I believe in telling someone when their fly is down, when their slip is showing or when any number of other traditionally embarrassing gaffes strike an unaware party.
A couple years ago, my dad told me a story about how he found that suddenly, midway through his day, he couldn’t see clearly out of one eye. No matter how many times he removed his glasses, itched his eyes and then put his glasses back on, he just couldn’t see clearly. He finally asked a co-worker “Do you see anything in my eye? There’s something wrong, everything’s blurry on one side.” His co-worker looked at him with a strange expression and said, “No, I don’t see anything.”
Later that afternoon after spending his day worrying about his clouded vision, my dad was washing his hands in the restroom. He looked up at himself in the mirror and froze. His left lens was missing from his eyeglass frame. Medical mystery solved.
My dad said he later asked his co-worker why he hadn’t mentioned the missing lens. The co-worker offered some sort of awkward explanation – something like “Oh, I didn’t notice,” or “I thought you knew.” I wonder how many other people my dad talked to that day likewise didn’t say a word and instead pondered why on earth he would go through his day with only one of two eyeglass lenses.
This story taught me it’s better to tell someone they have food stuck in their teeth or a booger peeking out of their nostril rather than let them go through their day only to get home, look in the mirror and slap their forehead wondering, ‘Did anyone notice?’ knowing full well that yes, everyone did.
Maybe we shouldn’t be embarrassed in these situations because this sort of stuff happens to everyone – who hasn’t discovered they have dried toothpaste on their collar or that their bra strap was front and center during a board meeting?
But the fact is, we are embarrassed. We do wish someone had taken us a side and whispered, “Your socks are two different colors” or “You have mascara streaked across your face.” Even if we couldn’t change it, at least we’d know why we were getting quizzical stares and averted eyes.
I don’t know about you, but I would be forever grateful to the brave individual who warns me when I’ve been walking around with a wad of chewing gum stuck to my rear. I would smile, tie a sweater around my waist and simply say: Thank you.
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