In the long and well documented history of human beings ‘putting their foot in it’ there have been many amazing examples of things going very wrong. Simple misunderstandings have been known to escalate into blunders of epic embarrassing proportions.
I myself have been responsible for a few minor examples of this. However, the mix-up that I was a part of this weekend might be the next winner of the annual ‘putting your foot in it’ awards ceremony.
It all started on a day like any other as I was walking through the streets of Amsterdam on my way to the train station. As I made my way through one of the smaller streets I was stopped by two very attractive girls who appeared to be waiting on a street corner.
They both smiled at me happily. I smiled back with out a clue of what was about to happen.
One of the two attractive girls asked me something that I did not quite understand. Using my powers of deduction I was quickly able to deduce that English was not her first language and that she was possibly East European. My main clue in working this out was the way she spoke broken English with an East European accent. Being the polite Englishman that I am I made it clear that I had not understood and she should try repeating herself. I did this by using the universal confused look and the phrase, “Sorry. I don’t understand. Could you please repeat that?”
“Prostitute? Female prostitute?” She repeated with a happy smile in her Eastern European accent while standing on the street corner where she had stopped me.
I suddenly had a realization. She was asking me if I was looking for a female prostitute. This resulted in me doing an involuntary impression of an embarrassed Hugh Grant as I shook my head, stuttered, “No thank you,” and walked away.
I have lived in Amsterdam for a few years now and seen a lot of strange things but until that very moment I had never been approached by a prostitute.
I had only taken a few paces when I suddenly heard the girl running after me. It seemed like I was being pursued by the most persistent lady of the night ever.
“Not me, not me,” she insisted nervously. “Please, where is prostitutes?”
I suddenly had another realization. This time it was the correct one. I felt my face reach a new, much brighter shade of red as my embarrassment increased. She was trying to ask me where Amsterdam’s famous red light district was. I had just accidentally accused an innocent tourist of being a lady of questionable morals who likes to entertain gentleman with out any clothes on as her primary source of income. This coursed me to do another impression of Hugh Grant, this time stuttering out an embarrassed apology. We both laughed awkwardly about the confusion as I gave them the directions they sought. They seemed to understand why I thought what I had and were just as embarrassed as me but I still walked away with my head in my hands.
However embarrassing the blunder was for the both of us I can’t help but wonder how much more embarrassing it could have become if as a reply to the first misunderstood question I had been so inclined to ask, “How much?”