The other day I spoke to a random stranger in the grocery store (not an unusual thing for me) and she was whining and complaining about the length of the lineup at the cash and the poor quality of the produce. During the span of the five to ten minutes we spoke, I got the impression that this person just generally loved to complain, which by the way, did not make the line move any faster. My natural response was to reply in these cheery clipped sentences things like “I think we moved!” or “Almost there!” or provide general moral support for the state of her sorry little strawberries. That’s not really how I normally am- in fact I was starting to get on my nerves so I wondered if this woman was actually as complain-y as she was coming across in our brief meet.
It occurred to me how very differently we all interact. I started to wonder if we all have this innate version of ourselves that we revert back to in drawn out, stagnant or awkward social situations. Like on a date I become this insane talkative bundle of energy and nothing and nobody can stop me from blurting out the most insanely humiliating stories I can think to tell. I have no qualms about embarrassing myself for the sake of easing an awkward situation into the bearable zone which, ironically, usually makes it all the more awkward. For those who don’t know me or necessarily understand my humorous angle, I think it must be like watching a train wreck happen. I guess it’s become a coping mechanism that results in my position as either the absolute star of a party, or downwind against a wall amongst those everyone shoots pitying glances at because of the state of their lack of social flair. It’s a roulette sort of a situation.
Realistically, what’s not hilarious about the fact that, while I worked at KFC, I accidentally set a garbage can on fire? This resulted in the gathering of my co-workers the following day who sang “Baby would you light my fire” as I came through for my shift. I’m laughing now. That one never gets old.
Another one I’ve been pulling out lately happened on the first day we got really unseasonably nice weather. I practically burst through the office doors at lunchtime, stuck my headphones in and started walking, looking for some place interesting to get lunch. I walked a lot longer than I intended, and I was wearing fairly new shoes but they were cute and I figured I could suffer through the violence they were imparting on my heels, in order to break them in. By the time I reached my destination I think I was limping. I hobbled to a wall inside the store and took a quick peak. It looked like someone had unloaded a bottle of ketchup into each shoe. I hobbled around, found something edible and headed for the cash. I asked if they had bandaids I could purchase and when the woman said ‘no’, I realized I was in a bit of a situation since the walk back was another thirty painful minutes. I debated for a minute then showed her my heels. Shameless, I know. I guess it looked pretty gory because she paged the manager of the store and customers began gathering and offering advice in concerned voices. The manager emerged with the largest first aid kit I’ve ever seen and administered first aid in the middle of the store. By the time I got out of there I was hobbling along with my ankles wrapped up like they’d recently been mummified and waving and thanking a group that I swear totaled half the store’s employees who stood by the window, having come to see the wound and send me off VonTrap family style. The shoes were toast. That’s what you get for getting excited about nice weather!
See? Now look how fun that was. I realize spewing off stories rife with my own humiliation makes me seem uncool or dare I say- self deprecating, but I do it and I like it and I even laugh at my own little tales sometimes! Do you have a social alter ego? Is there some version of yourself you pull out to make your way through a sea of awkward introductions and uncomfortable encounters with strangers? Is it as bad as my verbal diarrhea? A close friend of mine puts on what I like to call her “creepy smile” where she just generally grins at everything and nothing until I poke her and say “you’re doing it again!” Another friend of mine giggles and talks so fast you’d think someone just hooked a caffeine drip straight into her bloodstream. Isn’t it amazing how we all give off impressions to the world around us each and every day that we never even think about? These days I’ve been thinking constantly about how my experiences must be deeply hinged on the attitude, energy and mindset I approach the environment around me with and strive to do so in a way that will render the results I’m actually looking to achieve. I’m not saying the creepy smile hinders positive results for my friend (it’s actually kind of endearing) just that we all have these instinctual quirks that we can impart without realizing, giving off impressions we don’t even realize we’re giving off like my ten minute meet with the whiner in the grocery store. So to this I say- try to be self-aware from time to time but most importantly stay weird and wonderful friends!