Recently, I was pushing my cart through the grocery store and didn’t realize that the guy stocking the organic section had put a cardboard box on the ground. I was trying to go around his giant metal cart of supplies when I steered right into the box.
That wasn’t too embarrassing, because I couldn’t see the box due to the stuff in my cart blocking my view. However, when I backed up and redirected, I overcorrected and nosed my cart into a box balanced on the lip of the refrigerated section. The whole box flew off its perch and small individual portions of Greek yogurt came tumbling down. It was raining protein! I felt like I was caught in a game of bumper cars when I was the only one playing.
The guy stocking the shelves did not look entertained. He said something that wasn’t reassuring about how he hoped the containers were all right. I mumbled apologies, citing sleep deprivation, and fled the aisle, only to have a fight with my 5-year-old a few steps away about a greeting card we were not going to buy for Grandma’s birthday. (For one thing, her birthday is in February…)
I used to fear embarrassment. I hate knowing that people are watching me (read: judging me) when I’ve done something ridiculous. But these days I think of embarrassing moments as another way of exercising my writing muscle. As long as I can tell the story of what happened in a way that makes me laugh, I can move past it. Even if I’m only telling the story to myself.
Having kids means there are a lot more embarrassing stories in my week than there used to be. One of my favorites is from five years ago, when I went to visit my boss during my maternity leave. He asked to hold the baby and I handed her right over. Oh, she was cute! Oh, how he admired her! And then, oh my, she was making grunting noises. My newborn released an explosive poop all over my boss’ lap, covering his pants, his shirt, his tie and his belt with yellow seedy goop. That’s when I realized my new little baby didn’t want me to return to work. I ran, pink-faced, to the bathroom to get wet paper towels and then apologized profusely. I only spoke to him once after that. To tell him I wouldn’t be coming back.
The best part of my bumper car afternoon at the grocery store was the serving of Greek yogurt that I found stuck in the bottom of my cart when I was checking out. I smiled and put it on the conveyor belt, glad I didn’t accidentally bring it out of the store and set off one of the alarms. Now that would have been embarrassing.
Has anything embarrassing happened to you recently? Do you tell stories (to yourself or to others) about your ridiculous moments? Do you force your characters into embarrassing moments in your fiction?