I don’t want to be one of those awful, self-deprecating Tumblr people who spends their days reblogging GIFs about how much social anxiety they have. I know, all things considered, I’m a pretty capable person. But there are some things I do that I feel like only loud, clumsy me stumbles into — and never the sexy, composed people who stare with a mixture of disdain and pity. Perhaps I am alone in this, or perhaps these things are shared, but either way, I wish I knew how to stop committing these sins.
1. Ripping my earbuds out of my laptop while working in a public area. Whether at school, in a quiet coffee shop, or in a park with WiFi (sweet, sweet WiFi), I simply cannot get anything done unless I am listening to some music. Maybe people walk by me and assume that I’m really intellectual and listening to NPR or old speeches by Nelson Mandela or whatever smart people listen to, but it’s usually less distinguished than that. Regardless, I do usually have something mild and calming on (think Enya or oldies/ big band) that I can just kind of hum along to as I type away. However, whenever I forget I am plugged in and stand up or turn around abruptly, without fail, I am listening to something along the lines of Ms. New Booty by Bubba Sparxxx. (Is that the appropriate amount of x’s? I never know.) Either way, everyone in my immediate vicinity is now staring at me as “My Neck, My Back” by Khia is blasting from my table (because, of course, I have it on full volume). And what am I supposed to do? Look indignant and demand to know who put such terrible music on my computer? Pretend everyone isn’t looking at me, waiting for me to be shamed back into my apartment, never to leave again? Initiate a dance party? None of these are viable options — I have to live in my audible mess until I can hastily cram my headphones back in.
2. Slipping and falling down stairs. This has actually happened to me several times of late, as I have an affinity for impractical footwear and am perpetually late for public transportation. Be that as it may, usually I manage to keep my footing when dashing down a small flight of stairs to get where I need to go. There are times, however, when I catch myself and trip, just as I think I’m home free. I don’t fall enough to get hurt, no, not even enough to really twist my ankle — just enough to humiliate myself and get every passerby in a fifty-foot radius to come ask me if I’m okay. And it’s not polite to yell at the concerned citizens to mind their own goddamn business and let me pretend like this never happened like a civilized human being. I have to cordially accept their questions and advice that running down stairs in shoes like this is never a good idea. “But these are wedges,” I long to yell, “the Air Jordans of high heels! You can do anything in these!!” Alas, it appears, you cannot.
3. Having to send back food. I wish I were a more assertive person sometimes. As much as I can complain about things on the internet, (though can’t we all, really?) I usually find myself paralyzed with fear if I have to correct or request more effort from a food service worker. I have worked in the food industry myself, so I know how horrendous it can be when you get that one customer who cannot wait to exert their tiny morsel of power to make your life a living hell, answering to their every whim. And I’m not that person, I swear. But if I order a steak medium rare and it’s clearly well-done, or my latte is essentially room temperature — I feel I should be able to send it back. And most of the time, people are pretty nice and accommodating. But there are, sometimes, the waiters/ baristas who look at you as though you just accused them of pedophilia and/ or stole money from their wallet. You are now the bane of their existence. And though, at that moment, I really do just want a warm cup of coffee or no mushrooms on my burger, and don’t think it’s too much to ask, I have officially been shamed into my corner and have even less faith in my fellow man than before.
4. When I am in the midst of a story that is clearly going nowhere. I have this terrible habit, as I imagine many people do, of thinking that my stories are really, really interesting when they are actually unbelievably boring. Minor things will happen to me and because, at the time, they made me laugh or feel uncomfortable for a moment or so, I will be overwhelmed with the need to run and tell everyone about the guy at the post office who was, like, sooooo rude bro you have no idea. However, the real problem lies in the fact that I am never able to identify my stories as incredibly lame until I am far past the point of no return. I’ll be at the three-quarter mark of my story when I look around and see the bored faces humoring me as they wait, in vain, for me to get to the point already. And it is at this point that I have one of two choices, choices which I’ve found work equally poorly: I can abandon ship and actually just say, “This is way more boring than I thought it would be… you know what? Never mind this story.” And maybe offer to buy them a beer to make up for wasting their time. The second option, which I’ve taken far more often (I hate to say) is to attempt to embellish the story to make it more interesting, in a last-ditch effort for the story not to be a complete waste of time. However, I find it unlikely that most of my friends buy my story that I was in line at the DMV, and this woman cut me, and I kept clearing my throat and rolling my eyes, and she totally didn’t notice, and I was like “hemm, hemmm!” and she turned around but still didn’t even move… and then all four original members of KISS popped out from behind the counter and stabbed her in the stomach with the neck of a bass guitar.
5. Laughing maniacally to myself in public as I think of an inside joke or past event. Why is it that at 7 a.m. on a busy metro car, I suddenly can’t stop thinking about that one time my friends singed off my roommate’s pathetic chin hairs with a Zippo while he was passed out? (True story.) Why do I see a hipster shivering at the bus stop, suffering for his vanity and refusal to wear anything more substantial than an 80s windbreaker and cutoff jorts and I am the only one that finds it hilarious? Why, when the Regina George knockoff with the Ugg boots and the ludicrous sense of entitlement in front of me berates the barista for not having pumpkin spice at the tiny independent cafe, me laughing obtrusively and loudly is not an appropriate response? Am I the only one that finds stuff funny, and takes the harsh stares of passerby as reason to laugh all the more uncontrollably? Why must society punish me for finding that frigid middle-aged woman’s girlish toot in line at the CVS as hilarious as it truly is? If only one day I could learn to stifle my laughter, then maybe I would be able to set foot in an American Apparel again.