Do you ever sit and think about all the unspeakably embarrassing things you’ve done in your life? I sure do. It all starts with remembering one embarrassing misstep that I’ve made within my 30 years, and then tangentially, I’ll start thinking about all the other moments of toe-curling embarrassment. It’s what neurotic people like me do. It’s horribly crippling.
Though, I’ve now reached the point in my life where I now place my “treasured” reputation aside, and no longer care anymore about the asinine things I do.
Recently, I was visiting Hobby Lobby and I was standing before the mat cutting section. There was a family that included a couple young girls and their mother who was confined to a wheelchair. They made their way down the aisle while I was intently reading the backs of X-Acto knife packages and learning about “blade cutting depth” and “knife precision”. As the family approached me, the young girl pushing her mother politely said, “Excuse me.” And me—being the overly polite sorts—turned my head, made eye contact with this young girl and said, “Excuse us.” I don’t know why I said it. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t get a lot a sleep the night before, perhaps it was because of the “boredom beers” I drank before leaving the house, but I flubbed my lines all the same.
The immediate thought that passed through my head was that I came off as some pedantic asshole that was correcting this young girl. “You mean excuse us—us being you, your chubby sister, and your paraplegic mother. Yes?” I cringed slightly, but I reminded myself that I no longer let minor follies bother me. But then I thought that perhaps her interpretation when I said “excuse us” was that I was some crazed Norman Bates-like character who was not only excusing me, but also my invisible companion while I gazed intensively at the sharp instruments that hung on the shelf before me.
Still, these minor indiscretions that I commit on a seemingly regular basis no longer affect me. Though, as I mentioned before, I have a rich history of embarrassing myself and reminding myself of it constantly. When I was a sophomore, I had to take a class called Basic Communication. I don’t remember much about the class outside of the fact that we had to give a great amount of speeches—something that would kill me now. Presently, I’m an anxious wreck at even considering the notion of standing before people and delivering a prepared speech, but, for some odd reason fourteen years ago it hardly affected me. I enjoyed it greatly. I had a history of giving funny speeches that my classmates seemed to dig, and I loved hearing their laughs.
On this particular assignment in Basic Comm, we had to do a pantomime. A pantomime is merely a grandiose term form “mime”. My classmates and I had to individually stand before the class and act out something, and at the end of our respective performance the class had to guess what we were miming. Like for instance, one of my classmates, Kirk Deal, pantomimed in (considerable detail) the excruciatingly long process of changing the water pump of a two cylinder tractor. Not surprising, no one in the class knew what the hell he was doing.
I chose to pantomime the act of driving a truck through “Rubber Road”. For those of you not from Allamakee County, Rubber Road is a rutty dirt road located behind a cemetery a couple miles outside of my hometown of Waukon. Rubber Road got its name because it was a popular spot for the young and the restless to park and engage in the sweet act of love amidst the romantic ambiance of a graveyard. The term “rubber” came from what was discarded on the dirt road after the eight second act of teenage coitus. I’m sure if you went back a couple generations, it would have been referred to as “Sheepskin Road”. But, to my friends and I who weren’t getting laid in high school, this road was nothing more than a perfect place to test out the four-wheel-drive capabilities of a Chevy Blazer.
When it was my turn to perform my pantomime, I made my way to the front of the classroom. There were already snickers and chuckles before I even began. I loved the feeling. I loved that my classmates viewed me as a funny guy who was about to deliver another hilarious performance. I grabbed a chair and took a seat. I began to pantomime driving a vehicle over rough terrain. I even mimed shifting gears, even though I didn’t know at that time how to drive a manual, but I thought that it would better convey what I was trying to portray. With my right hand on the invisible shifter, and my white knuckles on the invisible steering wheel, I began to convulse and shake on my plastic driver’s seat. I wanted to sell this act. I went the whole nine.
While I was bouncing (seemingly) uncontrollably, the left arm (or temple) from my glasses separated from my frames and began to swing like a pendulum from my ear—luckily enough on my left side, facing my audience. Why did the temple piece from my glasses break while I was before my peers? It’s because my glasses broke weeks before, and since the prospect of getting new frames didn’t even cross the minds of my frugal parents, I super-glued my plastic frames back together. Well, it conveniently worked out in my favor. My Jerry Lewis-like sight gage had the entire class in stitches. I didn’t stop for one second. I drove my mime home, with the broken plastic arm of my glasses swinging from my ear for the rest of the trip.
After I finished, and floating on cloud nine for receiving such a great reception from my peers, I victoriously strutted back to my desk. Just after I took a seat, one of the hottest girls in my class turned her magnetic gaze upon hapless me and asked, “Did you mean to have your glasses break on purpose?” And me, being eternally honest, looked back at her and said, “No, it was a complete accident.” I said this while doing the brief expel of air through the nostrils as if laughing move, and managed to blow snot out of one of my nostrils and onto my upper lip…a lot of snot.
In my dim-witted mind I thought that if I embarrassingly covered the huge booger that hung on my lip, she’ll definitely notice that I blew snot on my face. So, instead of excusing myself and retreating to the box of Kleenexes on Mr. Stephan’s desk, I pretended that nothing happened and unflinchingly answered her question, “No, it was a complete accident.”
Now that I think about it all these years later, my answer coincidentally explained not only my glasses breaking, but the horrible turn of events that occurred afterward.
The poor girl that was exposed my disgustingness was kind about the incident; with a frozen wide-eyed expression, she pivoted her head to the front of the classroom with the steady smoothness of an oscillating fan. With her green eyes no longer centered upon me, I turned away, cowering, so that I could drag my fingers across my face, capturing the mucus mess, and because I had few options, I simply gripped the slimy goo within my clenched fist for the rest of the class.
What should one take away from this experience? If there is a God, he hates pride. I can imagine him seeing lowly me delivering an unexpectedly good speech and gaining the reverence of my peers and him thinking, “You know, I think that Noah Regan’s head has gotten a bit too big in the last three minutes. I’m afraid he might develop confidence. I think it’s time for an “encore” performance. This should do it…Boogerus Expellus—Kablam! Ha! That should take him down a few pegs.
Let’s see…so in conclusion I’d better wrap this thing up. I’ve once again far exceeded my self-imposed “word count cap”. So thanks for your patients and for hanging in there with me. See ya next week!