I am sure most of us grew up hearing this expression and immediately recognize the meaning behind it. In the mid-20th century it was a popular joke to say “every time I open my mouth I put my foot in it.” This became so commonplace that people took to speaking of “putting one’s foot in one’s mouth” and a tactless person as “having foot-in-mouth disease“.
We see this so much today…it has become the norm watching the news- the exception being…perpetrators don’t seem that embarrassed by it much any more…conveniently “amnesia” sets in immediately following whatever the verbal mistake.
But haven’t the rest of us all been embarrassed by a mistake like this, more times than we would like to remember and wish we could rewind the words back into our mouths? When I read this funny anecdote on some college students who got “busted” for “putting their foot in their mouths” I had to laugh and then I figured on a dreary Monday morning…we could all use a few laughs.
The story goes like this: “What the Dean Caught When he Threw the Line Out”…
One night four college kids stayed out late, partying and having a good time. They paid no mind to the test they had scheduled for the next day and didn’t study. In the morning, they hatched a plan to get out of taking their test.
They covered themselves with grease and dirt and went to the Dean’s office. Once there, they said they had been to a wedding the previous night and on the way back they got a flat tire and had to push the car back to campus.
The Dean listened to their tale of woe and thought for a few minutes. Finally he offered them a retest three days later. They thanked him and accepted his offer. (Grinning and laughing smugly about how they had ‘pulled one over on the Dean’.)
When the test day arrived, they initially met the Dean in his office. He then took them down the hall and put them all in separate rooms for the test…which they did think a little odd.
Still…they were fine with this since they had actually studied for the test with all the extra time. But then they saw the test. It had 2 questions.
1) Your Name __________ (1 Points)
2) Which tire burst? __________ (99 Points)
Options – (a) Front Left (b) Front Right (c) Back Left (d) Back Right
B U S T E D ! ! ! ! ! Have a good day! Your “Insightful” Dean”
The whole time I was re-typing this funny little “life lesson learned” anecdote…my neurons were lighting up… as I remembered one of the funniest “Busted” stories from our Ya friend, Libby. (But believe me..we all had our “busted” stories over the four years we spent at Erskine.)
Libby called me yesterday afternoon to re-tell me the story. She said she has never forgotten it or the humiliation of her “foot in the mouth“experience. *And she learned an important fact about South Carolina that she never knew until the “moment of shame” and never forgot!
Back in the days when we started Erskine…underclassmen, freshmen and sophomores, got stuck at the very bottom of the “food chain of class schedules.” We got all the 8:00 a.m. classes, especially the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (yes Saturday) early morning classes. It was torture.
On one occasion during Libby’s sophomore year (while still a studious student before meeting all the rest of us) she overslept an 8:00 a.m. chemistry class which was having a major test that morning. The professor was a “take no prisoners” kind of instructor so her heart was pounding as she threw on a trench coat and took off running across campus…because underclassmen couldn’t have cars.
On test days when the final bell rang the classroom doors were closed and locked. Libby could feel her heart pounding out of her chest as she tried to come up with some kind of a feasible excuse that the professor might accept. She knocked on the classroom door while her own knees knocked together loudly.
Calmly the professor opened the door and after a moment’s hesitation motioned her towards his desk. The rest of the class didn’t even look up…they were already deep into figuring out formulas by her arrival.
The professor sat down and just stared at her…waiting to hear her explanation. Libby thought her heart was going to jump out of her chest and run out of the room. Then she remembered her alibi…something about a family emergency back in her hometown and that her family had, then, driven her back all five hundred miles during the night just so she wouldn’t miss her test.
Calmly, too calmly, the professor glanced down at the class roster with some information written beside it…pushed his glasses down on his nose and peered up into Libby’s eyes. “Miss Bennett, it says here you are from our own state of South Carolina, correct?”
“Yessir, that’s right” Libby replied hopefully.
“And your home town..the one you you went home to on this ‘family emergency’ is in South Carolina…did I get that right?”
Libby nodded again…slightly puzzled.
“Miss Bennett, did you know that there is not a single point in our small triangular shaped state (vertically or laterally) that runs more than 375 miles tops…so that means there is no way your family brought you back 500 miles from anywhere in South Carolina.”
Dead silence. Libby prayed for the floor to open up and swallow her whole…but no such luck. She thought she heard a guffaw coming from the back row of the class but she was beyond humiliation…”Busted” in front of the whole class. Now what did she do…slink out or keep standing there frozen in front of the class?
After an interminable time the professor told her to have a seat…she could take the test but she had to finish it at the regular time as all the other students…anything incomplete was wrong.
Libby said she never looked up for a second and actually finished the test before the bell rang…surprisingly doing well on it! (Libby was and is one smart gal!)
Libby said that she has never forgotten that it doesn’t take any longer than four hours to go from the southern coast, literally, to the mountains and state line into northern North Carolina or from the east Atlantic Ocean coast-line to western Georgia or Tennessee. (Her mistake was listening to too many Peter, Paul, and Mary ballads…especially the one titled “500 Miles.”) *It only works well as an excuse in a big state!
So until tomorrow… We all deserve a second chance…
“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
***Smile today, remember your youth and be glad you don’t have to repeat it! Be content at the age you are now!