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Having a nose for finding humiliation

Somebody recently asked me, “What was your most embarrassing moment?” Hmm, why would she even assume I’d ever had an embarrassing moment? Then I realized why – she knows me.

It’s only a hop, skip and a pratfall from my everyday life to embarrassment. And yes, I certainly have had my share, but this one wasn’t my fault. Mostly.

My late husband, Tom, died on Memorial Day. Two years later, I was planning on spending the holiday in the garden, digging through 40 years of memories. Then came the phone call.

One of my dearest friends had just lost her brother, her only sibling. She was incredibly generous and cared deeply for her friends. I loved her … and would do most anything for her.

She asked me to come to his private funeral service at the Chautauqua cemetery, with a sit-down luncheon by the lake – on May 31. OK, my plans for the day were scrubbed. Then it hit me – the last thing I wanted to do on the anniversary of Tom’s death was attend a funeral.

I accepted, of course. What actually made it harder was that Tom and my friend’s brother, Bud, had really hit it off. Both had been Navy officers, and they traded war stories, lies and laughter each time they met.

Arriving at the cemetery, I parked and walked toward the small tent and chairs set up for the family. I laid my purse on a small table while trading hugs with Bud’s children. Looking across the lawn, I realized most of the invited mourners were on the other side of the tent. Two couples were beckoning to me, and I found myself unable to grab my purse, the table blocked by family.

I joined my friends on the other side, welcomed to a small group of Chautauquans. Whew, I was glad I’d chosen my new navy dress, but I felt undressed without my purse. Well, dummy, just fetch it after the ceremony

After thoughtfully chosen readings and prayers, Anita, the soprano we all knew, stepped into the center. She was the surrogate daughter of my dear friend, who had taken me to see the young woman’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera.

Anita quietly began to sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” I closed my eyes, knowing I’d be openly weeping if I didn’t.

With each verse, she raised the timbre and volume of her voice. As she opened the third stanza wide, her magnificent voice bounced off the headstones, reverberating across the sacred ground. I felt myself losing the battle with my emotions.

When the hymn was over, I needed a handkerchief for my tears … in my purse. My head still bowed, I opened my eyes and looked down … at the 4-foot string of snot that was hanging out of my left nostril.

Not believing my eyes, a ray of sun lit up the long, silvery slime that ended just above my ankle. It actually swayed in the breeze. Oh. My. God. I was standing between a national bank CEO, a university president and their elegant wives. Tissue-less. Handkerchief-less. Drip-faced. And sporting a 4-foot iridescent pendulum. Now what?

I tried not to panic. I couldn’t ask anyone for a tissue in that state. Desperate, hoping nobody saw, I reached up with my left hand and pinched the stalactite off at the nostril, then bent down instantly as if I had dropped something in the grass. They’ll never notice that I’m wiping my hand on the lawn then running it down the left side of my dress. Will they? Nah. My right hand still free for handshakes, I worked my way back to the table to retrieve my purse.

As I drove to the luncheon, I imagined the ladies’ room conversations: “Did you see that huge string of snot Marcy had?” “Wow, what a talent! I couldn’t produce slime like that if I were a snail!” Big laughs and hoots.

Probably not. I really don’t think anyone noticed, but they all were too polite to acknowledge anything so gross.

Feeling like an 8-year-old waiting to be found out, I sat through lunch making the usual small talk. All the while I wondered, “Did he see my waving goo?” “Did she see me pluck the sticky string off my face?”

I imagined one of Bud’s grandsons whispering about the old lady with a giant wet booger, long enough for the Guinness Record Book. Yup, that was me. Old Bag Booger-Face.

One of my mother’s greatest fears had finally come true: she always warned me not to become a snot-nosed kid. Once again, I had disobeyed her.

I still blush just thinking about it. But Tom would have laughed.

Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren with her husband, Richard, and Finian, their dyspeptic Maine Coon cat. Marcy can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com

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