Oh, where to begin, when there are so many things at which I excel. I mean I don’t want to brag, but even a quick list would include such rarified skills as—loosing my keys, burning toast, saying the wrong thing at the right time, falling down, smacking into doors when I’m running with my reading glasses on, rendering myself legally blind and my familiar home nothing but a vibrating blur. Really the list goes on and on, I am truly, deeply, wonderously gifted at fucking up.
What can I say? I’m just blessed.
If they gave trophies for misplacing things, I’d need to build a room onto my house to keep them all. I’d have shelves full of little gold cups, one for each of the many times I locked my keys in the trunk. (I’d like to thank the Academy and triple A!) At both ends would be two big-ass gold figurines posed with both hands clutching an empty head which I would have received for those two, (yes two,) times I dropped my keys three miles back on a hike where I had stopped to do some stretches. (I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my agent, my lawyer, and my cat, Yaki!) But in pride of place would be a magnificent championship crystal bowl presented to me when I broke my key off in the ignition while I was driving, effectively rendering the car un-steerable. That last one would be engraved, “We thought it couldn’t be done.”
One of my best honed talents is finding the one single thing in any store, anywhere, in any country, that does not have a price on it. It can be at the Safeway in Sunland or the Vatican gift shop in Rome. Not only will I be drawn like a lemming to that one and only tag-less item among thousands, I will also find that there is a long line of people waiting to pay behind me who can be super annoyed when the checker picks up that intercom and announces to the general public—each and every one in a hurry—‘price check on four!’ I feel my face redden as I turn and smile weakly at the harassed mother next in line trying to contain three screaming toddlers. Behind her is the bank teller with five minutes to get back to his window holding nothing but a redbull and a pack of sushi. Rounding out the line nicely are four or five firefighters with a full cart of groceries wondering whether to ditch and run as their radios scream dispatches to emergencies. They look horrified, and these brave men and women don’t scare easily. Don’t I feel special.
The checker might as well have announced, “Stupid blonde with no consideration for anyone else with an unmarked item, aisle four!” if the glaring and snorting of the people around me is any indication. It’s usually at this time that I say something feeble to clear the static resentment from two dozen angry shoppers clinging thickly to me like dryer lint. I say, oh something like, “Don’t worry, it won’t take long to run my fifty-seven badly printed coupons and clear an out-of-state check. I’ll be out of your way in a half-hour or so.”
People seldom laugh, but at least it gives them the chance to see that things could get worse. I could have asked for a bulk discount.
At this point I always offer to simply not purchase the item, but this, apparently, is unacceptable in a country where the customer always comes first. I picked out that organic eggplant and damn it, they are going to sell it to me! There’s no turning back now baby! Never mind that three alarm fire at the day care center, the firemen can wait while some teenage-bagger with all the enthusiasm and perkiness of a dirt worm takes a round about, lingering saunter to the produce section to check the price, pausing to text a few friends while ordering a soy chai latte at the Starbuck’s counter before shuffling back to register four. By this time, I am watching carefully for other produce, specifically ripe tomatoes traveling through space in the general direction of my head.
“Really, please,” I whisper furiously, keeping my back tightly against the gum racks so no one can stick a plastic utensil from paper goods in it. “Just ring up the total without the eggplant, I don’t need it.” The desperate mom’s eyes cut to the checker, silently pleading with her to cut my lifeline, let the bitch go for the survival of the species, but to no avail. We can wait, the checker has decided, she doesn’t get off until five and she’s union, why should we be allowed to go on our merry way? There’s a profit at stake here! She will send me home with that purple vegetable, or I can damn well sleep on a cot in the frozen foods section until managers are notified, corporate offices are contacted, and a price per pound is fully negotiated with China or whatever scary place our food comes from these days.
So, there’s that. Another special skill I have perfected is leaving a sprinkler or a hose running. All night. Okay, it’s bad enough to waste all that water in a drought, but when the water for your home comes from a well, and there is a limited amount that can be pumped up into the holding tank per day, it’s a sliver more inconvenient. Once that tank is empty, it’s three days until it’s filled again. And during that time, we conserve like we have one canteen left to cross Death Valley. We don’t take proper showers, just quick rinses. We don’t wash clothes, or run the dishwasher. Dishes are cleaned with water bought by the gallon from a machine in front of Rite Aid, and there’s nothing much to do except sit around watching the lawn turn from golden brown to easy-lite kindling.
And falling, I’m really good at that. Part of this special talent is from my ice-skating days were I would fall countless times learning a new double jump or some other physical feat that humans aren’t supposed to do until eventually, on my six hundred and seventeenth try, I find myself still upright, moving backwards on one blade with a feeling of surprise. “I did it. Well, that wasn’t so hard,” my brain would say to my bruised butt and hips. “Those oven mitt-sized black, blue, yellow and green marks will go away in a few weeks. Of course, now it’s time to start learning the triple jump. I comfort myself by believing the lie that I look better in Technicolor.
One time in particular, at a big competition in Lake Placid, New York was super fun. Sometimes, when the seating of rinks are filled with twenty thousand people or so, the space warms up more than it should and the ice gets soft, leaving areas a few feet wide that are actually pools of melted ice water maybe a half inch deep. When you hit these at full speed, your blade sticks, your skate brakes hard, but your body, which was moving along so nicely, enjoying the breeze, keeps right on going.
So I’m at the end of my routine, which is the equivalent of running a mile with tricks thrown in, and, breathing hard, I pick up speed for my big last jump. I turn, launch myself up and off, fly gracefully spinning through the air, land perfectly for one magnificent moment. Then my skate hits that soft patch and I fall flat on my back, sliding through the puddle, drenching my back with ice water that takes my breath away. The cold makes me sit up fast with both legs stuck straight out in front of me, I’m still sliding and turning, making little waves and ripples as I slide through the frigid pond, feeling the wet soak up through my outfit and tights, . It’s the end, you know, that part where I do a really fast spin and then strike a final pose and wait for the applause. But when the music crescendos in a furious conclusion, I’m on my ass, still sliding, still soaking wet, so I just threw my arms out and did the pose there in the frigid little swamp with the water lapping around my thighs and calves.
And twenty thousand people did applaud, but they laughed a lot louder.
And that’s the day I learned that I’m good at a few things I didn’t even have to work that hard on. I learned that being embarrassed doesn’t kill you. You don’t die. You wake up the next day and move on, slink back to the grocery store seeking unmarked items, spend three hours searching for your keys, and then trip over a single stair in Venice Italy, sprawling face first onto a palazzo filled with gracious, beautifully dressed Italians enjoying coffees and wine.
Those people have really nice shoes.
Go fall down, be silly, play the fool.Make ’em laugh. It takes the pressure off of everyone else for a few minutes at least.
And that’s something worth being good at.
Shari, June 28th, 2016.