropriate. I hope, in this one instance, imitation will be considered as the sincerest form of flattery.

Life isn’t all smiles and roses. And, all moments in life are not worthy of being captured on camera. At least, I hope no one is waiting to “immortalise” the moments when I don’t land on my feet, both literally and figuratively. Embarrassments are an inescapable fact of life. We don’t want them but, try as we may, we can not avoid them. And, alongside the happy moments and the miserable ones, these incidents are forever etched in our memory, much to our dismay. So, I thought, why not laugh at them instead. Here are some “bloopers” from my life.

At my first job, I’d start for office at the same time every morning and catch the first bus to the railway station. Because of the routine, most days, I ended up catching the same bus. On one such day, I was late by a couple of minutes and was rushing so that I wouldn’t miss a bus. On exiting the building gate, I glanced back and noticed that a bus to the station was arriving. The stop was some distance from the gate and there was no way that I would’ve caught the bus. So, I resigned myself to my fate and prepared for the uncertain wait for the next bus. But the bus came up and rolled to a halt beside me. I had not tried to hail the bus but the driver recognised me as a regular and stopped. And, I was extremely grateful. And, as any grateful individual would, I thanked him as I got off at the station. From then on, every time I boarded the same bus, I would smile in acknowledgement at the driver as I alighted. When winter came, the bus driver started wearing a balaclava. One day, as I was getting off the bus, the driver was looking the other way. As he turned around, I smiled at him only to realise, to my extreme horror, that it was someone else. I was not in the habit of smiling at strangers and was embarrassed, to say the least. I expected the same driver because he was wearing an identical cap. My expression changed from, smile to shock to frown in a matter of seconds. Looking at my face, the driver must have wondered what he had done to deserve that scowl. But, this incident put me off smiling instinctively for quite a while.

Well if you enjoyed the first one, here is one more to tickle your funny bone. When I had started my first job, leaving at 8:00 PM was the norm. Bag checking was a regular security procedure when leaving for the day. One day, on reaching this checkpoint, as I opened my bag for the check, the security guard said, “Good Night”. Without thinking twice, I replied, “Good Night”. And then I heard him say “Sir”. That’s when I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw one of the training faculty members behind me and I realised who he had been greeting. If the place had been well-lit, he would’ve seen my face turn red but it wasn’t. I tried my best to appear composed and pretend as if nothing had happened as I left the exit behind. But, my attempt at damage control had been a big failure. From then on, whenever I left the building, that security guard would wish me Good Night with a big grin on his face. What’s worse, it’s likely that the guard had narrated the story to his colleagues. As a result, all the other security guards started greeting me. So, whatever the time, whoever the guard, I was always wished Good Night on the way home. Looking back, I guess, it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. In fact, it always brought a smile to my face as I left for home after a long day’s work.

Then, came another incident. It had been raining for days together. I was nursing a sore throat and the weather was not helping matters. I’d been drenched on my way to work that morning and then, again, on the way to the canteen for breakfast. My condition had exacerbated to a level that if, and when, the words came out of my mouth, it sounded as if a frog was croaking instead. I, then, realised that I would have to step out again for some other work. If that was not enough, the rain showed no signs of abating. So, armed with an umbrella, I proceeded to the elevator and braced myself for another battle with the rain. The elevator I got into stopped on another floor. A client I didn’t know got in, smiled and greeted me. Now, after the previous two incidents, I’m sure you can understand my hesitation. After recovering from the initial surprise and looking around to ensure that he was not addressing someone else, I made an attempt to reply, as common courtesy would warrant. But, as I reciprocated, my voice stayed trapped in my throat. I felt like a person who was lip-syncing with the audio input missing. Any polite greeting requires an immediate response. Any more attempts would’ve seemed like an afterthought. At that moment, I wanted to dig a hole right there and bury myself in it. But considering that I was in an elevator, that wasn’t such a smart idea. I wonder what he must’ve thought about my manners. He might’ve stopped being courteous to people altogether and the person to blame would be me.

The following experience proves that lack of awareness can lead you to make a fool of yourself. A while ago, I was having breakfast in the office canteen with a couple of friends. One of them casually remarked, “I heard Osama’s getting married.” The other replied, “Me too.” On hearing this, I said, “But, doesn’t he already have three wives and several children?” I was not prepared for what came next. They stared at me for a few seconds and, then, burst out laughing. And, for the life of me, I had no idea why. Then the explanation came. They weren’t talking about Osama bin Laden. They were talking about a batchmate from our training days who had been nicknamed Osama. Now, how in the world was I supposed to know that? But, I should’ve because everyone else did.

These are a few of the many “goof-ups” that have been an indelible part of my life. Some have managed to overshadow the others over time. I guess it’s never too bad to have a laugh, even if comes at your own expense.


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