I think I attract awkward moments.
I think they just find me, somehow. No matter what I do, I will end up in an awkward moment.
Like the other day, I walked into a coffee shop and the door closed on my boot and took it clean off my foot. Then the door closed, with my boot on the other side of it.
And it wasn’t one of those boots that easily slips back onto your foot. So not only did I have to go back outside to retrieve my boot, but I didn’t want to block the doorway while I struggled to put it back on. So I stuck my toes in and hobbled to the cash register, ordered, and then yanked at my boot while the barista prepared my tea.
I have these awkward memories stored on movie reels in the dusty back parts of my brain, and sometimes a random incident will trigger one of them. Suddenly it starts playing: an awkward memory from my past.
Last night someone on the Internet mentioned Roald Dahl, and it triggered one of those awkward memory reels.
The Elevator Memory
Backstory: I dream every night, and often these dreams are very vivid and very funny. It happens, at times, that I’ll see a person or incident and it suddenly makes me remember something funny that happened in my dream.
In such cases, it takes all my willpower not to tell everyone around me about the dream.
And sometimes my willpower fails me.
I’ve learned to leave out the boring parts of dreams, so usually this is just a couple sentences. A little cringe, but not too egregious.
But one time…
It happened in the Oregon State University library, six stories tall with a very slow, very busy elevator. As soon as I climbed onto this elevator full of strangers, I remembered my dream.
“Oh, last night I dreamed that this elevator was the great glass elevator from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!” I announced to everyone. “It shot through the roof of the library and into the sky!”
No one responded. Not a smile. Not a chuckle. Not a groan.
Slooooooooooowly the elevator doors closed.
Slooooooooooooooowly the elevator began to climb.
Sloooooooooooooooooooooooowly the doors opened again, and I scuttled away to hide in an abandoned aisle of books.
The Escalator Memory
I guess the awkward elevator memory made me remember my awkward escalator memory.
One time, when Jenny was about 4 and I was about 13, we went to a mall with our cousins. It was my job to watch Jenny. Jenny and one of her cousins about her age were obsessed with riding the escalators, so I and another older cousin took them up and down the escalators several times.
On one of these trips, I failed to hold Jenny’s hand as we stepped on the escalator. I did not realize that this was a crucial part of the experience.
About halfway down, I realized that Jenny was not with me. She was still at the top, crying because I hadn’t held her hand.
All my big sister instincts kicked in at once. By hook or by crook, I was going to rescue Jenny. So I started booking it back to her…up the down escalator.
Which TBH is pretty hard, even though it goes pretty slow.
For some reason, the last sprint was the hardest. I felt like I wasn’t quite going to overcome the momentum of the escalator. But then, with a valiant lurch, I did it! I reached the top and rescued Jenny!
That’s when it registered that there was a kind handsome young man at the top of the escalator, and he was saying, “I can hold her hand.”
In fact, he’d been saying this the whole time I was huffing and puffing my way up the down staircase, but I’d been too singularly focused to notice.
Billy and the Paper Airplane
I had a teacher in community college who had a few unorthodox teaching methods. Several awkward things happened in his class, and this is one of them.
The first day of class, I arrived late and the only available seat was right up front. It was a pretty crowded classroom, and the frontmost student table was right up against the teacher’s desk. So the distance between the teacher and I was conversational-distance rather than teacher-student distance.
Then, of course, that was my seat for the rest of term.
On one side of me sat a mom who was returning to college. On the other side of me sat Billy, this all-American, good-looking-in-a-very-basic-way, baseball-playing, cap-wearing guy who occasionally said something interesting, but whom I paid very little attention to.
One day I arrived early to class and was one of the first people to enter the room after the previous class had vacated. The teacher of the previous class gave my teacher a box of donuts and said, “we didn’t eat all these, you can give them to your class if you want.”
My teacher then held up the box of donuts, and as the whole class filed in he said, “Emily brought us all donuts today, so don’t forget to thank her!”
And a bunch of people started thanking me before I had a chance to explain.
Then, my teacher decided we were going to prank the class next to us. For some reason, there was just a door between these two classrooms. He had us all make paper airplanes, and then he opened the door and we all threw our paper airplanes into the next class.
My airplane never made it to the next classroom, but I retrieved it.
Then, feeling clever, I wrote a note on it. I said:
Since I “brought the donuts,” does this mean I can take the leftover donuts home with me?
Then I tossed it at my teacher.
At this point, we’d all settled into our seats after the paper airplane prank. My teacher took the paper airplane I’d just tossed and, pretending to read the note out loud, said, to the whole class:
I have such a huge crush on Billy, but I’m too shy to let him know. Can you tell him for me? -Emily
Then he put the paper airplane down and we got on with the class.
Regarding what happened next, all I remember is that after class I retrieved both the paper airplane and the donuts, ran after Billy, and showed him what the note really said. He didn’t seem fazed, so I presume he understood the nature of our teacher and never actually thought I had a crush on him.
This teacher, incidentally, is one of the former teachers I’ve kept up with the most. In fact, he occasionally reads this blog.
So yes, those are the types of awkward memories that live rent-free in my head. There are many more where those came from, but those are the three I thought of today.
At least they make good stories, you know?
Also: I’m sorry to say that the picture I put at the beginning of this post has nothing to do with the contents of this post, except that it’s one of the most hilariously awkward photos of me. Amy took it when we visited Kenya in 2011. I was buying shoes. I don’t know why I was so skeptical.
Or why the shoe seller was so skeptical.
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