Most of us have made this mistake, right? Okay, …maybe not EXACTLY this mistake.

Was trading stories from our youth with a buddy of mine the other day, and this one made us both chuckle.

Handing over the keys

My first job out of college was managing a car rental agency. The hours were long, but money was decent, plus I had my pick of any car in the fleet for my personal use.

However, it was a high-stress and highly frenetic job. We had the largest fleet in the district, and days could get pretty crazy. As a result, I was usually a bit desperate to make sure everything got done, but would occasionally forget who was supposed to have done what.

So on a typical day as I ran back into the building, I saw my assistant (and to this day, one of my dearest friends) Robert, going over a rental agreement with an elderly couple.

Out of breath and without thinking, I interrupted their conversation and blurted out:

“Did you call Dr. Tan?”

“…Ummm, …no, but…”, he began.

“Dammit, I asked you to do that first thing this morning!” I said. “You need to take care of him immediately, as soon as you’re finished with these folks. Okay?”

Yes, I was being rude. Yes, I should have waited until they were gone. I know that now, and knew it then, too: I simply wasn’t paying attention.

Yet even as I was talking, I noticed the couple become alarmed, even shocked. The man went so far as to actually use his arm to shield his wife, who now appeared to be downright scandalized by my very presence.

Shocked woman

Assuming that my mild cursing had offended them, I offered a too-quick “My apologies for interrupting…”, and raced back to my desk to handle a ringing phone.

Regardless, both the man and woman kept staring at me, eyes wide as headlights, and they were whispering to each other a-mile-a-minute.

I did my best to ignore them.

When they finally left (and the staring/whispering had continued all the way out the door), my assistant came over to me and asked, smiling:

“You’re probably wondering about that couple, aren’t you?”

“Yeah!” came my immediate response. “What WAS their problem?!”

Patiently, with his smile getting bigger by the second:

“Well, they took issue with your question…”. 

“Oh, c’mon,” I said. “They’ve never heard the word ‘dammit‘ before?”

“That wasn’t it” he informed me. And it was then that I learned, between his stifled laughter, that I had NOT, in fact, uttered the words: “…Did you call Dr. Tan?…”


No, he promised that my query, clearly stated and in front of those customers, was instead:

“Did you KILL Dr. Tan?”

Which, of course, puts what I’d said next (“…You need to take care of him immediately, as soon as you’re finished with these folks….) in a slightly different light, and most assuredly to THEM.

I’m guessing they didn’t rent from us again, either.

One (more) odd thing about the whole misunderstanding: I have no actual recollection of the mysterious Dr. Tan himself. None whatsoever. After all these years, only his name stands out. No clue who the good doctor was, why we needed to call him, and I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup of one.

But I’m just as certain that both he AND his wife probably remember me


19 responses to “Most of us have made this mistake, right? Okay, …maybe not EXACTLY this mistake.

  1. 🙂 cute

    But, that seals it, we must place Dr. Tan in a protected class so that he can be a tool used to further agendas and enact regulations (got a pen and a phone?) and we must ban the word ‘kill’ as well … it is offensive and causes people not to rent vehicles.

    God bless you and yours brother… 😀

  2. Ya I can see this scene playing out. LOL. Don’t they say though that slips like that show something hidden in the sub-conscience. I’ll remember to be on my guard next time I see you.

  3. I bet they returned car on time!

  4. I am quite sure you told me this story at some point, though I truly don’t remember it. But the retelling made me laugh till I cried. Thanks, Bro!

  5. Great story!
    I’ll share this one …
    About a year and a half ago I went to buy a new pick-up truck. My wife Rini accompanied me. Well this was the biggest hassle I’ve ever had in buying a vehicle. First picking one out. The test drive. Then working the deal. Paper work. More paper work. I had my driver’s license, insurance papers, most recent pay stub, and a trade in vehicle with title … all having my name and address on them. The guy came back in and asked me if I had a utility bill to prove my address. I was going ballistic, and told the guy if what I had wasn’t enough, I’m walking.
    After two or three hours I was pacing, ranting and raving like a maniac in a little waiting room with Rini.
    Rini was trying to get me to calm down and finally asked me if she could read to me. She was reading Prevention Magazine, so I said “yes” and I sat down fuming. The article she was reading was about heart disease and high blood pressure, etc. She’s reading along and comes to a part where she reads,
    “… and 30 minutes of sexual activity each day will lower one’s blood pressure and is instrumental in combating heart disease …”
    I stopped her stunned, and exclaimed, “EVERY DAY???” … She started laughing so hard and said, “I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.”
    I hope you have a great Sunday afternoon!

  6. livinrightinpgh

    Dr. Tan, upon hearing of your imminent threat, went into witness protection, and has not been heard from again. Rumor has it he REFUSES to ever rent a car again….

  7. What a strange story! I laughed too!
    I have never done such a thing! *wink, wink*

    • I’ve certainly had better moments, tannngl…! 😉

      But live-n-learn, right?
      On the bright side, with that permanently fixed in my mind, I don’t believe I’ve ever done such a thing again.

      I think…

  8. That’s funny. LOL. Good thing they didn’t laugh when you said it, that probably wouldn’t have helped.

  9. I once told someone who was boasting about their number of customers: “well, you’ll never know how many customers you lost.” He had that confused look on his face.

  10. OK…chuckle that’s funny. I had a similar incident about a month ago at work. Keep in mind as I tell you this, very very rarely do I curse and everyone I work with knows this. On the phone with my 12 year boss talking about his sales assistant. I told him….’my goodness she’s a ditz’. Dead solebce

    • Silence on the other end. My boss says ‘I’ve never heard you use that word’….my reply, ‘what? Its true she’s a ditz’. He’s never heard that word and thought I was calling her something entirely different. 😁

  11. I both type and speak the absolute wrong word all the time–usually replacing my intended target with one that is similar is sound or spelling It is strange–not a typo but a disconnect of some kind. It’s actually reassuring to hear you talk about this.

    Also, it is a very good thing the mysterious Dr. Tan didn’t end up in a shallow grave out by inter interstate–your life would be very different today.

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