To this day I have no idea why this incident, really a minor embarrassment in the scheme of things, continues to make me break into a cold sweat and make my stomach twist if I think about it. Probably it has to do with realizing I hurt and/or angered another person without meaning to.
The room froze, and I immediately realized that I'd said something that was taken in a way I didn't mean.
My first full-time job after college was working in a San Francisco advertising agency, where I’d been promoted from the receptionist to the admin for an account executive. Unfortunately the main client wouldn’t accept a woman at any higher level, and I wanted to pursue writing anyway, so I left. I look back on my time at the agency with fondness and really enjoyed being there, and especially learning from the copywriters, who were very experienced. Ultimately I got a job writing for a biomedical company in Palo Alto.
For reasons I don’t remember now, I had the occasion to go back to San Francisco and drop in at the agency. It was wonderful see the people there. They had just taken on a new writer, whose name I can’t recall, who was relatively young. I thought he was there to help out one of the senior-level writers, so when we were introduced, I said, “Hi, it’s great to meet the junior writer.” The room froze, and I immediately realized that I’d said something that was taken in a way I didn’t mean.
I’d thought it was common to use “junior” as the opposite of “senior” to indicate someone with a bit less experience, but apparently this wasn’t the case, and this man took it to mean he had limited ability and potential. Somehow I got out of the situation, but I was so mortified that I couldn’t even apologize.
If this were to happen now, I think I’d be able to apologize and salvage the situation. At least I hope so.
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.