My most embarassing moment. Disguised as an article on Leadership.

This post has been inspired by David Kanigan, whose Blog Lead.Learn. Live you really should be subscribed to.  He is a senior leader in a New York financial organisation, and yet he finds time to produce uplifting and inspirational articles several times per day, the first one normally by 4 a.m.

weight-loss-chart-trend-is-not-my-friendA couple of days ago David wrote a Blog intriguingly entitled “Running.  And chafing.”  It is one of the most shockingly honest things I have read all year, and I am about to share it with you.  I warn you that it should not be read with a cup of coffee to hand, as if you are swallowing as you read, you run the risk of the Indian Nose Trick (coffee in via mouth, out via left nostril).  Its frankness caused me a sharp intake of breath.  This is “controlled disclosure” as Rob Goffee describes it in his superb book on Leadership ‘Why should anyone be led by you?”, on a new level.  Go and read David’s article and then come back to me.

David has inspired me to in some way reciprocate, hence today’s subject.  I promised him I’d share my most embarassing moment as a Head Waiter, and possibly of my whole life. Aren’t you just the lucky one:  first David’s ”chafing disclosure”, now my most embarassing moment, all within one post!  Christmas has come early this year.  Here goes.

The Bell at RamsburyI was Head Waiter at a country restaurant called The Bell at Ramsbury, in the late 70’s.  It was how I spent my gap year before going up to Oxford.  It was a gourmet restaurant, seating about 50, with two permanent waiting staff.  I was in charge (Woo hoo.  Only because the Head Waiter left 2 weeks after I joined).

One day we took on a new waiter called Derek (still a good friend:  we went through a lot together!).  He, like me, knew nothing when he joined, and I had to show him the ropes.  On his first Saturday evening (I remember it so well, I am feeling my heart rate go up as I type this), we had a young couple in to celebrate their engagement.  He was in a white suit (important detail), she in low cut number which I had to work hard to not notice (I failed).  They ordered champagne.  Not just any champagne, but sparkling red Burgundy (not my choice or recommendation, but there you are, it’s their special night, far be it from me to judge).

So, might as well show Derek how to do it.  “Derek, watch me this time and you can do it next time.”  Derek discreetly retires to the back of the restaurant to watch the master sommelier at work.

I do the usual routine:  show him the label, carefully remove foil and wire, place bottle on hip and point it at customer’s left eye, and slowly twist bottle whilst holding cork in other hand.

It did not go to plan.  Instead of the usual quiet sigh of a discreet escape of natural gas, we had a bit of an explosion.  A geyser of highly expensive red liquid erupts forth.  What does one do?  Obvious: try and stop it escaping using your thumb.  Which simply pressurises it and makes it go long distance.  Instead of this being a local incident, I am now involving other tables.  It is on the ceiling and walls, and more importantly all over his face, his white suit, her dress and her cleavage.

Eventually it blew itself out, with about 1/3rd of the bottle to go.  £50 worth up the Swanee at current prices.

Why is this the most embarassing moment of my life as Head Waiter, and possibly ever?  Because of what I did next.  I took a napkin and wiped his face for him so he could see again.  Glad to say I didn’t offer to dry his fiancee off.  But it’s the words that then came out that are so cringemaking.  Where on earth did this come from?

“Little bit lively, that one, sir”, smiling as I said it.  They smiled back, forlornly.  And then, without any offer of any recompense whatsoever, I walked away, backwards.  Shuffled, verging on crept more like, I suspect.

I remember Derek’s face that night.  God bless him, he didn’t say a word.  Not one.  Maybe because HE was the cause – shook it up on the way from the cellar.  I’ve always had my suspicions, but never voiced them.  Until now.

David, I know this woeful tale doesn’t match your disclosure, but it’s the best I can muster.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could turn this into “Self Disclosure week”, and have every reader post their own most embarassing moment?  Christmas comes but once a year:  this could be our gift to each other!

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
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9 Responses to My most embarassing moment. Disguised as an article on Leadership.

  1. LaDona's Music Studio says:

    David’s post had me laughing for days but I agree with him – this is even better! (worse?) Love starting the day with a good laugh.


  2. Mandy Green says:

    Oh and having this random profile picture….where the hell did that come from!


  3. Mandy Green says:

    Far too may to mention! From classic skirt tucked into pants in the training room to losing a gerbil in a fruit machine while pet sitting (very long story!)…. waitressing and sliding contents of leftovers on plate gently into an open handbag (cutlery, gravy and mash) …… the list continues. What have I learned? Look ’em in the eye, acknowledge and move on!


    • Fabulous, Mandy. You make me feel vaguely better 🙂


    • So good of you to share this with us, Michael! You’re a true dare devil!

      I’ll share my most embarrassing moment. Years ago, I had a lover whom I met on a regular basis in hotels. There’s no need to explain the circumstances ;-). After another special night with him, I checked out at the reception desk in the morning. I tried to look composed and businesslike, but I felt quite the opposite, to be honest. The receptionist asked me if everything had been satisfactory. I hid my grin, remembering a great night, and said with a straight face: “Yes, thank you”. After checking out, I walked to my car. When I got home, I found out that my dress’s zipper on my back was half way down. So I had walked down the lobby, showing a part of my bare back and the strap of my bra. Naturally, I never saw the look on the receptionist’s face, but it must have been hilarious. So much for dignity and trying to look businesslike…. I felt so embarassed! Up to now, I never returned to that hotel again…. Although I can have a good laugh about it now…. but stil…..


  4. Gocer says:

    OH Yeah,
    Now i know i can become an active part of this group.
    Very innovative and interesting topics.
    It is a pleasure to connecting with you a Long time ago, after your restaurant experience:)))


  5. Gocer says:

    How might we get on the innernet ?
    Let us se if this works Michael


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