Some people like being the center of attention and some don’t. Actors, trial attorneys, politicians, musicians, athletes and TV anchors, for example, wouldn’t pursue their careers for the sole purpose of getting attention obviously, but some clearly enjoy the spotlight and are loath to walk away from it. Others, like myself, don’t particularly like it, don’t seek it out, and I suspect most people are probably like that.
But, some might say to me, you write a newspaper column. Don’t you enjoy the attention you get from that? Well, of course (most of the time). Who wouldn’t? And not that I get a lot of it. The column gives me the rare privilege and opportunity to spout off in a public forum, generate discussion and try to entertain people — starting with myself, by the way. It thankfully is not based on seeking attention.
So, having established that I’m sort of a regular schmoe in that sense, I became the total and complete center of attention at a public gathering recently in the most outrageous and embarrassing manner — and none of it was good. None at all. Zip, zero, nada, zilch — and why write about it? Because it’s a therapeutic exercise which, quite honestly, I should have addressed several weeks ago immediately after the incident instead of waiting for the New Year.
It was a very nice party my wife and I were pleased to have been invited to, honoring a young lady, inside an ancient and historic residence, elegantly fixed up and beautifully catered, with gentlemen in black and white and sparkling ladies recreating a type of seasonal entertainment and ambiance that has taken place in Charleston over generations. The rules haven’t changed; everybody enthusiastically greets and speaks with the honoree and the hosts, makes the rounds, tries to be good company, behaves themselves and above all else tries to avoid being stupid, dull or boring, or worse, boorish, or even worse: vulgar — or in any way create an unamusing “scene.” To do so would be disgraceful.
I ended up creating a scene — and wasn’t even inebriated, rude, disheveled or unshowered. How was this possible? It’s not like I’m not familiar with the drill, having attended these types of parties off and on now for over 40 years.
The upstairs portion of the house was open to guests, and it was very nice to mix and mingle in somewhat quieter enclaves, admiring the period furnishings and so forth. When it came time to go back downstairs, my wife and I and some others had to make a sharp left turn on the landing before continuing our descent, where suddenly I felt something pushing against my right elbow and then abruptly surge past and tumble down the rest of the stairs.
At least the object was inanimate, thank God, and not a human being — a fragile vase containing flowers sitting on a pedestal that evidently I had bumped into and sent cascading to an explosive crash down the stairs and onto the floor below.
The most interesting part was the attendees’ reaction, transitioning from noisy chattering to stunned silence. Sadly, there I stood, equally shocked, and not witty or clever enough at the moment to shout out “Sic semper tyrannus,” remark about how I never liked that vase and that it had to go, or break into Shakespearean soliloquy or some such.
Thankfully, some wag had the presence of mind behind me to yell, “I didn’t do it,” which elicited a laugh as I began cleaning up.
“Don’t you even worry about a thing,” the lady of the house ever-so-graciously remarked to me. “You’re at least the third person to do that. That pedestal is in a bad place, and I don’t know why I keep putting it back there. It’s almost become kind of a joke.”
Well, I was relieved to hear that, although I suspect her words were intended more to soothe than pay attention to detail.
The following week, I happened to be in a jewelry store looking for Christmas ideas. The gentleman of the house happened to be there doing the same.
“They don’t sell vases here,” he said, before busting into laughter.