embarrassing episodes

Embarrassing Episodes: Hello Stranger

Since quitting my job I tend to spend a lot of time inside. I don’t interact with people very often, so the threat level of embarrassing myself remains pretty low. If I do embarrass myself, it is most likely in front of my cats, who just sort of tilt their heads, and go back to cleaning themselves.

But when I go out into the real world anything can happen.

On Friday I found myself at the St. Paul Art Crawl, a giant community-oriented art show. My friend and I focused on the Schmidt Artist Lofts, nestled into the old Schmidt Brewing Company building. Artists participating in the show open their apartment doors, put out snacks, wine, and other drinks (“I can make a screwdriver, if anyone wants one,” one artist offered when I wandered into her loft), and make awkward small talk about their pieces. Despite the initial strangeness of it, it actually is pretty fun, if cramped.

Isn't it amazing?

There I met many wonderful artists, shared a glass of wine with a man with phenomenal eye contact, and visited with my writing friend. All-in-all, the night was great and confidence boosting (thanks eye contact dude).

My friend and I decided to continue the evening (which ended around 10) by grabbing drinks close to her apartment. In the chilly fall weather we walked across the bridge and wandered into the bar. As soon as we entered, I saw someone I knew. We’ve only met each other a handful of times, but we’ve hung out occasionally. I noticed him in passing, too distracted/embarrassed/self-conscious to say anything. I don’t usually say hi to people I only know casually, too worried that they’ve forgotten me, found me ridiculous, or are too distracted to pay attention. When I sat down I whispered the news to my friend.

“Do you remember Natalie’s friend, Jonathan?” she nodded slowly after I elaborated. “That’s him, down at the end.”

“You should say hi.”

“I will,” I decided. “When we leave.”

I texted Natalie, who agreed that I should say hi. In all caps.

I enjoyed fried jalapeno cheese curds and a black IPA with perhaps too high of an alcohol content, on perhaps too empty of a stomach. I kept looking at my friend Jonathan, distantly hoping that he would wave so I would feel less awkward.

He didn’t.

When it came time to leave, I’d made my decision. Natalie is a touchy-feely person (please note: I am not), and she often grabs people on the shoulder to say hello to them. I thought this would be a great way to get Jonathan’s attention as we left the bar.

With his back to me, I grabbed his shoulder, intent on a bit of small talk, or a quick hello.

Jonathan turned around. Only, it wasn’t Jonathan.

“Heyyyyyy,” we all sort of shouted at each other. Me, terrified that I had just grabbed a random stranger in a mostly empty bar, him confused by why an awkward woman was holding his shoulder still. Thankfully, my legs kept moving, carrying me away from the face of the man I didn’t know. I made it to the atrium of the bar before I bent over in hysterical laughter.

“Want to here a secret?”

“What?” asked my friend.

“That wasn’t Jonathan.”

The hysteria lasted for the rest of the evening, but a wonderful lesson remained. I am mostly terrified of this mistake, of saying hi to someone I don’t know, of waving at the person waving at the person behind me, of answering a question not directed at me. And I accidentally did it. I grabbed a random stranger in a bar, and I couldn’t be happier for the ludicrous story that came out of it. And hopefully the same goes for not-Jonathan too.

Embarrassing Episodes: Running Music Video

This week for the Couch to 5K I graduated to running for three straight minutes at a time. On Sunday night I looked over the workout for the week and audibly gasped. “Three straight minutes of running? I’ve only run for like a minute at a time—are these people INSANE?” Possibly.

I procrastinated the Monday workout for a long time. I putzed around the apartment, made myself a cup of coffee (or two), watched backlogged YouTube videos, did some dishes—anything to avoid running for three straight minutes. I am a weakling, and even the idea of running for that long sounded terrible.

I finally got outside around 1PM, and when Constance said “start jogging” for the three-minute interval, I did something that didn’t quite feel like running. It felt like speed walking, excessive limb jostling that kind of looked like slow-motion jogging. I always kind of pity those runners when I see them on the street. “Please stop honey, you look like you’re gonna die. Are you even running, really?” (Karma, I can hear you laughing.) Over the course of the run I lost a whole minute on my average running speed (last week I was running at 9-minute miles, I’ve crawled to a 10-minute miles this week). I somehow succeeded by distracting myself. Rather than focusing on the “MY LEGS ARE LITERALLY GOING TO FALL OFF AND MY HEART WILL BURST THROUGH MY CHEST LIKE AN ALIEN” I started to use the time to plot-map my novel. I thought through scenes that I’d been stuck on, worked through backstories for some minor characters. Did I feel all three minutes? Sure. Heart-bursting-from-my-chest felt those three minutes. But I finished them. I ran (read: crawled) the whole time. And Constance’s heart-warming, sounds-like-she’s-giggling “walk” came through in the middle of a thought, so that it was kind of surprising that I was done. I didn’t want to keep running, I wanted to stop and fall down forever when she said I could walk, but it still did come as a surprise. “I did that? Like, I really just did that? But… how?”

Today I pushed myself a little harder. That 10:09 minute mile was a slap in the face. I mean, I didn’t even feel like I had to puke, so what was the point, really? Today I couldn’t concentrate on the plot-mapping, so I tried a different route. I run in a fairly secluded area of town (lots of houses, but not many pedestrians), so I turned up the music in my headphones, and let the imaginary music video start. There is a wonderful release in mouthing along to the lyrics of a ridiculous song, especially if you’re trying to stop your brain from the loop of “WE WILL DIE THIS WAY.” A good pump-up song should be more than just a mental pump-up—get physical about it. By now my workout mix is getting a bit old, it doesn’t quite get me as excited as it first did. So how do I combat that? Mental music video. Just go for it. Make it a giant running/dance party. Get crazy, turn it up, throw your limbs around a bit. I am confident I looked like an idiot—100% confident. But if you saw someone going for a run while mouthing the words from their headphones and dancing a bit you’d probably think, at most, “well, that person is having fun.” And that person will look at you for just thirty seconds anyway, and really, how terrible is thirty seconds of embarrassment in the grand scheme of things? Thirty seconds of embarrassment got me a 9:48 mile today.

Will I do this in an actual 5K? Probably not. But to get the endorphins flowing and my mind heading the right direction, I will run-dance for a bit. Want to look like an idiot with me?

90s and 2000s songs are a great start. You already know the lyrics.

Embarrassing Episodes: Ice Cream

When I was a kid I used to pretend I was in music videos a lot. I’d throw on some ratty headphone, stare longingly out the window during an exceptionally long car ride, and mouth the lyrics dramatically while the imaginary camera panned the length of the minivan. Think Enrique Iglesias “Hero” video, minus the excessive amounts of monopoly money. I’m fairly certain we all did this—pretended to be cooler than we really were. Kids of the MTV era tend to see everything as an opportunity for a music video, and we are always the stars.

 I don’t much make mental music videos any more (she said, lying through her teeth), but that feeling still occasionally crops up when I throw on headphones and go for a walk. A particularly sad song will begin its painful melody, and the fake tears will bloom in my eyes, and I’ll be looking off wistfully, just past imaginary camera B, while imaginary camera A takes an establishing shot of me walking down the lonely block, preferably with the after effect of rain. I am the coolest person in a five-block radius, and everybody knows it.

 I was having one of these moments recently while walking around the lake by my apartment. I tend to forget how busy Saturdays can be in downtown, so to up the cool factor I decided to get myself some ice cream around the half-way point—mint chocolate chip, waffle cone, flyest girl to leave the line.

I pushed the headphones back into my ears, pressed play, and began the walk around the lake again, perhaps even adopting the beat of the song as my new walking rhythm. About ten seconds later, several factors occurred to me. 1) The weather, while gorgeous, was in the high 80s. 2) High 80s melt ice cream almost immediately. 3) I hadn’t grabbed enough napkins. 4) I was now covered in mint chocolate chip ice cream. 5) Ice cream does not disappear like water when it dries. 6) Ice cream is not only incredibly sticky, but it stains.

I accepted my fate, switching to an audiobook, and abandoning all hope of looking as cool as a music video.

I Sat in Pee

Hello, internet. It’s another week, and while I did have some lofty goals, I thought I’d share with you some of my more embarrassing moments, just so you don’t think I have my life too together.

When I first moved to back to Minneapolis, I had some major nerves about getting around in downtown. In college, I lived in the suburbs, and very rarely ventured to the city. It was scary and hard to manage. And this, of course, was all before smart phones and GPS so my mother had me fully convinced if I got lost my car would break down and I would most likely get robbed and shot (cities are terrifying! was the message). When I moved back I had grown more confident (and had an iPhone), but downtown parking was a remarkably steep $9 a day. As someone with a coffee shop income, I couldn’t make the math work. Enter: Minneapolis Metro Transit.

The first day I rode the bus, I had some major swass. Yes, you read that right. For the unfamiliar, swass is a combination of two words. Can you guess them?

With a sweating behind I watching the dot on Google Maps slide up the screen through the blocks. Was it 3rd or 4th Ave that I was supposed to get off at? How do I tell the bus driver I want to get off? Does it just stop? What if it doesn’t stop? Can I stand up while the bus is moving? Which door do I leave out of? Does the door shut on me? What if something gets stuck? What if I leave my wallet? What if I can’t get off in time? Do I say something or wait until the next stop?

As a kid from the ‘burbs (where my experience with buses was limited to a bus picking me up at my house and me getting off once it stopped at school), riding the bus terrified me. I worried about everything–from not having the right change, to which which side the street to get on. In this tiny moment were so many strange stresses. And you want to know what? I haven’t thought of any of these stresses in almost a year.

A few days ago I got on the bus and sat down, and suddenly my butt was wet. But it wasn’t the swass (which I usually now only have before a date or an interview), but it was something else. On a good day, I would have pretended that it was a wet grocery bag. On the day it happened however, I walked into work and announced “I SAT IN PEE” probably louder than I should have at a quiet coffee shop. As awful as the experience was, I can’t help but find it somewhat hilarious, and a little comforting. (Hear me out!) While it was absolutely gross and terrible that I sat in pee while on the bus–that was the only awful thing that happened to me on the bus. I got on at the right time to get me to work, heading the right direction. I knew which stop to pull the string for, and which direction to walk once I got off. I knew where to pick up the bus again when I got back on (in my pee covered pants–GENTLEMEN, I’M SINGLE), and I knew where to get off. And I haven’t had to worry about these things in over a year.

I wish I could have told past-me about this experience. That someday she’d sit in pee and it would somehow be both awful and hilarious. And that she’d survive all of the tiny stresses that seemed almost impossible to overcome when she started this adventure. Maybe I knew it objectively, but until you live it, you can never really trust yourself. Adventure and new experiences may initially give you nerves, but someday they won’t any more. It is important to put yourself into new moments and to experience new things. Someday, it might not be so terrifying.

Now. Let’s talk again after this swass-inducing OkCupid date on Wednesday.