A piece of advice.
The best thing you can do when choking, sneezing, or participating other uncontrollable bodily actions is to steer into the skid, so to speak. The worst thing to is what I do, which is to aggressively try to control the situation. It will get away from you, and because you’ve tried to stifle it, it’s passage into the world will be forced and violent, and all the more obvious for it. This leads to odd, strained sounding sneezes that make you sound like a lady cartoon character.
Choking seems to bring out the absolute worst response in me, probably because my fear of death comes into direct conflict with my fear of coughing in public. Usually I let things go too far, until you end up with a situation like I had today where I spat up coffee all over myself in the middle of Union Square. Good thing I was on my way to work.
*Fun fact, I could not spell either word in this title without spellcheck.
Usually when I make terrible, awkward, embarrassing decisions they are caused by moments of blind panic where I’m acting on my spotty instincts. Occasionally though, I make a conscious and thought out decision to behave in a manner that I am certain will be super cool, only to find halfway through my action that I have made a huge mistake. These moments are so much worse than the normal awkward blunders, because the moment before your dinner is all over the floor is the moment that you’re thinking, “I can’t believe no one has ever thought to reach for their plate with their feet before!”
Tonight at the movie theater I was about to leave the lobby with my drink and snacks when I noticed they’d left the top of the wrapper on the straw like a one fingered glove of sterility. I remember having an uncompleted, but very urgent thought that I needed to throw out that bit of wrapper in the lobby, or else it would end up in my pocket. For some reason this would not do, but with a popcorn in one hand and the drink in the other, how was I supposed to unburden myself of this unwanted trash?
Well I still had my mouth, didn’t I? I was standing right by the trash, there was no reason why I couldn’t just take the wrapper off with my lips, and then effortlessly (maybe even with some sex appeal?) blow it gently into the trash.
Except that it stuck to my lips. And I couldn’t really lean forward without spilling the popcorn so I had to kind of crouch over the trash can. And it made a funny noise as I desperately tried to blow or spit it out of my mouth.
Clearly the only thing to do was to rip the thing off my mouth (to later be stored in my pocket and forgotten about), turn around and walk with quick deliberation into the men’s room.
I’ve always had a fascination with public bathrooms, especially restaurant ones. When I was little I had a fantasy where I was a secret restaurant bathroom reviewer. I’d put up a sticker in all the bathrooms I visited, marking my approval, and soon people would start basing their restaurant choices based on the word that the bathroom had received ”the stamp”.
The metro in Prague runs deep underground. The escalators running down to the tubes are some of the steepest and fastest I’ve ever encountered. I don’t do well with escalators in general. I have a fear of heights that manifests itself most often on ladders and stairs. This can sometimes lead to embarrassing moments on the escalator, especially getting on to the downwards moving ones. I often have to do a little double take with my foot, testing out my timing until I can fully commit to the plunge. Watch a little kid getting on an escalator sometime, they do the same thing. That is, they do UNLESS, they go right on ahead and jump forward with both feet at the same time. Which is the strategy I decided to employ in Prague accompanied, of course, by a sharp and piercing high pitched squeal.
* My sister: You’re fly.
Me: Why thank you.
My sister: No… your fly is down.
* Trying to remember for 20 minutes why you’ve heard of a song before, and then realizing it’s because it was Payton’s dead mother’s favorite song on One Tree Hill.
* It was bad enough that my foot kept slipping and hitting the radiator in the coffee shop, making a loud ringing sound. I really didn’t need to my headphones to also pop out of my computer so everyone could hear how much I was lovin’ the Goo Goo Dolls that day.
* With my roommate looking on, I tripped over my computer cord three times in succession. It became a nice little rhythm. Get up, trip, curse, put bread in toaster, sit down, get cord tangled around my foot again without noticing. Repeat, with only slight variations in the toast section. I am unaware that this is a weird thing to be happening. My roommate is baffled at my incompetence.
I wrote yesterday about my recent bad voicemail experience. It reminded me of another time I screwed up royally in that department while on the job.
More accurately, it was while searching for a job to be on. This was towards the end of my sophomore year in college and I was looking for summer jobs. I had received instructions to call this one educational summer camp I had applied to work for, to schedule a phone interview. I much prefer phone interviews to meeting in person, since you can wear pajamas, so I wasn’t even that nervous when I called.
"Hi!," I had to leave a message on their answering machine, "My name is Natasha, (xxx)…" I realized that I had started to give the phone number for my parents house. Easily fixed, but was flustered and my body’s fight or flight response was in full on flight. "I’m sorry, that’s the wrong number. My number is (xxx) xxx…" This time I had started to leave my mother’s number. I was frozen. I could neither remember my number, nor muster up anything else to say into the phone. This, I felt, I could never recover from. To not just give the wrong number once, but twice in a row? For some reason it didn’t occur to me that leaving dead air on the answering machine for what must have been at least 30 full seconds at this point was not much better. Finally I remembered my phone number, and with no explanation whatsoever, spat out the rest of my message as fast as I could. "(xxx) xxx-xxxx, I’mcallingtoscheduleaninterviewforthecounciler/educatorposition,pleasecallmeatyourearliestconvenience"
I didn’t get the job.
There might not be any worse feeling then panic, at least in the short term. Heart-break, or any kind of loss, hurts longer, it comes up and makes you twitch with phantom pains long after you thought your system was rid of it. But in the immediate, in the moment it happens, my money is on panic in the category of “shitty feelings.” In it’s mildest form panic can take the form of “I left my phone at the bar,” at it’s most extreme it can be anything from “I forgot xxx and now I might lose my job” to “I forgot I had a kid for a second and now I can’t find them.”
My experiences with leaving professional voicemails fall somewhere in between.
I think i’ve written this before, but I think the cause of most major embarrassing moments is a tragic mishandling of a minor one.
Case in point, I got a little confused the other day trying to get into the building where my doctor’s office is. It’s the kind of building where employes enter by swiping their ID through a metal turnstile. Guests like myself had to talk to the security guard. Right off the bat I had myself set up for a failure. I didn’t get my headphones out on time, and I had completely forgotten the name of the doctor I was there to see. I mumbled something about going to see “the doctor on the 9th floor” and he waved me on through. I walked into the turnstile. It didn’t budge.
"Hey," the guard waved over at a large sign next to the turnstile. "Over there." He said.
I blinked nervously at him and then turned to read the sign, which detailed which elevator to take to get to the floor you needed. I nodded, smiling, at the security guard and tried again to go through the turnstile. Again, it didn’t budge. Confused, I looked over at the sign again, vaguely wondering if I was missing something.
"Lady!", the guard was close to yelling now. "Over there!"
He gestured again, but this time I realized that he wasn’t waving at the sign, but at the open space next to it. The open space that, if you couldn’t swipe in through the turnstile, was there to walk through. Panicking with embarrassment, I gave the security guard the largest smile I could and ran through towards an opening elevator door.
Unfortunately, as I desperately dashed into the elevator I had forgotten what I had just read (twice) on the sign by the turnstile. This elevator bank didn’t go to the 9th floor. It ran express up to the 20th.
"Lady!" I heard the doorman shouting as the elevator doors closed. "What is wrong with you!"
For an outside observer, a lot of my job looks like I’m not working. This is partially because I usually have a TV show running in the background, but partially because I spend a lot of time on social media. Everyday I slog through Tumblr looking at what teenage girls are having opinions about.
Recently, there’s been a lot of erotica on one of the tags I follow. From what I can tell, it all comes from an anonymous long distance couple, of a sort, that sends each other “classy” black and white and that range from stills of women in masks and sexy lingerie to detailed and pornographic animated GIFs. It’s always a little unnerving going from “OMG, WHAT A HOTTIE! WHY CAN’T ANYONE KISS ME???? AMMIRIGHT?” to someone’s oddly captioned grammatically incorrect public fantasies.
I imagine though, that it must have been even more unnerving for my boss’s cleaning lady when she saw what was popping up on my screen. It’s bad enough getting caught watching Pretty Little Liars, the thought that someone might think I was pairing that with some porn was enough to make me slam down my monitor and mutter something about going out to get some food.
My roommate lives in a constant state of awareness that I might spill, break, or injure something at any moment. She follows me around, pushing glasses away from the edge of the table and handing me potholders like George Michael Bluth when his aunt Lindsey is in charge. It hasn’t affected her sleep yet, but only because my wood post rope bed hasn’t broken yet (an inevitability). She said nothing about me surprises her anymore, which I’m competitive enough to take offense at. If I’m going to be a disaster I’d at least like to be an innovative one. When I mentioned this she said, “well, I wasn’t going to tell you this, but if you need something to blog about…”
The other morning she was washing some dishes, and put a cast iron pan on a low flame on the stove to dry before getting in the shower. She forgot about the pan on the stove and left for work.
I work at home most days, and spend most afternoons on the two black chaise lounges that we have acting as a couch in our living room. It directly faces the stove. Somehow I made it the whole day sitting looking at the stove, never even getting out of my pajamas, without noticing that there was a flame on. I make at least two cups of tea every day. That means two trips to the stove to boil water without noticing.
My roommate got home and turned the stove off with me none the wiser. If she hadn’t told me tonight I never would have known. I think I’ve managed to surprise even myself with this one.