Tim Conway with Jane Scovell, What’s So Funny? My Hilarious Life (NY: Howard Books, 2013), pp. 71-3.
There was one I liked a lot, enough to pursue her to the full extent of my ability. Let’s call her Sue. One weekend, I decided to drop in on Sue unannounced, not a smart move since Sue went to another college some one hundred and twenty miles from [Bowling Green State University]. I hitchhiked my way over and phoned her when I reached my destination.
“Hi Sue, it’s Tom. I’m here.”
“I’m on your campus and I wondered if you’d like to have lunch with me.”
“Oh dear, well, you see my mother’s here and we’re leaving right now for the country club. Some friends are joining us.”
“Oh,” I answered.
“Well, um, you’re welcome to join us, too,” replied Sue hesitantly.
“Gee, that’d be swell,” I said enthusiastically. I asked for and received the address and told Sue I’d be right over.
I wasn’t exactly dressed for country club dining but I didn’t exactly know that. Oddly enough Sophia and Dan [his parents] had never belonged to a club, which left me in total ignorance of behavior and dress codes. I went to the address Sue gave me and was confronted with a slightly smaller version of the Taj Mahal. I walked in and immediately was stopped by a guy in uniform. I explained that I was joining Sue for lunch, he said I needed a jacket and tie. And when I explained that I didn’t have either, he grimaced, disappeared, and returned carrying a jacket and tie, a much better jacket and much nicer tie than I had ever owned. I put them on and entered the dining room. Sue was seated at a table, her mother on one side of her, a nice-looking guy on the other, and an older couple seated opposite them. I said hello and slipped into an empty chair at the end of the table. Unbeknownst to me, Sue and her mother were having lunch with Sue’s “boyfriend” and his parents. Could’ve fooled me, I thought I was her boyfriend. I’d met Sue’s mother and got the feeling that she went to bed every night praying that her daughter would meet a nice boy. Her dreams had come true in the other guy, and here was her nightmare crashing the party. Like I said, Sue was a good person and obviously invited me because she felt bad that (1) She was dumping me, and (2) I’d hitchhiked all that way to see her.
I was totally out of my element, which became very evident as the meal progressed. Unfamiliar with some of the advanced tableware, I proceeded to make gaffe after gaffe. Forget the old one about picking up the finger bowl and drinking the water, they didn’t have finger bowls. What they did have was a gravy boat, a piece of crockery I’d never before come across. It’s a small ceramic pitcher attached to a plate underneath. The plate’s there just in case you spill some of the gravy when you are ladling it out of the pitcher. The ladle sits in the bowl and when the boat is passed, you hold on to the handle and scoop out the gravy. Then you put the ladle back in the bowl and, with a broad smile that says I do this every day of the week, you put the bowl down. That day, a waiter put the gravy boat on the table next to me. I didn’t know what it was or what it contained but I had to do something with it. I thought about it and then took a wild guess that I had been served soup. I picked up the bowl and was surprised when the bottom plate came along. I tried to separate the two pieces. I gave up when it became obvious they were inseparable. I remember thinking, Okay, I’ll just put the whole piece in front of me while I eat. I moved the gravy boat, picked up the ladle, and proceeded to eat the “soup.” (Do you eat soup or drink soup?) All eyes were on me. I looked up, smiled, drew my napkin across my mouth, and said, “Very good, a little salty, but really very good.”
After lunch, I said good-bye to Sue. I should have said farewell because I never saw her again. I assume she married the nice boy, who didn’t say one word to me during meal (actually, no one spoke to me but Sue), and that they lived happily ever after. I hitchhiked back to Bowling Green sadder, wiser, and a little sick to my stomach from the gravy.
Roger E. Axtell, Do's and Taboos of Humor Around the World (NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1999), p. 135.
Frank Plencner, former director of tourism for the state of Arizona, tells about one occasion when he was required to host four important government officials from the People's Republic of China. As it happened, their visit extended over the Thanksgiving holiday. Frank and his wife decided to invite the visitors to their home for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The guests were, of course, fascinated by the decorations, and none had ever seen or eaten roast turkey. The mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, and cranberries were also new. Frank happened to notice one guest being handed the gravy: the Chinese man looked around, somewhat confused, and then proceeded to drink the entire boat of gravy!