Monday, June 28, 2010

Embarrassing Myself

If I had a dollar for every time I embarrassed myself, I would probably have at least 36,237 dollars (but that's just a rough estimate).

One summer in college, I participated in a language-intensive program in Spain (you didn't think I'd go to Europe just for fun, do you? HAH! But it was actually a lot of fun.), and I think that there are several Spaniards who are probably still laughing at me. I was riding the bus one day, and when the bus stopped, I tried to get out through the back door. But it wouldn't open, and I kept banging on it until some kids started yelling to the bus driver, "La puerta, la puerta!" Then several of the passengers giggled at me as I exited the bus, accidentally dropped my Discman, and nearly fell down along with it.

That same summer, I was hanging my laundry on the balcony outside my apartment, since there was no dryer. I ended up accidentally dropping my underwear one flight down, and had to look up the word for underwear in my Spanish dictionary before I could knock on my neighbor's door and ask for it back.

Another time I was on a bus in Chicago, and I was trying to exit the bus while navigating my way around a baby stroller. I bumped into the stroller, causing it to roll down the aisle while everyone else on the bus collectively gasped. Someone said, "She knocked over the baby!" And then the mother called out, "No, it's okay, I've got her!" And she held up the baby, and everyone stopped looking at me like I was a criminal.

I also worked as a campus tour guide in college, and I used to do that thing where I'd walk backwards while talking to the tour group. As a result, on more than one occasion I nearly fell into a trash can.

But one of my most embarrassing moments happened my freshman year in college. Before my first class of the day, I decided to stop by the restroom. It was one of those restrooms that only one person can use at a time, and the lock on the door often got stuck.

And of course, the lock on the door got stuck, and I couldn't get out! This was back before I had a cell phone, so I couldn't call anyone. So I started banging on the door, hoping that some of the students passing by might hear me, and also hoping that they wouldn't hear me so that they wouldn't know what an idiot I was.

There was a vent at the bottom of the door, and I looked through it and could see people's legs passing by. I saw one familiar pair of shoes, and I yelled out, "John! (not his real name) Help!"

He stopped and said my name. "Is that you? Where are you?"

"I'm in the bathroom!" I yelled. "Get me out of here!"

"Hold on," he said. "I'll get the professor."

"No!" I said. "Don't get the professor! Get the janitor!" I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of the professor. I wanted to get an A in the class.

But a few minutes later the professor showed up, along with everyone else in my class. It took them about twenty minutes before they were finally able to unlock the door (with the help of a janitor), and I returned to my class, red-faced. My professor then told the story to several other classes, and somehow several people figured out it was me even though he didn't identify me. Go figure.

When I was younger, I always took embarrassing moments like this one really hard. I thought about how everyone must have viewed me as a dork, and how it would lower their opinion of me. I thought about how I could never be like any of those sophisticated, elegant women in designer clothes I always saw walking around Oak Street. I kept my head down and berated myself for messing up. I thought that once I became an "adult," I'd finally get my act together. But now I'm almost 30, and I still haven't completely figured out how to do that.

But now I see things differently. Even though I still often obsess over what people think about me, at the same time I don't take it too seriously if I make a fool of myself in public. Everyone's had a slip-up at some point, and the fact that I've had a lot more slip-ups than most people isn't that big of a deal. And I figure it's better to have a sense of humor about it and laugh it off, rather than keep my head down and start crying. And at the very least, it could be part of a good story someday.


  1. Oh dear...

    There's nothing like public transport for embarrasment. I could tell several stories - but I'll leave the humiliation for you! :)

  2. The one about the underwear was great! And the poor baby incident! I read a post of a fellow blogger who watched her babysitter's kid and locked her in a room by herself by accident. I think she the kid was two. The bathroom one was great too. What are the chances you'd recognize someone's shoes?

    We have to laugh at our embarrassing moments so we can move on.

  3. i nominated you for the most versatile blogger award :)

  4. Wow, you've been in some embarrassing situations! That professor brought along the entire class--guys, too?

    You sure have a great way of describing your little incidents & being able to laugh at them is just going to win you more fans.

  5. ok, now for a real comment :)

    gosh, ive had so many embarassing of the worst was when i was in middle school choir and fell off the risors! ack!

  6. Hi Talli,
    Oh, I know! And you'd think a typical bus ride would be uneventful...

    Hi Theresa,
    He sat near me in class, so I remember seeing his shoes when I was supposed to be paying attention to the lecture.

    Hi Catherine,
    Thanks for the award! That rocks!

    Hi notesfromnadir,
    I'm not sure if the professor brought along the class; I think they just followed him out, and yes, the guys came too. I guess they figured if they all came out it would mean less time spent in class. :)

  7. at first i thought you were exaggerating -
    but now i know you weren't!

  8. I love this post. :)

    You know, I used to do the same thing - beat myself up for my social awkwardness or faux pas. And then I learned that if I embrace those moments and laugh about them, I am able to connect with others - because we all make make fools of ourselves. Now when I trip over my own two feet or blurt out stupid comments, I silently try to remind myself to appreciate my condition - humanity.


  9. Hi mi,
    I'd like to say I was exaggerating, but I wasn't. I'm very accident-prone. :)

    Hi Shannon,
    You make a good point about how making mistakes can be a good opportunity to connect with other people. The people who helped me when I made mistakes were the ones I always remembered.

  10. Thank you for posting this as I too surround myself with embarrassment on accident. Your attitude about how everyone makes mistakes is great.

  11. Hi hermione329,
    It's good to know that I'm not the only one! Sometimes it seems like everyone else is immune to accidents or something.