It has been called to my attention that, although I freely tell stories on Mike, I seem to have gone unscathed in this blog, if not elsewhere. Since Mike refers to my life as an ongoing series of I Love Lucy episodes, there’s ample material. So, OK, I give. We’ll start with this one.
Back in college, my sorority had an annual luncheon, which was a real big deal. Always held at a top-notch Memphis venue. Various remarks and acknowledgements to be made. Famous alums present. And a special speaker or program. Definitely a high heels, your best dress and pearls event.
In this particular year, we were gathered in a very fancy restaurant, which I’d only visited once before in my young life. We had finished a fine meal and, as was the custom with so many in that era, many of us lit up after-lunch cigarettes. I’d casually crumpled my napkin to the left of my plate. (Etiquette forbids the actual “folding” of a used napkin.) I’d scooted my chair back just a tad and primly folded my hands in my well dressed lap – cigarette hand on top. I was just so sophisticated.
Our speaker was a beautiful woman, probably a local celeb, who was speaking to us about poise and grace. I was attentive. She – the goal to which I aspired – was standing right across the table from me. That’s when I glanced down and discovered the problem.
I had set the napkin on fire.
It was not in full flame, but definitely afire and about to burst into four-alarm status. I instantly assessed the situation. I couldn’t jump up and scream. I could not douse it with my goblet of water. So I proceeded in the only other, acceptable course of action.
I delicately reached up with my bare hand, grasped the smoldering napkin edge, and squeezed it until I’d suffocated the burning edges. I must admit that my eyes watered a bit, but I made no sound. My sorority sisters were unaware of my transgression. The crisis was averted. The beautiful speaker continued speaking, and I should have received the gold star for best pupil of the day.