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.

Sign in a cupcake shop in Portland's Pearl District.

Sign in a cupcake shop in Portland’s Pearl District.

            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. 

Inside Powell's Books on a lazy Thursday morning.

Inside Powell’s Books on a lazy Thursday morning.