This tiny story is a perfect illustration of how adept I am at embarrassing myself. You will soon know what I mean.
I booked an apartment for Ellen and me for a week in the lively Pearl District of Portland, Oregon. Oakwood Worldwide, a company that specializes in temporary housing primarily for corporate clients, owns the building.
Shortly after I made the reservation by phone, I received helpful follow-up emails from a young woman named Ty. She invited me to call if we had any questions. Since this would be an apartment stay rather than a hotel stay, I called Ty to ask about cleaning services, directions from the airport by light rail and streetcar, and related logistics. I could tell by her voice that she was a young woman, very friendly and customer oriented.
When we arrived at the building early on a Friday afternoon, we let ourselves in using a code Ty had provided. No one was at the front desk, so we waited a bit. Momentarily a young, professionally dressed woman walked into the lobby.
I stepped forward and said, “Are you Ty?”
She said in a lovely voice, “No, I’m Chinese. But you’re close!” Then she disappeared around a corner too fast for me to apologize or explain.
Ellen, not knowing Ty’s name, said to me in a heightened whisper, “Why on earth did you ask that woman’s ethnicity?” I said I didn’t but only wanted to know if that lady’s name was Ty!
I was instantly embarrassed. Quickly I explained to Ellen that Ty’s name is spelled T-y. Ellen immediately got it and we both broke into sidesplitting laughter, though I still could feel my embarrassment burning my face.
A moment later a young woman walked into the lobby and greeted us as she walked behind the front desk. I said, “Are you Ty?”
She replied in the affirmative with a broad, room-lighting smile. We identified ourselves as the Russells checking in. Ty welcomed us warmly and I immediately told her this little story.
As Ty laughed heartily with us, she said she thought she knew the young woman I had greeted moments earlier. If so, that young woman also knew Ty, so Ty was surprised that the woman did not realize whom I was referring to when I said, “Are you Ty?”
Ty was so adept at putting me at ease after my blunder. This was the start of a lively, fun visit to Portland.
Later this story reminded me of the famous Abbott and Costello baseball skit, “Who’s on first?” But neither Abbott nor Costello was embarrassed about that.