Have you ever thought you were so right about something that you went into the “telling mode” and refused to listen? The end result was embarrassment and total loss of control of the entire situation.
A few years ago I was assigned to work as an Army National Guard advisor in Long Beach, California. In the process of getting settled, I visited the local K-Mart about two blocks away. I had been in the store about ten minutes when a gentleman approached me and addressed me by name.
I answered, “Yes, but I’m an LTC now.”
Come to find out, we had served together in Vietnam and he was now in the National Guard unit I was advising. Small world!
About three months later I was once again in the same K-Mart when I observed a gentleman in the stationary department who looked very familiar. I approached him and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t seem to remember your name but I am sure that we have served together.”
I went on to tell him I was in the Army and was now working as a National Guard Advisor. He politely said he had served in the Navy. I kept talking. I told him the only time I had worked with the Navy was during Vietnam. He told me he had never served there. He told me about how he had made a lot of friends and traveled to many other countries while in the military. We decided that a requirement for the US Senate should be to visit a third-world country. Our conversation went on for about thirty more minutes, until I could tell no more.
I then said, “It looks like we never served together, but I never forget a face.”
The man looked up from the notebook he was holding and said, “I’m Alex Haley.”
The fireworks went off in my head. This man was the famous author of Roots.
Embarrassed can only begin to describe how I felt. I immediately, and I do mean immediately, said apologetically, “I’m sorry, Mr. Haley.”
As I scurried toward the exit, I heard him say, “Thanks for reminiscing.”
My first thought was to get as far away as I could. Distance did not help. It took years before I admitted meeting Alex Haley, much less how I had forced him to retrace his military career. The lesson I learned was to listen.
Have you met your Alex Haley? By now you can see I usually learn everything the hard way. Momma used to tell me there was a reason you only had one mouth and two ears, but as usual, I wasn’t listening. Now that I’ve embarrassed myself, how about sharing your similar stories?