After a speaking engagement I like to spend a few minutes with a Q+A session. I often really mess up.
Years ago, I used an image of a run down trailer on a poster for a lecture. The idea was to show my deepest fear, that I would end up in poverty, hopeless, living in a trailer with garbage on the lawn. During the Q+A, one woman stood up and said, "I don't appreciate you making fun of poor people." I responded that was not the intention, it wasn't about socio-economic status, but the idea of losing hope. She continued, "I hope you realize that some of us live in mobile homes." This is where it turned bad.
I should have said, "Yes, you're right. It was insensitive. I'm sorry." But, of course, I didn't. I responded, "Really? I had no idea. I didn't realize that designers live in mobile homes." Of course, I knew designers lived in all kind of houses, but I was on a disastrous roll. This made her mad. "Really, I'm sorry. I didn't know, my office is in Beverly Hills." The audience was now obviously angry. Then someone asked, "What kind of car do you drive?" I should have ignored this and said thank you and stopped. But, I said, "I'd rather not say." "Come on!" someone shouted. "OK, it's a Range Rover, but I drive everyone to lunch. So it's ok."
I was quickly deposited back at the hotel, almost shoved out of a moving car. I didn't have any food, but the woman at the front desk shared a bag of Doritos she brought for her lunch.
In reality, I had lived in the trailer on the poster. In 1980, my step-father at the time owned the trailer park and we lived there for several months between moving from Nevada to Oregon. The trailer was cleaner back then.