In high school I worked at a place called The Zone, a laser tag/bounce house/arcade/pizza restaurant. My job title was “Party Hero,” which basically meant I was the person that came with your birthday party package. It was my job to keep kids birthday parties running smoothly from start to finish. That means that I got very good at cutting cake, making gift lists, and getting pizza sauce out of my hair (don’t ask). Part of my job was learning jokes, games, and magic tricks to keep the kids entertained while they were in the party room. My most important task was to keep the Party Mom happy, which often felt like wrestling a stressed, pregnant alligator with a Prozac hangover.
One weekend I got assigned to a rather large boys birthday party. Bigger groups warranted having two party heroes on hand, so I was paired with my friend, Sean, who was skilled in the juggling arts. He wanted to entertain the kids and asked if I’d be his assistant for a particularly complicated juggling trick. We stood on separate sides of the party room. While he juggled, it was my job to throw additional balls into the mix from across the way. After his fourth ball, I hurled the fifth towards him. Unfortunately my aim is only accurate about 15% of the time and this time the ball went hurtling toward the Party Mom. WHACK! The ball flew right into her face. And I was mortified.
Let’s just say I didn’t get a tip.
They Called Me Turtle
I was homeschooled from K–8th grade, but I went to public school for all of high school (and a short stint in elementary school, but whatever). In high school I was your quintessential nerd – I read a lot, had poor fashion sense, and was obsessed with being the perfect student. My freshman year, a few of my friends began calling me “Turtle” because I wore green a lot (alright, almost constantly) and my backpack was so overstuffed with books and binders and notebook paper that it formed a robust shell on my back.
One day in the cafeteria I was trying to desperately force my way through the bustling crowd so I wouldn’t be late for my next class. To provide some context for my very real fear of being late, just know that when I did go to a public school in fourth grade I used to cry every morning on the way to school because I thought my Dad was going to make us tardy. I had nightmares about it, people. One involved a potato.
Anyway, that day I just so happened to be wearing flip-flops. And, as I climbed up the stairs from the bottom level of the cafeteria to the middle level, my flip-flopped foot slipped out from under me and I fell on my face. This was already embarrassing enough, however it was made infinitely worse by the fact that my backpack shell was so heavy that I actually couldn’t get up. As my peers pushed past me, I lay pressed to the lunchroom floor, trying my hardest to save my self – and my dignity – from being the victim of a stampede. I eventually made it topside, but that was the last day I ever wore flip-flops in high school. Ever.
I tend to carry the title of “awkward” almost like a badge of honor. I’ve just come to accept and almost cherish my own quirkiness. However, there have been numerous times that my awkwardness has led me into very uncomfortable and unfortunate situations that I usually try to block from my memory. But now, I’ve decided to share my embarrassment with all you fine people.
That Time At Church Camp
I only went to summer camp once in my life. I was probably 10 or 11 and it was at a church camp called “X-treme Camp.” We had a hand sign that involved making an “X” with your arms. Yes, it was as corny as you are imagining.
The way many church camps work is that several churches send groups to the same camp – that’s how this one worked, too. From day one of my two-week stay, I began to hear rumors that one of the church groups was so small that there was only one boy and there were issues surrounding where he would stay since all the churches stayed in the same cabins (separated by gender of course). It was a big deal because it was a really conservative camp and children’s camps in general are pretty strict on not “making purple” (mixing pink and blue, get it?). I’m a pretty curious person, almost to a fault; so, the more I heard about this particular issue, the more interested I became in the possible solutions.
Then, on one of the last days of camp, my time for answers came. It was my group’s turn to play paintball (I think that was one of the activities that made the camp so “x-treme”). I noticed that the team that we were playing was the infamous church group with the one boy. At last! I could finally have my questions answered. So I moseyed up to the group and asked the boy, “so, how does it work since you’re the only boy in your group? Where do you sleep? Where do you go to the bathroom?” The little boy looked straight at me and said, “I’m a girl.”
Horrified, I realized that the child in front of me was, in fact, a girl. And I had, in fact, identified the group incorrectly. In my defense, this little girl just so happened to be wearing boy clothes (early 2000s camouflage cargo pants and an oversized black T-shirt to be exact) and she had a boy’s haircut. All I remember is saying, “sorry,” and the girl saying, “it happens”. Then I ran back to my group. That interaction scarred me for life and I am now hesitant of assuming anyone’s gender when it is indeterminate. That’s also when I learned that my curiosity is often best explored though observation, rather than interaction, which probably was what has led to many of my other awkward situations. Thanks a lot, “X-treme Camp.”
To be continued.
I do a lot of praying in bathrooms. I just always find that the only time I have to be truly alone is when I’m in a bathroom stall. That’s when I finally have time to think, think and pray. Surrounded by four sturdy walls (metaphorically, since they are usually quite flimsy literally), I can finally seek solace from the noise of the day and slow down the circus in my head. No errands to run, no paper to write, nobody bothering you – that is, until the worst happens: you are forced to engage in a stall-to-stall bathroom conversation.
I’m not talking about the ever common “pass the toilet paper” exchange that is a necessary evil in the world of public hygiene practices. No, I mean the unsolicited (and usually meaningless) chatter that occurs between two unfamiliar people in a public bathroom facility. Now, I know everyone has experienced this phenomenon at least once in their life. You’re sitting there (or standing for the men out there), minding your own business, then, out of the blue, the person next to you gets the crazy idea that it would be a wonderfully opportune moment to talk to you. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, they just have the sudden urge to shoot the breeze. Do they know you? No. You they have a reason to know you? Not unless they enjoy meeting people whom they’ll never see again. Do you want to know them? Most certainly not. Although, under normal human circumstances such as an office party, luncheon, or park outing, you might enjoy meeting said individual, all that potential desire is deemed moot once you enter a public bathroom stall.
Of course, you go along with the conversation. We always feel the need to be polite and respond, despite the complete lack of politeness on the part of the initiator. So you painfully endure this human interaction that breaks through the private barriers of your public stall. No longer is it safe. No longer are you alone. You now share it with a detached voice that penetrates the walls and fills the space around you.
I often pray a lot in bathrooms. Most of the time, I pray that no one talks to me.