Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Pledge Allegiance...

You really want to know my most embarrassing moment?

Well, too bad. I'm not sharing that one. But here's one I don't mind telling you about:

The first time I went through customs, I traveled alone. I was twenty years old and far less confident than I pretended to be, but I managed to navigate the labyrinth that is the Toronto International Airport and locate my Canadian hosts on the other side of the International Arrivals gate. 

The American had arrived.

I was there on Official Business. 

Official business as the California representative to Ontario, Canada for an international youth organization.

This was an important trip and a lot of people were excited to meet the blond girl from California. 

So excited were they that a big meeting was scheduled to invite all the local chapters and all of their members to attend. 

It was a whirlwind of meeting new people, mostly teenage girls, and I was unused to being the center of attention. Though I won't pretend I didn't love every minute of it.

The meeting began and I put on my best Serious Face. I was, after all, expected to be a good example to the fine young ladies in attendance and to represent California with pride and dignity.

The Canadian flag was presented and I joined in a rousing chorus of O Canada, an anthem I am proud to know by heart.

And then, out of respect for their visiting foreign dignitary, the American flag was presented and those Canadians rang out an impressive rendition of the Star Spangled Banner

Followed by my own national anthem, the young lady conducting the meeting followed our custom and invited me to Pledge Allegiance to my flag. I stood there in that room full of Canadians. The only American. I smiled wide with my hand firmly over my heart and began.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America."

I stopped. 

What's the next line? How does it go? Oh my gosh I'm butchering the pledge in front of a whole bunch of foreigners! I'm embarrassing my country! I'm a national disgrace! What comes next?? I can't believe I don't remember!

A woman near me whispered, "And to the republic..."

I gasped.

"And to the Republic forwhichitstands, 
one nation under God, 
indivisible, withlibertyandjusticeforall."

My cheeks burned with humiliation. I'd forgotten the very pledge I'd been reciting since the age of 5. I'd had to be prompted. And, even worse, I'd had to be prompted by a Canadian.

It doesn't get much more embarrassing than that.

Well, except for this one time. At the beach...