Mouth Slip, Brain Fart

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Norma: Sleeping, not dead.

More than a decade ago, when our daughter was an infant, the wife and I hired a nanny named Jan.

Jan was strange.

She was a babysitter who, it turns out, didn’t seem to especially know how to care for a child. She was awkward and quirky, and arguably the worst conversationalist I’ve ever seen. Once, in the midst of a dispute, Jan said something that I disagreed with. I tried to lighten the mood. “You know what,” I said. “You’re fired.”

Jan rose from the table, said, “Fine!” and started to walk off.

“No, no, no,” I said. “Jan, I’m just kidding …”

The wife has reminded me of that story, oh, 678 times. It’s not the sort of thing that happens to me often, but, eh, it does happen from time to time.

Like, for instance, today.

My daughter is now 11, and we brought our dog Norma to PetSmart for a haircut. As we left the building, I said to Casey, “That was sad”—because Norma looked unhappy as we departed. An employee—probably in her mid-50s—overheard the commend and said, “Oh, are you OK?”

I smiled. “No biggie. We’re just having he dog put down.”

The woman’s face turned ashen. “I’m so terribly sorry,” she said. “I know how painful that is. I’ve …”

“No, no, no,” I said. “I’m kidding. It’s just a haircut.”

The woman was not happy.

Sometimes I fail to understand myself.