Several months ago, my wife, Suzanne, and I attended the fire department’s annual banquet. Many of you do the same or similar, so you know that these kinds of events are almost always ho-hum affairs at best. But I must say, the fire department is a special case.
The fire department does crucial and laudable work, and for that, the members have my utmost respect and gratitude. Being the friendly chap that I am, and in the interest of cordial relations, I had steeled my psyche sufficiently for the evening.
We arrived at the banquet hall just a few minutes early, and after selecting a table suitably situated in the rear of the hall and exchanging greetings with the others already seated there, I set off to get something to drink. With an iced tea in hand, I made the rounds on the way back to our table, stopping to visit with fire fighters, friends, and acquaintances along the way.
I was wearing a hat, as I am wont to do—my dark brown, felt Aussie to be exact—while I moved about the hall. I usually try to observe old-style hat etiquette, and among the most important rules—any gentleman worth his salt knows this—is that when one greets a lady, one briefly removes his hat. This I did a few times before coming to a table occupied by a very nice older couple whom Suzanne and I know from church.
I had been taking off the hat and putting it in my left hand, which already held the cup of iced tea, leaving my right free for a proper handshake or, with some of the ladies, the customary, platonic half-hug. At this particular table, the lady remained seated, and I bent down to shake her hand. As we exchanged pleasantries, unknown to me, the slight inclination forward induced a generous portion of tea and ice to spill into my hat. That hat has proven to be quite effective against the elements, and as I soon found out, the interior was equal to the task, commendably containing the contents with no noticeable outward effect.
The initial greeting concluded, I replaced my hat on its usual perch. I now wish someone had been taking a photo or some video that might have captured the moment. I imagine the result would’ve rivaled a Three Stooges bit, complete with the look on my face, which I believe was a remarkable combination of both shock and chagrin.
After a quick cleanup of the mess and a few requisite self-deprecating jokes at the scene of the mishap, I returned with a forced nonchalance to my own table with slightly matted hair, and most noticeable, my soaked shirt stuck to my chest. Perhaps at an earlier time in my life—and imagination—the look might have garnered some positive attention from certain of the female cohort in attendance, but alas, such is no longer the case, if it ever were.
Following the meal and the slide show depicting department activity from the past year, the city’s intrepid fire fighters received their well-deserved awards and citations. But after my unexpected “Nestea plunge,” I’d have to say that the rest of the evening was rather anticlimactic.
(Submitted by Vince DiPiazza, City Manager, Uvalde)