Please tell me I am not the only person who has done this.
On Tuesday I had a message on my answer machine from a well-known local lady talking about a story she wanted us to publish.
She spoke in her usual chatty, friendly style so when I called her back (also speaking to an answering machine) I had the same relatively upbeat, jocular tone.
All was going well until my sign off when instead of saying ‘goodbye’, ‘see you later’ or ‘I look forward to hearing from you’, I found myself saying ‘love you’.
In a slightly high-pitched voice.
I was aghast.
What on earth could I do to explain why I had wrongly said this without further deepening my overwhelming embarrassment?
Well I tried to salvage things by immediately re-dialling the number and telling the innocent answering machine that I was sorry, I obviously didn’t mean what I’d said (ie. don’t panic!) and if it made the lady feel any better I was now dying of acute embarrassment.
Luckily the charming woman in question saw the funny side and I’m sure will tease me mercilessly for some time to come but it did occur to me that this isn’t the first time I’ve said the wrong thing to someone. Indeed I recall when I was at college getting something off a milkman and also telling him I loved him as well. His look of bemusement was priceless.
On relating the details of my verbal faux pas to some work colleagues I was also reminded by one of something I’m sure we’ve all done before in our tender years when we inadvertently called a teacher ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. The problem with something like that is that once it’s out it sticks. And, as we know, children have a remarkable memory for juicy mistakes like that which surpasses any memory for useful things like maths or English.
But I am afraid my putting the proverbial foot in it doesn’t end there. Oh no. I have done that awful thing of asking a lady when her baby was due (when she wasn’t pregnant) and I’ve also been guilty (and I can’t be alone in this either, surely?) in complimenting new parents on their lovely-looking son only to be subtly pointed in the direction of the pink dress their ‘son’ was wearing.
The problem with all these awkward situations is that trying to get out of them can sometimes make things so much worse.
I remember when I was a young reporter we had a switchboard operator who would put calls through to you so quickly and efficiently it caught you off guard.
On one occasion she said that a certain person was calling and I said to her “oh no, not that idiot again”. But, sadly, my switchboard operator had already gone on to another call. There then followed a long, telling pause before a slow, drawn out voice said “Yes I’m afraid it is me – that idiot again.”
I tried desperately to get out of that one but we both knew the truth – he knew I thought he was an idiot and he also knew I was one for trying to pretend I didn’t mean it.
Oh well, next to that perhaps ‘love you’ doesn’t sound so bad after all.