My friend Michelle is really smart and we have a lot in common; we both worked for the same company, we both love the soundtrack to Begin Again, and we both think I’m one of the funniest people ever! I told you she was smart!!!
While that’s normally enough for to people to bond over, what really cinched it was when we discovered that we share something even bigger than that: we both have an embarrassing one-armed man story! This is not to make fun of anyone handicapped or make light of missing limbs, but what are the odds? (Actually, call me out on that challenge if you actually do have a one-armed man story – let me know and I’ll add it to this post!)
This was a few years ago when I was working in event planning and before I learned how to act professional and appropriate in the workplace. OK, it was before I learned how to pretend that I’m a professional and pretend to act appropriate in the workplace. I was somewhat new to the job and in that awkward getting-to-know-you phase when I went to lunch with two of the ladies from the office. As we were talking about hobbies and things we like to do, I randomly went off on a tangent about gambling and casinos and my obsessive love for Baccarat. Patti nodded in agreement with my game of chance choice, but Karen looked at me and said “I only play the slot machines!” Why would you waste time and money on slots?” I countered “You never win on them. You can’t trust anything with one arm!” At this point they both looked at me weirdly – Patti with a weird look of shock, and Karen’s face always looked weird, but this was more of annoyance. Patti was shaking her head no back and forth for me to stop talking and tried to change the subject, but true to form, I can’t ever let anything go. “Why would you play those? You can’t trust the one armed man – remember? They only have one arm! Give me one example of something with one arm you can trust?” to which she was fully annoyed and said “My mother has one arm. I trust her!”
At this point any person with any sense in his head would shut the fleck up, but not me. Of course I still couldn’t let it go. “Oh right Karen, your mother has one arm…sure she does…and I’m really a Kennedy…Ha Ha…one arm –come on…” She was pissed now and said “Who would make that up? It’s not funny – my mother really has one arm!” “Right Karen, did your mother get bit by a shark? She only has one arm? You’re such a liar…”and with that she had enough and walked away. Patti was laughing hysterically because I was such an ass and wouldn’t take her signals and just shut up. Then she was swearing up and down that Karen’s mother really only has one arm. “Come on Patti, I don’t believe either one of you. Mess with the new guy right? Whose mother has one arm?”
Karen then proceeded to call her mother and make her come in to the office to show me. Low and behold, she really did only have one arm! She was cool about it because I’m sure she probably gets it all the time but then she was like “who would joke about having one arm? What kind of a person does that?” And I was like “I would…but I’m an idiot…” Once again proving that people usually aren’t kidding around and I never believe anything. Open mouth, insert foot…Also, Karen actually farted in front of me my first day on the job and I ran into the bathroom to call my wife because I couldn’t control my immature laughter, so I should have known she wasn’t really a jokester…
Michelle worked in The Gap when she was in college and as a man came out of the dressing room trying on a nice green sweater, he was looking at himself in the hallway mirror to check himself out. She, being the cheery salesperson, walked over to assist. “Hi there, let’s see how that looks on you.” With a puzzled look on her face “Come on Sir, you’ve gotta put both arms through the sleeves so I can see how that fits” and with that she grabbed the sleeve dangling where his arm should have been. She shook it and then realized from the expression on his face, that he was missing the arm, but she wasn’t missing the look on his face. “Looks great” she said as she dropped the empty sleeve and proceeded to take her walk of shame into the storeroom. Good thing she wasn’t working on commission…
Now in working together we both shared embarrassing stories and laughed at each other…Flash forward to us together at a trade show chatting away at a luncheon while the band Foreigner was playing for the crowd. I was paying attention to her and our conversation – not noticing anyone else at the table when the lead singer started introducing “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” He wanted everyone to get out of their seats, grab someone we love to sing along with and dance. At this point our table cleared with everyone heading to the dance floor leaving just me, Michelle, and the old man seated on my left. Just as the singer asked, I leaned in like I was going to hug Michelle and then quickly turned away to the man on my left and jokingly hugged him instead. I’m not sure who was more shocked: him to be hugged by a stranger singing the wrong words off key or me to find out mid-hug that he only had one arm! Another one-armed man and now I had just accosted him.
He looked back at me like I was crazy and seemed somewhat relieved when I stopped singing along and then I tried to casually turn to Michelle and whisper. I’m not a good whisperer anyway and with the music so loud it was more like a half-shout stage whisper: “One arm! One arm.” She of course had no idea what I was talking about and I was trying to lip the words instead of saying them out loud “He…only…has…one…arm.” She got the message loud and clear. And so did he! By this time he had gathered his stuff and proceeded to walk across the ballroom towards the exit getting away from me as any sane person would. Then I saw it – he left his messenger bag on the floor next to his chair.
I leapt up and sped into action like OJ in the White Bronco – I grabbed his bag and started running, leaving Michelle at the table alone. The crowd was massive, and heading towards the restrooms and exits, when I knew in my heart this might be my only change to ever try out my Tommy Lee Jones impression: “Stop that one-armed man! Stop him!” I shouted as I bobbed and weaved like Keanu in the Matrix. People were looking at me with a mix of wild annoyance and confusion, yet I finally caught him outside the doors on the convention floor. I was about two feet in back of him when I reached out and grabbed his arm (obviously, the full arm – not the dangling sleeve like Michelle) startling him and he whipped around. He had a definite look of annoyance while I was smiling like I should be his new hero. “Here’s your bag – you forgot your bag at the table! Didn’t you hear me calling you?” He just glared at me and didn’t say one word while he took his bag back from me. No thank you, no smile, just a weird glance and then he walked away and was gone into the crowd.
I’m not saying that he owed me another hug or a thank you, but not even a smile? Burt Bacharach sang What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love but even he couldn’t have scored a smile that day…The message we take from this: You can’t trust a one-armed bandit!