My aw­ful mo­ment

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes bur­

Of late, I’ve been read­ing Oops! Or, Life’s Aw­ful Mo­ments, writ­ten by the late Art Lin­klet­ter. It’s bring­ing a smile to my face.

Th e pub­lisher de­scribes it as “a funny, down-to-earth sam­pling of those un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tions we all suf­fer and some­how man­age to sur­vive.” A few ex­am­ples will suf­fice.

A man sneezes dur­ing a bad­minton game and his false teeth sail across the net like a birdie. A girl does a jack­knife into a pool while her bathing suit does a swan in an­other di­rec­tion, leav­ing her blush­ing all over. A lit­tle boy in a crowded church hears the chimes for mass and shouts “Avon call­ing!”

Lin­klet­ter in­ter­views a young girl who says she would like “a plain old man” for a hus­band. “Give us an ex­am­ple,” he prods her. “You!” she ex­claims.

“Why does your mommy like your daddy’s job as po­lice­man?” he asks an­other child. The an­swer is a clas­sic: “’Cause he brings home wrist watches, ear­rings and lots of jew­elry.”

“What do you want to be?” he asks a boy. “A fire­man.” “Why pick that?” “Be­cause my dad says I’m dumb enough to be one.” “What does your dad do?” “He’s a fire­man.”

Lin­klet­ter asks a per­cep­tive ques­tion in his in­tro­duc­tion: “Have you ever tried to put your best foot for­ward and found it wedged firmly in your mouth? Been there done that. Lin­klet­ter con­tin­ues: “The road of life is strewn with the ba­nana peels of em­bar­rass­ment.”

My aw­ful mo­ment is, as they say, one for the books.

A decade ago, I wrote a book chron­i­cling the his­tory of a cer­tain church in our prov­ince. Let’s say it was in the fic­ti­tious town of Bum­ble­bee Bight. No sooner did the book ap­pear in print when I re­ceived a phone call from an irate reader. To pro­tect the iden­tity of the guilty, let’s call him Wil­son.

“How do you think the princess and prince got down to Bum­ble­bee Bight?” Wil­son asked. An in­tense con­ver­sa­tion en­sued. Later I went to my book and reread what I had writ­ten. There it is in black and white: “The visit of Princess El­iz­a­beth and Prince Philip in Novem­ber 1951 was quite a community event. They walked through the community school. The three de­nom­i­na­tions–Pen­te­costal, Sal­va­tion Army and United Church–co­op­er­ated in ac­tiv­i­ties throughout the day, in­clud­ing a parade and an ec­u­meni­cal meet­ing at night in the United Church.”

I also checked my re­search notes. The tran­scrip­tion of my in­ter­view with Wil­son re­veals the fol­low­ing: “You had free ac­cess to the school. Any time there was a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, you’d go up and go in and have a lit­tle talk to the students and so on. There was still a feel­ing that it was a community school, so you were kind of re­stricted in what you could do spir­i­tual- ly.... For in­stance, when Queen El­iz­a­beth was here, that was quite a community thing and (they) went through both schools, too.”

Af­ter all, Wil­son had used the word “here.” Didn’t that mean Bum­ble­bee Bight? Ap­par­ently not.

When quot­ing Wil­son for my book, ob­vi­ously I had taken leave of my senses when I wrote that the Roy­als had ac­tu­ally made a trip to out­port Bum­ble­bee Bight.

In ret­ro­spect, I know what hap­pened. Princess El­iz­a­beth, Duchess of Ed­in­burgh, and her hus­band, the Duke of Ed­in­burgh, made their first visit to New­found­land in 1951, on be­half of her ail­ing fa­ther. Dur­ing their Royal Visit to St. John’s on Novem­ber 11 and 12, they were in­volved in cer­e­monies at the St. John’s water­front, the St. John’s War Memo­rial, the Church of Eng­land Cathe­dral, Feil­dian Grounds and Gov­ern­ment House. But ap­par­ently not Bum­ble­bee Bight. It was, I must ad­mit, my aw­ful mo­ment. Later I wrote Wil­son, apol­o­giz­ing for hav­ing quoted him out of con­text. My con­clud­ing para­graph reads: “My only con­so­la­tion is that this in­ci­dent shows in stark colour that I’m far from in­fal­li­ble! I sus­pect that all books, other than the Bi­ble it­self, con­tain an er­ror or two. This is un­for­tu­nate, and I feel badly about it. Please ac­cept my apol­ogy. It will serve to make me more ob­ser­vant and care­ful that sim­i­lar er­rors do not creep into any books I write in the fu­ture.”

And, as far as I know, such bla­tant er­rors never have snuck into my more re­cent writ­ing.

Per­haps Lin­klet­ter should have the fi­nal word: “Life leaves us all look­ing a lit­tle ridicu­lous at times, so we might as well re­lax and en­joy it when the laugh is on is.”

“What do you want to be?” he asks a boy. “A fire­man.” “Why pick that?”“Be­cause

my dad says I’m dumb enough to be one.”“What does your dad do?”“He’s a


Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be

reached at­bur­tonj@nfld.nets!

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