Joanne Palmer: I've got the genes for embarrassing moments


Joanne Palmer

Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at

Find more columns by Palmer here.

There are two kinds of people in this world - those who can wear a white shirt and eat spaghetti with marinara sauce, and those who wear marinara sauce on their white shirt when eating spaghetti.

I think it has something to do with chromosomes. Either you get a gene labeled "Embarrassing Moments" or you don't. I know I have such a gene because embarrassing moments happen to me with alarming regularity.

I have had so many embarrassing moments while wearing ski clothes that you will never, ever see me skiing underneath a lift. I've tried to forget about the dozens of crossed ski tips and spectacular crashes, but there is one incident that registered 9.9 on the Richter scale of memory. It happened a dozen years ago when I skied with Warren Miller. I was certainly not going to audition for a part in the movie. I am your basic advanced intermediate skier - good on high-speed cruisers and lousy in the bumps. At the time, I worked in the marketing department for the Steamboat Ski Area, and I was assigned to make sure Miller and the folks he was skiing with had a good time.

On the last run of the day, I finally had a chance to ride the chair lift with Miller. I panicked. What would I say to this legend with the build of Schwarzenegger and the eyes of Paul Newman? Worrying instead of watching the approaching chair, I barely heard the lift operator yell, "You're going to get hit." I looked over my shoulder and realized he was right. The swinging chair struck my left leg, and down I went.

I can tell you Miller skis on very long, very black K2 skis because my face landed right on them. I stared at those skis a long time before I had the courage to lift my head. I tried to stand but lost my balance and fell again. The laughter from people in the lift line was deafening.

"Put her in a Warren Miller movie," someone shrieked from the back of the lift line.

That suggestion made the liftie light up like a pinball machine. He eyed Miller. "Are you Warren Miller?" he whispered reverently. Miller nodded. "Oh my God," cried the lift operator. "Warren Miller is riding my lift. I'm so glad she fell."

No one offered to help me up, because they were all too busy gawking at Miller. I no longer had to worry about what we would discuss on the lift as I spent the entire time apologizing while he gallantly insisted it was all his fault.

I sat next to Miller that night at dinner and watched the busboys in the restaurant jockey for the chance to clear his plate. One bold one asked for his autograph, and he signed a menu for another person at our table. I was grateful that all eyes were on him and not me as I stumbled on my way back from the salad bar. I kicked the cherry tomatoes under a chair and gave thanks that I wasn't down there with them.

I used to be embarrassed by my embarrassing moments. But recently, I remembered a phrase that has helped me put it all in perspective. I once heard someone say, "Angels can fly because they take life lightly." It made me realize that embarrassing moments are really a gift. They make us laugh at ourselves; they force us to lighten up and take life less seriously.

I've decided I want to fly with the best of them. And, who knows, the next time I discover lipstick on my teeth, I may sprout wings.

Joanne Palmer can be reached at


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