I have a love/hate relationship with awkwardness. I love it sometimes as it does make for great stories but I prefer to witness someone else enduring the awkwardness rather than myself. So sometimes I try to avoid it. Case in point, this morning I arrived at church 15 minutes late. I’m late by nature but it was purposeful today as I was trying to miss the meet n greet. Instead of the typical, “Turn and say hello” meet n greet time, my church is forcing us to be social and mingle for about five minutes.
This would be fine if I didn’t go to church by myself. Searching for someone to make small talk with for five minutes sounds a little bit like torture so I figured I’d just leave a little later this morning. I know some of you are judging me right now. You’re thinking I’m ridiculously anti-social and need to toughen up. You might be right. But I hate small talk worse than mosquito bites and parking tickets.
My genius anti-social plans were foiled, however, when they decided to move the meet n greet to later in the service. I arrived just in time to awkwardly mingle with strangers. Truth be told, it wasn’t painful at at all. But it could’ve have been. So I tried to dodge it.
Some days, however, there is just no dodging the awkwardness. It finds me everywhere. Last Thursday was such a day. There was nothing extraordinary about this day or these awkward moments. Most people probably wouldn’t have even noticed the awkwardness but as the self-proclaimed “awkward magnet,” I did.
Here’s how my day unfolded.
I began by riding my bike to school. I love riding my bike but perhaps because I am the awkward magnet, I’ve found myself blushing several times while pedaling. A guaranteed awkward moment is when drivers don’t notice you in the crosswalk. I’ve been hit by a car twice because of this. Talk about AWKWARD. So I’ve learned the hard way that you must make eye-contact with those right-turning cars even when the green man is lit up and you have the right of way.
On this particular morning, it was my turn to go but the lady wouldn’t look at me. I finally thought she noticed me so I went. But apparently she hadn’t seen me and went at the same time. Before colliding, I quickly put my foot down and shot her a dirty look. She gave a very apologetic look and even threw me the sorry wave. Man, I sure felt like a bike-riding, dirty look-giving jerk. I hate when I give my “white witch of Narnia” look too soon.
Next, I got to my classroom and made a terrible discovery: I had terrible gas. It was not normal. I gagged a little. I later discovered the source of this rancid, dead raccoon scent: the milk I had been drinking had been expired for a week. I don’t typically get gas and thus, have not had to think about how to avoid the awkwardness it can create. I knew crop-dusting wouldn’t work because the smell was just too awful. My students would be on to me.
I like to think through “worst-case scenarios” and I’ve often found myself in situations where I’ve thought, “This would be an especially inopportune time to get diarrhea.” I don’t get diarrhea more often than others but for some reason I am paranoid about pooping my pants in public. Thus, whenever I’m on planes with turbulence, this is what I stress about:
How can I make it to a toilet right now if I need to?
I need a plan before I can relax. However, I hadn’t thought about exit plans for situations in which I get terrible gas. So I panicked.
I confided in a colleague in the teacher’s lounge, hoping for some advice, but he only shook his head at me and laughed. Not helpful. Only moments before twenty-five observant freshmen entered my room, I had a stroke of genius and realized I had some strong smelling on candles on my desk. I lit them all. Nearly every student commented on the smell of my room that day but at least they weren’t talking about the roadkill scent emitting from my rear.
When speaking to a friend’s husband about this, he pointed out that I had made a brilliant discovery: how to give yourself terrible smelling gas. He said this could be used as a weapon and I agreed that if I ever need to sabotage a date, all I need to do is drink expired milk.
How about you? Other than lighting candles or using the gas as a weapon, what would you do if you had terrible gas and were confined to a single room? Any and all tips are welcome, I need to be prepared in case there is a next time.
Later during the school day, I was lucky enough to witness two awkward moments happening within seconds of each other. I love awkwardness but I especially like when it happens to others. I was walking with a fellow teacher to the teachers lounge and we passed a student of hers who waved. She thought he was going for a high five. Classic mistake.
Right as she went for the high five, he had already lowered his hand and I was already laughing. Then just two seconds later, we had reached the lounge and as I opened the door, another student raised his hand for a high five. But my friend didn’t notice and waltzed into the lounge leaving the poor boy hanging and me laughing. Again.
After school, I drove to my tax appointment. Gosh, I feel so adult just saying that. On the way there, I was behind one car at a red light. The light changed and the car didn’t go. I was still feeling bad about my premature dirty look from the morning so I waited patiently. However, the car behind me was not so patient. He honked loudly and obnoxiously and I knew the poor Tercel thought it was coming from me. I realize I probably shouldn’t have gotten awkward at this point, but I did. I pointed to the car behind me in case the Tercel was looking to see who the impatient honker was.
On the car ride home I made a rookie mistake inviting awkwardness upon myself. I rolled my window down. Big mistake. But it was a beautiful day and I was blaring my classical music station, pretending I was in England in the 1800’s. I was jolted out of my day dream when a dirty truck pulled up next to me at a red light with their windows down as well.
I felt them staring so I turned down the violins just a smidge. But they kept staring. They were dirty old men. I just knew it. But I kept my eyes fixed straight ahead. “I’m in England in 1800. Those dirty men do not exist.” I took my water bottle and took a swig just to have something to do. Then I sent a fake text. It was the longest light of my life.
These hooligans then started making animal sounds at me. Yes, animal sounds. I was used to this in Mozamique but now was in a pickle pondering a bunch of questions:
“Should I pretend like I can’t hear your degrading and obnoxiously loud cat calls even though my window is down?”
“Should I roll up my window now or does that make this more awkward?”
“Are my doors locked?”
“How long is this frickin light?”
I finally got so annoyed that the awkwardness passed and I turned to face them both and said, “hello.” They found this hilarious and started cracking up but luckily the light turned and I peeled out of there as I rolled up my window. Lesson learned.
Girls, can you help me out? How do you respond to obnoxious cat calls?
My final dance with awkwardness was a literal dance. I stopped by Target before returning home and though I didn’t wet myself in the parking lot like my dear friend Lesley recently did (she tells the story here), I had a good chuckle.
It was the classic, I’m trying to pass by you so I step to the right just as you do. So I step to the left. Just as you do. So I step back to the right. Right as you do. We end up brushing shoulders, just narrowly avoiding a full body collision. I think I make this more awkward because I actually love when this happens. I typically make sounds like, “Whooooa, whoa, whoa.” After I danced with the poor Target employee, I laughed and said, “That was awesome.” He did not concur.
Surely, I’m not the only one who experiences these moments on a regular basis. Any advice in how to avoid or deal with these moments is welcomed and appreciated. Also, if you have four minutes, go to this post and watch the guitar interview. This guy is an expert in creating awkwardness.