Something Really Embarrassing

By Jeff Salter

This would have been even more mortifying had it happened TO me … but it was embarrassing enough just to be involved in it.

To comprehend this delicate situation, you’ll need a little background.  I was the assistant director of a large public library system and one of my duties (for about 16 years) was overseeing the personnel functions.  In some cases, the particulars were handled by others, but when the vacancy was for a new department head directly in my line of supervision, naturally I played a significant role in every aspect of the selection.

Well, we had one particular applicant – let’s call him Fred – who’d travelled some 400 miles for this day-long interview process.  That marathon day included meetings with me alone, with me and the director, with me other department heads, and (of course) with the individuals Fred would be supervising in that department if he got the job.

I no longer recall the exact order of those various interview segments, but let’s say Fred’s  meeting / interview / tour of the particular department was roughly in the middle of the day.  It was my practice to give the applicant some time alone with the employees he would supervise (if selected) so I was up in my office trying to do a little work in a day otherwise lost to this complex and tiring structure of interview segments.

My phone rang and it was one of the ladies in the department where Fred was meeting the staff and taking the tour.

“Jeff, you need to come down here,” she said urgently.

Tired and annoyed that I wouldn’t even get ten minutes to myself that day, I asked her why.

“You just need to come down here.”

Since she wouldn’t tell me, I immediately had visions of some hostage situation where she wasn’t allowed to give away any details.  But I was also skeptical.  “Is this an emergency?” I asked.

She hesitated.  “Well, it depends on how you define ‘emergency’.  It’s definitely serious.”

“Is anybody in danger?” I probed.

“Nobody’s in danger, but it’s an emergency.”

“Is it a non-danger emergency that you can take care of?” I inquired.

With absolutely no hesitation she answered, “No.”

We weren’t making much progress, so I probably got a bit testy.  “Just tell me already.  What’s the problem?”

“It’s Fred.  He’s…  I mean it’s his pants.”  She struggled for the words.  “His, uh, zipper.”

Oh — the situation was immediately crystal clear and I finally understood this employee’s reticence to simply deal with the matter herself.

“Okay, I’ll be right there.”  I hung up the phone, checked my own zipper – since one can never be too careful – and then trotted down the stairs.  Before I opened the door to that floor, I paused.  With such a delicate subject, I knew I couldn’t just blurt it out.  And I certainly couldn’t discuss it in front of the others.  Heck, I didn’t even know if everybody else already knew or if it was only the employee who’d called me.

I took a deep breath and entered the department.  With that floor’s layout, it was fairly easy to spot a group of people so I went directly over to them.

“Excuse me, everybody.  Sorry to interrupt, but I need to see Fred for a minute.  There’s been a small change in the schedule.”  That seemed like a good line.  I purposefully did not even look below his sternum because – with all those other eyes on me – I knew I would get flustered if his zipper really was down.

So Fred shrugged and turned … and followed me into the small office which would be his if he got this job.

As we left, I could tell by the way the others quickly huddled and whispered that they all knew about Fred’s errant zipper.

Once we were in that office, I lowered my gaze enough to ascertain that the situation was real.  Yep — it was a full-scale “zipper down” event.

I realized I needed words which specifically conveyed the problem but hopefully would not be too uncomfortable to Fred.  There’d been no time to rehearse anything, and I didn’t recall any similar need for such admonitions since I was a kid on the playground at recess.

And then it struck me:  go with the simplicity of that playground kid … just point out the obvious fact and don’t make a big deal out of build-up or context.  So I just pointed to the area in question and said, “Fred, your barn door’s open.”

I was embarrassed, but Fred was mortified.

The moral to the story is:  on an interview, always check your zipper.

What has embarrassed YOU?


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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24 Responses to Something Really Embarrassing

  1. Francine Infortunio says:

    Whoever first saw it should have been mature enough to tell the guy to check his fly. Poor Fred.


  2. I conducted the children’s choir at my church for several years. We met on Wednesday afternoons, just before the church supper and catechism classes. On one Wednesday afternoon I got dressed in a hurry (I must have had the day off from teaching – maybe a snow day?) and herded my kids into the car for choir practice. The rehearsal went well and I went down to the basement for supper. I sat with my kids and the many other families there. And then I slipped into the restroom before catechism class. That’s when I realized my sweater was on inside out, and the shoulder pads (this was in the early 90s) had been flopping around all evening! Odd that nobody had seen fit to tell me that earlier.


  3. Talk about a wardrobe malfunction! Did you ever see Johnny Carson do ‘Carnack, the Great’ where he held an envelope to his forehead, gave and answer and then read the question in the envelope? One of my favorites was the answer:”Zippidy Doo-dah”. The question:”How do you tell Marcello Mastroianni that his doo-dah is open?” I hope you never need that line,Jeff, but feel free to use it; Johnny doesn’t need it any more! I dare to guess it was embarrassing enough for you, let alone poor “Fred”.
    I have a million times I have been embarrassed and was having a time trying to come up with one that wasn’t heart-breaking until I realized that the date of the post would be a deciding factor.Please join me tomorrow, Everyone. I guarantee a chuckle.


  4. jbrayweber says:

    Good grief! Poor Fred. But seriously, were all those women too “polite” to say something? Was this really THAT scandalous? Geez.

    I’m sure there are all sorts of embarrassing things that have happened to me. I just recall any. I hardly stay embarrassed for long. We’re all human, and we all have to laugh at ourselves from time to time.

    Great story, Jeff!


    • jeff7salter says:

      great to have you back here, Jenn.
      Yes, the ability to laugh at myself has been a blessing of my more mature years. As a youngster, I couldn’t do it — so each embarrassment stung even worse.


  5. pjharjo says:

    I know I have been mortified before, Jeff, but I can’t remember the specifics. I can definitely imagine poor Fred’s mortification!


  6. In high school I detested laundry, I simply tossed it all together in the dresser. One day I was running late and threw on some clothes. During free hour, I felt something on my calf. I looked down to see one of my bras hanging out of the bottom of my jeans, I quickly yanked it out the rest of the way and shoved it in my bag. I know my friends who were with me and the guy I liked saw it. From then on I folded my clothes properly making certain there was nothing clinging to something else.


  7. Iris B says:

    Bwwhahhahahaha …..
    When I read this I subconsciously checked “my zipper”, when hubby asked what I’m doing I told him about the story and he replied, “Dear, you’re losing it. You’re wearing a dress!”
    Loved your story, Jeff, and I try to remember the “barn” next time I see someone with an open zipper 🙂


    • jeff7salter says:

      well, I’m sure — if I’d been more composed — I could have come up with some expression more genteel … but under the circumstances, “barn door” seemed to capture the situation. Ha.


  8. Alas I have had to tell a stranger in public that his zipper was down. In a crowded store no less with Buford no where to be found. Sigh. I just bit the bullet because I wasn’t sure if he was wearing tan skivies or if that was…er….something ELSE I caught a glimpse of.


    • jeff7salter says:

      ROFL, Calico. That reminds me of the episode of FRIENDS (TV show) in which the other five buddies had to dance around the fact that Joey was “showing” body parts when he was wearing short pants.
      Finally the bartender came over and said, bluntly, “keep your mouse in the house, Joey”.


  9. Pingback: You Wore What? | Four Foxes, One Hound

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