Mark Lutton from Malden, Mass., recently sent me a wonderful story about a supremely embarrassing moment. The story was told by his co-worker, Bob, and it describes Bob's worst moment of embarrassment.
In the office where Mark and Bob work, it's a birthday tradition for an employee to tell all the others about his own most embarrassing moment."It wasn't an urban legend when I heard it," wrote Mark, "but perhaps my re-telling it makes it one."
Legend or not (I'd say "not," so far), the story is hilarious. Oddly, I had a similar embarrassing moment shortly after receiving Mark's letter.
But first, here's Bob's story:
"Several years ago, after a day at the beach, I decided to drive home before changing. As I drove along the interstate, my wet bathing suit became uncomfortable, and I thought I'd slip it off without stopping.
"I wiggled around and managed to get my trunks down to my knees. By bending down and steering with one hand, I finally got them off.
"I tossed the trunks into the back seat, and then noticed that a state trooper was driving right behind me.
"The patrol car lights were flashing, so I pulled over. I wanted to grab something from the back seat to cover myself, but was afraid the officer might think I was reaching for a gun.
"So I just sat there with my hands in my lap and my head bent down. I hardly dared look up as the officer approached.
"The policeman got to my window and stood there for a while. Slowly I glanced over and saw the officer's belt buckle and holster; as I looked up I saw the blue shirt and the officer's nametag.
"I'll never forget the name for the rest of my life.
"It was officer O'Donnell. Officer Catherine O'Donnell!
"I asked her if I could reach back for a towel, and she said (as any good officer would) `Keep your hands where I can see them!'
"As it turned out, she let me off easy. She had stopped me because I was weaving back and forth, and when I explained my actions, she lectured me and told me never to do it again.
"Believe me, I never have."
My story isn't as saucy as Mark's, but it has similar circumstances and is only slightly less embarrassing.
A few weeks ago I visited my brother Dick, who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. He asked if I'd do a radio interview about urban legends with a friend of his, Bob Taylor of radio station WPZA.
The "PZ" in the call letters stand for "Pizza," since the station is owned by Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, who also owns the Detroit Tigers.
I told Dick I'd be happy to talk to Bob if we had time, since we were driving to Lansing early the next morning. "No problem," said Dick, "just do it on my car telephone."
So at 7:30 a.m. the following day we were cruising along on I-96 while I had a lively conversation with Bob and his co-host, Lucy-Anne Lance.
The connection was good, but Dick became concerned that we might drive beyond the range of his phone, so he pulled over and stopped.
As I went on about exploding toilets, dead cats in packages and microwaved poodles, I became aware that a tall, blue-clad figure was standing at Dick's window.
Like Bob, I glanced over and saw the belt buckle, holster, badge and nametag of a state police officer. He was firmly reminding my brother that only emergency stops were allowed on interstates.
To my astonishment, Dick said, "But officer, he's talking on the telephone to Fat Bob, the Singing Plumber."
Somehow that bizarre explanation satisfied the cop, but he insisted that we move on.
I winced, then ended the interview, hoping the nice Mr. Taylor hadn't overheard Dick's rude remark. As I hung up, I said, "Dick, how could you call him that?" Boy, was I embarrassed!
Dick explained, "But that's what everybody calls him. Haven't you heard Fat Bob sing the national anthem at Tiger games?"
Oh, that Fat Bob. It was just too early in the morning for me to think straight.
Besides, I'd read Mark's letter only a few days earlier, so I was well-prepared to suffer my own embarrassing moment on the road.
"Curses! Broiled Again," Jan Harold Brunvand's fourth collection of urban legends, is now available in paperback from Norton. Send your questions and urban legends to Prof. Brunvand in care of this newspaper.