How embarrassing can it be? You ask yourself. What can I tell you that is so funny on one hand and so pitiful on the other? So you will have to read that and believe for what I about to tell you…. This one of the event in one’s life that says with him forever and lesson here is never forgotten.
On 1995 after meeting Gabi in Israel I had moved to live in the US. The plan was to stay and work only 6 months which ended up to be 10 great years.
I had arrived to the US with very limited English skills including verbal ones. And when it comes down to live in Texas, the problem only exponent-ed. Not only could not I understand what I was being told by local, I also did not express myself correctly. Can you imagine who difficult and frustrating can it be?
During my first two years prior to trying to admit to a local university, I had work with Gabi selling ice cream of an ice cream truck. The one that goes around places and play this annoying music and the same truck that almost run over kids who not-carefully and blindly run toward the music. I have so many great stories to share about this period such as Gabi being arrested, me being threaten by the post authorities police, by selling ice cream on Christmas eve and so on…. but this is all nothing compare to what I am about to tell you.
During our period of selling ice cream around factories and neighborhoods, we decided to expend and try to work with local events such as festival, cook-offs, art shows, etc. Our first event in Texas was a yacht show in south Houston just next to Texas City. We had no experience and still we made great money by quadrupling our prices resulting can of coke for $2 and simple shaved ice cup for $3-$4, depends how innocent the client’s face was. One side note: how ironic it is that we now, as we travel, get the same courtesy from local vendor – as Seinfeld said in one of his episodes “Even Steven“.
After our eyes got wide opened by this event, we decide to expend. One the next event we excitedly took was an event in Ennis, Texas. It was a big annual local event that involved huge street parade that followed by cook-off. In such event, many vendors from all around book their spot in advance and consequently pay to event’s organizers. In this event, all vendors had to purchase a liability insurance to cover any unhappy complaints of unhappy clients with unhappy stomachs. So the preparations for this event were long which included renting a trailer, loading an extra freezer full of ice cream, hiring an employee for two day, cleaning the vehicle, making sign that present all the ice cream, paying the event fee, and finally purchasing the required insurance. I had several days of preparation prior to the event which were long and exhausting.
On the day of the event, I had to be there 6 am before the street are closed for the parade and since the I had about 4 hours of drive, I had to leave shortly after midnight which mean not sleep that night. ouch… by hey, I was to make so much money, so no doubt is worth it. I had arrived on time with the hired employee and set everything as scheduled. So far so good. I had the ice cream easel signs in place, had the umbrellas out to give jolly beach-like ambiance, and had my cash box ready with tons of change. I was ready!
All vendors, including myself, were waiting to the parade to be over and accept the massive crowd who would spend few bills on our products. Right next me stood the lemonade stand who offer partially natural fresh a and cold Texas style lemonade. My both was far more attractive and more testy than lemonade. I was ready as a ready can be. And to be more ready so I can compete with the lemonade, I had made a new sign with marker and large paper saying that I am selling cold drinks.
And here it comes…. the crown started to fill the empty spaces of the streets where all vendors were positioned. Hungry and happy looking people starting to line up next to the various food vendors. I was selling deserts type of food and therefor expected to have the crowd little later. I waited and waited and waited and no one showed up in my booth. More time had passed and I became less and less patience. And still, not a soul appeared at my window and my cash box was not opened even once…. I became irritated as you can imagine. I had spent days and nights preparing for this even in addition to the money spent. At one point, my women approached me and told me that I might have misspelled words in my sign but she was not specific at all. I just looked at her in my confused face but did not nothing about it since I had no idea what she was talking about. This is the Texan way to be nice even when things go wrong. Shortly after another woman showed up and simply told me “this is a family event!” and left. This left me even more confused. I asked my self “what the heck is going here?” The next door both, the lemonade one, was packed with thirsty people and so the other food vendors. My booth, still nothing.
The event was over with zero income and millions of questions. I wished it was the other way around. I packed my sh*t and hit the road for another 4 long hours of drive back to Houston. The guy I had hired, Israeli guys as well, felt so sorry for me that he offered to be paid for his labor. Of course I had paid him. I arrived down-casted with my tail between my leg, confused, upset, and very disappointed. It took few day to recover from this event. It was not only about the time and money lost, it was also about the embarrassment and confusion experience for many long hours during that day. During the days followed, I had tried to review the chain of events just so I can understand why. And then I remembered the comments I got from the two women during the event. I went back to the truck and took all the sign that I made. I reviewed the ice cream and the cold beverages signs and was still clueless. Keep in mind that my English was bad as a trained raccoon. So eventually, I had tun to my dear wife Gabi and asked her “hey dear.. how do you spell coke?”.
she asked me why and I had replied that I had a written sign flagged above the booth saying “cold coke”. I had not shown her the sign and it was all verbal discussion. I went back the truck, pull the “cold coke” sign and find out the reason to the disaster.
Ready??? Instead of writing “Cold Coke” the sign proudly carried the words in bold large letters “Cold Cock“.
I will be happy to hear from you about any embarrassing situation in you life… I cannot imagine it can be that bad. 🙂
Here are more great post about embarrasing moments in travelers’ lives:
Gabi@ The Nomadic Family: God, Please Tell Me I Didn’t Just Say That- Everywhere,Globe
Tracey @ Life Changing Year: Funniest Language Barrier Moments While Travelling!
Val @ This Way To Paradise: Lost In Translation-How My Spanish Almost Caused Me To Starve To Death
Tracey @ Expat Experiment – Travel and Eating Our Words
Jamie @ Great Big Scary World- Miscommunication: Naked Messages And Thinking I Am Going To Die