Are you ready to humble?
Apparently, I had. I realized: I must have said it aloud.
The line was: "I can feel my nipples!"
My moment of greatest humiliation occurred a quarter-century ago in Miami. I don't think I've written about it before, but my friend Dave Barry frequently includes it in his speeches because he is a cruel, cruel man.
At the time I was the editor of Tropic, the Sunday magazine of the Miami Herald. Without warning, the door opened and in marched a contingent of harrumphing suits. These were dignitaries, executives from the Herald's parent company, Knight Ridder, on a tour of the various departments of the Herald. (Apparently, I had been forewarned in a memo, but I never read memos.) Apparently also, I was supposed to give them a little spiel on the art and practice of putting out a Sunday magazine. I had prepared nothing, of course.
In desperation, I figured I would just show them what we were working on at the moment, which was a story about a guy who chased hurricanes. We were going to illustrate it in an inventive way: We'd taken a picture of him hanging by his arms from a tree branch. In the magazine, we were going to rotate the photo 90 degrees, so it looked as though he were being held horizontal by a mighty wind.
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So I was going to show them the picture. Meaning nothing untoward, I called across the room to my art director: "Hey, Philip, can you find that picture of that guy getting blown"?
Instantly, I was struck by the hilarity of what I had just inadvertently uttered, and collapsed face down on my desk, giggling, then crying from mirth. Eventually, I seized control of myself and looked back up, right into the eyes of the suits, who looked comically suit-like and uncomfortable. The humor of the situation struck me anew, and I burst out laughing once more, pounding my desk and gasping for air. When I finally managed to bring myself under control, the suits were ... gone.
That was their tour of Tropic magazine.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
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