I’m an idiot.
Have you ever seen the movie “You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? Well, first of all, if you haven’t, you should. Secondly, there’s a scene where Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly is in a supermarket. She finds herself in a situation that makes her miserably uncomfortable (not unlike most of my own life), and becomes so flustered she enters a Cash Only checkout line with only a credit card and one dollar. Everyone in the line, especially the cashier, is unforgiving and angry. Kathleen Kelly’s archenemy (played by the affable Tom Hanks) descends on the scene and manages to charm everyone in the line and rescue the unfortunate Kathleen. But not before the cashier gives her a severely menacing glance and demands her pen back. That’s just a day in the life for me.
I blame it on the fact that I really can be a total idiot. To people who know me well, this may not be a surprise. You may even be thinking, “Good God! You’ve only JUST figured this out?”
Well, of course I’ve always known, but what I really don’t think is fair is that I try so very hard NOT to be an idiot, and always come up wanting. I do think most people who know me would acknowledge I’m pretty intelligent, and thus it seems further unjust that I am so prone to both moments of total lack of common sense and moments where what I’ll call my basic humanness seem only to aggravate people.
Today I was on an airplane. In the midst of the requisite fears that I was going to die, never see my children again, and/or become an angry ghost haunting my loved ones, I needed to use the restroom. It make shock you that I’d use an airplane bathroom at all, being THE Germophobic of the Century. However, resulting from my several bouts of kidney stone trouble, my bladder (and I suspect my kidneys, too, though the urologist smirks and hints that perhaps I’m imagining it) gets weak and achy fairly quickly. So as soon as the “Seatbelts Fastened” light went off, I climbed over Joe and made my way to the front of the plane.
Since 9/11, this makes me really nervous. I have a general fear that I’m unwittingly breaking a rule or entering a place I am not allowed (this makes Joe either laugh out loud or sigh exaggeratedly in exasperation), so as I approached the front of the plane I anticipated an angry flight attendant leaping in front of me and shouting, “Terrorist!” when all I am is a girl with a weak bladder and a need.
I looked left and I looked right, but because this was also Flight Attendant Headquarters, there were more doors and latches than I expected and I was unsure which was the bathroom. Not wanting to make a wrong choice, I approached a flight attendant who was reading a magazine whilst leaning against a cabinet.
“Excuse me,” I said, polite as can be. She did not turn her head from her magazine (an apparently riveting copy of US Weekly), but looked at me over the top of it with her eyes only.
Undeterred, I said, “Is the bathroom up here?”
She glanced then at what was obviously the bathroom. Sheepishly I noticed the clearly displayed man/woman symbol. Feeling foolish but wanting NOT to look stupid, I tried to joke off my mistake.
“Sorry,” I said, chuckling. “I just wanted to make sure I was in the right place.”
The flight attendant put her magazine down and faced me squarely. When she spoke, she had a thick Southern accent and her nose wrinkled at me. “Why don’t you just go on and stand in the corner over there and wait your turn.” It was far more a dismissal than a gentle suggestion, and her lilting accent did nothing to soften the blow.
When my turn did come, I embarrassed myself even more by not being able to open the door, close it properly, or then lock it. It took me a full sixty seconds to figure out how to flush, and then to turn on the sink. The entire time, I imagined the evil flight attendant pressed against the other side of the door, pointing and laughing with the other flight attendants. And of course I couldn’t escape the feeling of indignation, the rampant thoughts that they had all been honest, normal mistakes that anyone could have made.
But, alas. It was me.
And if you’re doubting whether this seemingly inconsequential event is truly representative of my general self, ask me about the day I met my new boss two years ago. Or about the anesthesiologist who administered my epidural. Or the time I asked my grad school professor where she bought the awesome paper we were using for group work. Or any time I speak in large groups of people. I’m telling you it’s true. And you know what makes it worse? My nervous TALKING.
It reminds me of an important lesson my mom taught me growing up. “Honey,” she said, “just PRETEND you’re a quiet person. People will like you better.”
P.S.—Understand that this is self-deprecating humor. I’m not only my biggest critic; I’m also the person who thinks I’m the most wonderful, too. ;)