Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Smart Mouth

I guess we have all said or done something impulsively without forethought and instantly regretted it. As the old saying goes, “Please start brain before engaging mouth”. I have probably committed this crime more than most having been cursed with a “smart mouth” and an atrophied sense of restraint. Herewith a few examples:

I was seated next to woman friend…. more my wife’s than mine… at a dinner party. Trying to make conversation, I leaned over and asked, “So, when is the baby due?” After a long pause while she glared at me she replied, “It was born two months ago. Asshole.” I deserved that.


Attending the first business luncheon with the entire management of the company that had just hired me to take over their construction department, I nearly committed suicide. The founder of the company was a born again Christian and his son who ran the day-to-day operation also professed deeply held religious beliefs. About a dozen of us sat around the table in suits and ties in this “get to know you” lunch.

The company manufactured, among other things, precast concrete mausoleum crypts and the chief salesman had just returned from a cemetery convention. He was describing a management training exercise he’d attended there where each attendee had to speculate on their manner of death and what their eulogy might sound like. People around the table were offering their own theories on their demise and it seemed to be my turn to offer something on the subject. I blurted out (obviously without much forethought), “I guess I’d be found shot in the back with my pants around my ankles.” During the long pause that followed and as I took in the open mouthed stares around the table, I had visions of receiving my walking papers immediately after lunch. Finally, and to my great relief, the old man laughed. Everyone else joined in and I finally exhaled.


In another luncheon experience my staff and I were entertaining a couple of clients at a local restaurant. There were a half dozen of us gathered at a round table and ordering post lunch coffee. My CFO was one of those people blessed with the metabolism of a hyperactive hummingbird. No matter what he ate he never gained an ounce. Those of us then firmly in the grip of middle age and not wanting to order new trousers every six months had to watch what we ate. He always ordered desert and that would have been OK except he always had to rub it in.

He was sitting directly across from me with his back to the windows, our clients on either side of him. They set his desert, a pudding of some sort with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and a perky red cherry perched on top, in front of him while the rest of us watched. He said something like, “Nothing for you guys? Heh, heh! I always have desert. Gotta have my sweets.”

I thought, “Screw you” and quietly picked up my spoon. I looked over his shoulder out the window and said, “Wow! That’s the shortest skirt I’ve ever seen!” This guy was a bit more of a letch than most, so naturally, he spun around to see this short skirt. When he turned I stood, reached across the wide table and with my spoon plucked that cherry neatly off the top of his desert. It left a nice divot in the whipped cream. Popping the cherry into my mouth I quickly sat back down and tried to look innocent as he turned around.

“I don’t see any…” he started before seeing all the startled expressions around the table. He then looked down at the gouge in his whipped cream and said, “Hey!” The clients laughed so no harm done there.

I should have fired that guy. He later cost me a lot of money.


When we got back from the Gemini XI recovery (described in an older post) the six of us, the “frogmen” who had done the recovery, were being interviewed by a local TV station. They were filming the thing and planned to show it on the evening news that night. As I described, Denny Bowman and his two guys had the primary recovery job and my two guys and I were the back up and also tasked with the recovery of the R & R module. The interviewer asked me. “What were you thinking about as the astronauts were coming down and you were about to leave the aircraft carrier?”

I replied, “I was hoping Denny’s helicopter would not start.” Not sure if that made the news or not. I didn’t watch it.


When our business started doing well in the late ‘80s we bought a second home on a point looking west on Lac LaBelle in Wisconsin. When my neighbor agreed to sell me 150’ of waterfront adjoining our two properties, we decided to tear down the house and build our dream home. The old place was actually pretty nice, especially compared to the cottage next door, but the two lots together were now worth more than the house. It had to go. I hired a guy with a bulldozer to nuke the place and left on a business trip.

When I got back to the airport I drove straight out to the house where the old grizzled operator was just climbing down off his D-8 Cat. The house was now a pile of rubble and the guy must have been looking at the old cottage next door as he tore our place to pieces. I walked up to the guy and said without a bit of preplanning on my part, “Where in the f*** is my house?!”

Well, I thought the poor man was going to have a heart attack. He turned white, then red, then kind of purple. His mouth flapped open and shut with nothing coming out and I thought, “Shit, I’ve killed this poor guy.” It took me about 15 minutes to calm him down and assure him that he had nuked the right house and everything was just fine. Felt bad about that one. The devil made me do it.

Of course, I’ve got a few more instances where my mouth started well before my brain. But, a mixed crowd reads this blog and I don’t want to offend anyone more than absolutely necessary.

1 comment:


These comments come from a young student resident in China, specifically Beijing. Great job again. I'm particularly pleased with the focus you place on BHO and our dear Nancy, ain't she just precious. As for China, dare I differ, I love it here. The people are warm and seem to be moved by an old guy willing to stir up some long unused brain cells to try and grasp just a bit of their language. Come see for yourself, this place is amazing. Your neighbor.