I don't know why flight attendants put a skinny plastic swizzle stick in your cup of coffee, but there it is, and the other day, I brought the coffee to my lips and stuck the stick way up into my nostril, which gives an odd sensation, pain and also shame, of course.
-Garrison Keillor, from his 11/19 column in the Chicago Tribune
While perusing the newspaper today (and by "newspaper" I mean "Tribune website," and I am truly saddened that you now have an image of me staring slack-jawed at a computer monitor punctuated by the occasional finger-twitch mouse click, instead of the glamorous scene of me thumbing through an actual paper while sipping a hot cuppa [with milk and sugar] at a cafe table and wearing a stylish trench, rain drizzling noirishly outside the cafe's picture window).
Er, where was I? Oh, yes. While perusing the newspaper today, I came across Garrison Keillor's column from a couple weeks ago and was completely caught off guard by the literary and humoristic perfection of the opening paragraph. Once I got over it, I truly appreciated the sentiment. So Mr. Keillor knows he's not alone (since he certainly must read my blog), I've decided to throw caution to the wind and confess some of my own mishaps.
Of course, there was the time at a recent dentist appointment that I ended up spitting the wash water, cherubic-fountain style, across the pristine white floor. But...
Just a few months ago, while wearing one of my purposefully stylish outfits no less, I was walking to my car in a pair of fabulous, but precarious, metallic wedges and face planted after tripping over a tree root in the parking lot. Not only did I fumble my car keys, but they flew a good three feet from the impact.
It seems that the younger one is, the worse the potential for inadvertent, self-inflicted degradation. Back in college, Noah and I were walking from the student center to his dorm, holding greasy chicken tenders and large cokes in those nondescript cafeteria Styrofoam cups, and quite suddenly and inexplicably my Birkenstocks betrayed me and I collapsed—and skidded—across the pavement, scattering my tenders and tenderizing the palms of my hands.
In high school, most of my public humiliations revolved around gym class. As if changing in front of your peers during puberty isn't horrific enough (this was a new concept to me in Chicago, since in L.A. we didn't have gym class, because we didn't have a gym; we just had P.E. outside, in which we played basketball, did the 1-mile time trial, and other various sportish activities in our street clothes), I had swimming. In the winter. At 8 a.m. So there was the terror of shimmying out of my clothes in the (meat)locker room, a terror because I typically wore flannel pants under my jeans (I didn't break 100 pounds until college, so I could get away with it) to approximate a tolerable level of warmth and also because peeling out of a wet bathing suit is anything but a discreet endeavor.
And then there was the terror of being forced to pencil dive off the high platform to prove...what? That I could obey the command to jump overboard if I ever found myself in a Titanic-esque tragedy? Newsflash: Although having to be coaxed for 5 minutes into jumping off the high dive in front of the entire class approached a tragic proportion of embarrassment, I'd prefer to save my heroics for actual life-or-death situations. Lucky for me, most everyone lost interest in watching me pussyfoot around and false start after a minute or two and instead stared at the pathetic handful of dweebs whose fear of water outweighed their fear of ridicule, and so spent their mornings in the shallow end, learning not to have panic attacks when the water sloshed up around their chins while they paddle-boarded back and forth in enormous, theatrical flourishes of splashing.
So when volleyball season came around, fielding the ball with my face and having my glasses knocked off and bent was far less embarrassing than it would have been if swimming hadn't come first.
I never did, thank goodness, experience the worst of all adolescent embarrassments: farting in class. Noah says that his dad, once a teacher, ritualistically asked "How was your day? Did anyone fart?" whenever he picked them up from school. I'm definitely glad that I never had to endure such shame, because Kim and I still talk about the time a guy named Travis farted in class in 8th grade (uh, 13 years ago). This fact is all the more compelling when I tell you that I was a year behind them and not even present when The Incident took place.
Lucky for me, my high dive shame was quickly forgotten, when the next unfortunate soul stepped up to the ladder, courage withering with each scaled rung.
And I'd like to think that the time in third grade I enthusiastically pronounced "Arkansas" as "our-canzis" has faded in the memories of those who pointed and laughed. A girl can dream.