May 7, 2010

Foot Removal 101

We’ve all done it. We’ve opened our mouth and inserted our foot. While the intent may have been innocent humor, the result is still the same. Someone was hurt by a thoughtless remark.

I used to work at a grocery store. I will never forget the first time I rammed my foot into my mouth so deep, I’m surprised I don’t have sneaker treads on the back of my throat. I was on hold with a bank to see if there were funds for a check. The person on the other end of the phone didn’t seem particularly bright or astute. As I sat waiting on the phone, rapidly losing patience, I turned to my co-worker and whispered, “I’ve got a real retard on the other end.”

My co-worker had a child with Down’s syndrome.

Another time I was talking to someone about how I had picked up relish at the grocery store three trips in a row, forgetting that I had picked it up the previous week. I made the self-deprecating remark that I had early onset of Alzheimer’s.

The neighbor I said it to had a parent with Dementia.

This week, I made a remark about being unable to control what my fingers did when I typed and called it keyboard Tourette’s.

The friend who read that comment has a child with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Each time I have made these thoughtless remarks, I never know how to unsay them. Instead, I want to thank the folks who pointed it out to me. It’s never easy to admit being wrong, but it’s a lot easier than continuing to offend. I think it’s a valuable lesson to remember that when we make jokes, if it is at anyone else’s expense, it ceases to be funny. It's a brutal reminder to really think before we speak.

My sincere apologies as well as a thank you for the wake up call. My shoe isn’t very tasty, and I really would like to remove it from my diet.

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