Tonight I experienced what will probably (hopefully) be the most embarrassing moment of my lifetime...
I was getting ready to put Allyson in the tub when the doorbell rang at around 9:00. Clad only in her blue Dora mermaid panties, Allyson raced for the door before I could stop her. She thought it was her daddy coming home from California, but it was actually a vaguely familiar Korean man.
"Ah, hello," he said in an awkward voice. I pulled Allyson behind the door and opened it a crack. In my right hand, I held a dirty dustpan that I had just used to pick up a petrified water bug (a GIANT roach-like bug that occasionally wanders indoors) that I'd found in the corner when I was sweeping in preparation for Bill's return.
After an uncomfortable pause, I suddenly realized who this must be. Of course! It was the father of Ethan's friend Tin, who'd spent the entire day with us. "Hi!" I said.
He proceeded to ask who the contractor was who had put on our roof last year and whether he had discounted our deductible. Once I figured out what he was asking, I told him I couldn't remember but that I was sure I could find the invoice.
"No hurry," he said. "You can tell me tomorrow."
"Oh, no. I'll write it down and send it with Tin," I said. He knit his eyebrows in confusion, and I figured he was having trouble understanding me. Just then, I remembered the water bottle that Tin had bought at Walmart earlier that day. I was afraid he'd forget it, so I figured I'd send it home with his dad. "Just a minute. I need to give you something," I said.
I raced to the living room and back to the front door, and then I handed him the blue bottle, still in the Walmart bag. "Tin bought this today," I explained. He turned the bottle around and examined it, utterly perplexed. He stared at me blankly. "It's a water bottle that you stick in the freezer," I said when I saw him squinting at the instruction tag that hung from the bottle's neck.
"Contractor left this?" he asked, sounding mystified. "Is this the name of the contractor?"
"No, Tin bought it today..." My voice trailed off as the terrible realization finally dawned on me.
"You're... not Tin's father, are you?"
"You're... not Tin's father, are you?"
"Who's Tin?" he asked as he handed the bag back to me.
"Oh my gosh!" I covered my mouth, and I could feel my cheeks flaming. "You live next door, don't you?" He nodded. "I'm so sorry. Tin is my son's friend. I thought you were his father. I don't know him very well."
"It's okay," he said, looking as embarrassed as I felt. I got the feeling that he didn't understand my explanation. Maybe he thinks I have a strange compulsion to give virtual strangers bizarre, cheap gifts.
I was mortified. I might as well have been wearing a T-shirt that said, "I think all Korean people look alike!" The thing is, it really WASN'T an ethnic thing. I've noticed lately that I'm getting terrible with recognizing faces--even people I actually know. Sometimes I worry that it's early Alzheimer's.
The sad truth is, I've never spoken to my neighbor before, only waved at him when he was pulling in or out of his driveway. Obviously, I need to make an effort to get to know my neighbors!
When Bill got home, I told him the whole story, though he could scarcely understand me because I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks. He promptly located the contractor's card somewhere in the garage, and I thought I'd carry it over as a peace offering.
By this time, it was 9:30. When I knocked on the door, I could hear voices inside, but I wondered if anyone was going to come to the door. At last, a woman shouted, "Who's there?"
"The neighbor lady," I answered, which seemed an odd way to announce myself.
"Just a minute, please," she called.
Then my neighbor--Danny, as I recall--opened the door, wearing pajama pants and an undershirt. Oh, good grief! Apparently I had gotten him out of bed! How could I forget that he leaves every morning at 3:30 to open his donut shop? I apologized sheepishly for the late hour and handed him the card.
"Good night!" I said, and turned on my heel.
"Thank you," he called after me.
I will never be able to look him in the eye again!