Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Reliving an Embarrassing Moment from My Youth

How many people can say they never had an embarrassing moment when they were young? I'd wager that pretty much everyone has had at least one or two (if not dozens or hundreds). Once you grow out of the days of diapers, cribs, car seats and strollers you become more aware of your surroundings and start to realize that the world, in fact, doesn't revolve around you. I believe that has something to do with the whole idea of the development of the id, the ego and the superego. But what I'm mostly concerned with is what happens when you realize that there are other people who have their own point of view, and, more importantly, that THEY can see YOU doing embarrassing or stupid things. And when you do have an embarrassing moment it can feel (especially when you reach the teenage years) like, once again, the world DOES revolve around you--in the sense that everyone is aware of your embarrassing moment.

This story is about one small, rather isolated embarrassing moment that happened to me when I was a kid which unexpectedly came back recently to haunt me in the present. The funny thing is that there's certainly no reason that I NEED to share this here. I could simply never tell anyone about this event and it would just go to the grave with me, never to be known by another person. But what's the fun in that? For the sake of future history I will now tell you about my formerly private embarrassing moment memory!

That's kind of a big build-up. Now that we're at the point of laying things bare I have to confess that this is indeed a VERY minor moment that probably won't seem very meaningful (or even embarrassing) if you weren't there--and if you weren't a kid at the time. But I WAS there! And I WAS a kid!

When I was in middle school I used to have to walk down our street and then another street that went down a hill to the little convenience store that was at the bottom of the hill to catch the school bus. Thanks to the magic of Google Maps I can show you the exact site of this embarrassing moment--or at least the moment it started anyway. This "moment" actually lasted for an entire school day. Perhaps "moment" isn't really the right term for this experience, but we'll stick with it. And it's also possible that the extreme length of this particular embarrassing "moment" is a big part of the reason it has stuck with me through all these years.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I was in middle school at the time. I don't remember the exact year, but it was probably around 1980 or '81 and I was probably in 5th or 6th grade (give or take a year). Since I had to walk a pretty good distance to get to the bus stop I always seemed to be in a rush to get up, get dressed, eat something for breakfast and get out the door to make it to the bus stop on time. This day most likely wouldn't stand out from all the others and I'm sure I wouldn't even have any recollection of it at all if I hadn't made one minor but embarrassing mistake while rushing to get ready. Unfortunately I didn't notice that mistake until it was too late. I was already at the bus stop and certainly didn't have the time to run back home and fix it. And, here's the spot where I noticed that mistake:

This is Charlie's Variety, the little convenience store located close to my home in the little town I grew up in. There was actually a Cumberland Farms store/gas station on the opposite side of the street too. It seemed like a luxury to have two such convenience stores so conveniently close to us. Anyway, around this time the school bus would pick us up right at the corner where Charlie's was located. I remember sitting or standing on or near the concrete steps you can see on the side of the building. At one time there must have been a door there (or maybe it was a pedestal of sorts for an ice machine or vending machine or heating/cooling equipment?), but for as long as I could remember (not a terribly long time, as I was only about ten) they were simply steps to nowhere--a convenient place to wait for the school bus.

Here's a view of the hill that I'd walk down to get to Charlie's:

 At other times I recall the bus stop being on either side of the road at this little bridge just before Charlie's. You can see the fence on left side and the old railing on the right, as well as the concrete decking of the bridge under which a little stream would run.

But in this case the bus stop was right at Charlie's Variety. I remember that because this is where I made the discovery of my mistake. As I stood or sat on that little "stoop" waiting for the bus I happened to look down at my feet. Not expecting to see anything out of the ordinary I was mortified when I realized that I had managed to put on TWO DIFFERENT SNEAKERS when I was getting ready for school! I couldn't believe my eyes, or my stupidity! There were my two feet, just where they should be. But on each one was a different sneaker. And they were noticeably different too. I don't remember the brands (maybe one was a KangaROOS and one a New Balance?), but the colors and styles were certainly different, and it was quite plain to see that they didn't match.
Whatever brand, style and color they were I was flabbergasted. How could I have done something so dumb? Surely the entire school would notice my mistake and laugh at me all day long! Did I have time to run home and fix my mistake? Not without missing the bus. I didn't dare try. Apparently having to walk to school and being very late was not something I was willing to do. I just sucked it up, got on the bus when it showed up and...waited to be humiliated.

To be honest, I don't really recall many specific details from that day, other than sitting at a desk (in math class?) and crossing my ankles hoping to keep my mismatched footwear as unnoticeable as possible. I probably did that in every class. I spent the day petrified that I'd be called out for my ridiculous and unintentional fashion statement. But, in the end I don't think that ANYONE even noticed. Or at least nobody said anything to me. Somehow I survived what I thought was going to be the most embarrassing moment of my life! Needless to say, there were plenty more that followed over the next few decades.

After making it through that long day the memory of the incident stayed with me for a long time. Over the years the sharpness of it dulled and it receded further toward the back of my mind--but it never quite left altogether. Which brings us to the present. The title of this post refers not only to that old embarrassing moment, but also to "reliving" it. I've written quite a few times about "Resurrecting the Past", where I attempted to bring some part of my youth into the present. Sometimes it was a specific object, like an old drive-in speaker or a rotary dial telephone. And other times it was more elaborate, like when I attempted to recreate a specific night from 1983 (Resurrecting the Past: January 21, 1983). That one took two parts to fully tell the story.  But why would I want to "resurrect" a memory like this embarrassing moment? Well, I wouldn't! But sometimes life has a way of surprising us.

The old adage says that "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" (or something to that effect).  I think this saying is mostly in reference to major events in history--stuff like World Wars and other conflicts, controversial and dangerous political decisions and stances... As mortifying as my little embarrassing moment felt to me at the time, it certainly didn't rise to the level of being something "historic". And I do believe that I learned from it--at least as much as one can from such an incident. I certainly never completely forgot it. But for whatever reason, the universe decided that it was time for me to repeat my past. And here's how it happened...

We currently live within walking distance to our  church. It only takes about ten minutes to walk there from our apartment. The Wife is in the church choir. She will sometimes take the Little Monsters with her for Sunday School while she goes to choir rehearsal at 9:00AM. This gives me an extra 45 minutes or so to relax a bit and get myself to church in plenty of time for the 10:00 service. But some things never change. Just as I did as a kid when getting ready to head out to the bus stop, I always seem to find myself rushing out the door at the last minute to make it on time. One recent Sunday was no exception. I grabbed my jacket, put on my shoes and headed out the door. I was able to get to church just in time to take a seat and settle in a bit before the first hymn started. I stretched out my legs, looked down and...realized that I had managed to put on TWO DIFFERENT SNEAKERS! In this case I was lucky that I don't have a very diverse wardrobe, and both of the pairs of sneakers I picked from looked very similar in color and style. But I knew the same mistake had been made once again, and it felt like everyone else around me would know it as well. What a familiar feeling, dredged up from so long ago.

Without having any intention to do so, I had unwittingly managed to resurrect that same uncomfortable feeling of embarrassment that I had felt when I looked down at my feet at the bus stop all those years ago! I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry at the realization, but I was quick to cross my ankles and put them as far under the seat as possible to prevent people from noticing my mistake. I'm pretty sure that nobody else realized anything was amiss. But that did little to make me feel better about the fact that I had managed to do it once again, some forty years later! The more things change the more they stay the same I guess. At least this time I was able to take some pictures and save the embarrassing moment for posterity. Why? I have no idea. But there it is, for all to see.

Nothing to see here!

1 comment:

  1. Lol! Great story. No one pays very close attention to the details of other people's footwear apparently...