Not the class I took last week, trying to teach Heaney and Muldoon while my head was increasingly gripped by migraine. That wasn't the most embarrassing moment of my life, although the increasing pain and a concomitant absence of any thought processes worth their salt. did make it the most most humiliating supervision ever. I swear they looked at me, with my random, fumbling attempts at exposition, with real pity. And some alarm. "Is this woman actually meant to outrank us, intellectually? She just said "Hughes" instead of "Heaney" twice, and she hasn't finished any sentences she's started for the last ten minutes". Christ, it was awful. I paid them off with apologies and a promise of chocolate cake and tea at the next class.
No, the award for my most embarrassing moment goes to: The Tesco Incident. Tescos, Camberley. The largest Tescos in the world, as the checkout assistant at Tescos Carmarthen once breathed to me, with awe in her voice. "You've been there?" she said, with disbelief. "Oh, I wish I worked there".
I had a basket of groceries and stood in the straggly checkout line for 'baskets only'. Idly looking about, my gaze fell to the basket held by the chap in front. He was thirty-odd; besuited in a middle-managery kind of way. And in his basket? Five packets of FONDUE CHEESE, and about eight baguettes. I thought this was sweet. He looked at me. I smiled. And said, "Well, I can see what you're doing tonight!" in a bright, friendly fashion.
Silence descended. Not just me, but the entire queue. Even the checkout girl stopped bleeping her goods past the laser and everyone listened as he said, in a strange, strained voice,
"I assume you're referring to the Fondue?"
And I looked again and — oh Christ. Beneath the packs of FONDUE CHEESE, and the BAGUETTES, were several HUGE PACKS OF CONDOMS. We're talking a LOT of contraceptives, here, guys.
Everyone in the queue started trying to stifle sniggers. I didn't know what to do, but my mouth broke into a rictus of embarrassed smiling that lasted the entire wait to the checkout, and then all the way back to the car, where my mother sat. My mouth ached for days.