Friday, October 7, 2011

Awkward is as awkward does.

Some people are born awkward, some become awkward, and others have awkwardness thrust upon them.

I like to think that I fall in that third category. There are few things in my life that I relish more than the elaborate re-telling of an awkward situation in which I was involved. But since the number of people with whom I interact on a daily basis has decreased dramatically since May, I've been rifling through the Awkward Files in my memory, trying to pinpoint the moment in time that I was the most uncomfortable.
This week, it’s a long one, but well worth it, so be sure to click on the “Read More” link to continue on this awkward journey with me.

We're jumping in the Time Machine and racing back to the year 2008.

It's July in Kauai, Hawaii. When my dad hit the five-year mark at church, the elders and congregation were loving enough to not only grant him a lengthy sabbatical, but also to raise money to fund it. Through their efforts and some others' connections, we found ourselves on the beautiful island for a full month. You would think such a lush set-up would be immune to the vexations brought on by other people's social ineptitude. Wrong.

We had attended the same church for the Sundays we'd been in Kauai, and toward the end of the trip I noticed a blurb in the bulletin that the college group would be having a movie night the next Tuesday. A night off from playing card games with the fam sounded nice, so I decided to go. It wasn't until I walked in the doors to the church that night that I realized I wouldn't know anyone there. I froze, frantically scanning the room, silently pleading someone would make eye contact with me and be nice to me. That person was a boy named Colin. He invited me to sit next to him and his friends.

Now, most conversations are like a game of catch. One person throws a ball (asks a question), and the other person catches (answers) it, and throws it back (asks another question). Not so with Colin and his cronies. I spent the fifteen minutes before the movie started trying to come up with every small-talk question ever uttered in an elevator, public restroom, or Starbucks.

Once the movie was over, I attempted to slip out, but Colin stopped me. He asked for my phone number, saying the college group was always getting together to do fun activities, and he could let me know the next time they had something planned. Smooth, right?

Two days later, he texted me. "Going to the beach. Want to come?"
Cool! I thought. College outing to the beach! I texted back and said that I'd love to, but that I'd need a ride, since my dad had taken our rental car to go exploring that morning.
"We'll be there in 20," he replied.
Over an hour later, he knocked on our door. Another guy was with him, who Colin introduced as Jeff. As I walked out of the house, I expected to see a large church van, packed to the gills with people my age. Instead, I saw a small car plastered with the Progressive Auto Insurance logo. "I brought the chick magnet," Colin chuckled.

Once in the car, I realized that we were the group going to the beach. Me, Colin, and Jeff. Colin asked what year I was in at school, and I told him I was going to be a sophomore. "So, you're, like, twenty?" he asked.
"I just turned nineteen," I said. "Last month."
I paused, not sure I wanted to know the answer to the question that was about to tumble out of my mouth. "How, um, how old are you guys?"
"I'm twenty-four," Jeff muttered.
"I'm twenty-six," Colin added.
Then we were turning into a parking lot, and Jeff got out of the car without saying anything. I got in the front seat and asked where he was going. Colin said, "He wants to get his boogie board. He'll meet us there. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't show up after all."

Yes. Colin, the twenty-six-year-old college group leader was taking me to the beach by myself.

On the beach, I once again was scrambling for topics of conversation. Colin settled comfortably on discussing the finer points of Rastafarianism, a belief system to which he sometimes subscribed to-- mostly while high.
While bobbing in the ocean, we somehow started talking about children in Africa, and I mentioned that a friend of my mom's was currently investigating an orphanage in a west African country. "The director of the orphanage disappears with some of the kids for days at a time, and no one knows where he's taking them."
"Ha," he snorted. "That's awesome."
"No," I said, amazed that he could misinterpret such a horrendous story. "They think he's, you know, selling the children to powerful men."
"Oh," he said, not laughing any more.
Once again on the beach, I subtly checked my cell phone, hoping my mom had called or texted, needing me home immediately. She hadn't, and I noticed my agony had been going on for about two hours.
"Do you want to swim to that island?" Colin said, pointing to a little clump of sand about fifty yards off the beach.
"I'm not a very strong swimmer," I said, but he was already up and walking toward the water. Reluctantly, I followed.

The little sand clump had been formed by two separate tides that met at that point. Getting there meant swimming in about two feet of water while being sloshed by waves on both sides. I thought I'd just wade there, but the opposing waves tackled me in about ten seconds. So I doggy-paddled to the little sand clump, lamenting the fact that I was going to die such a stupid death at such a young age. When, at last, I reached the sand and stood, my legs were stinging. I looked down and felt a bit light-headed at the sight of bright red rivulets of blood streaming down both my legs. In my spastic swimming attempt, I'd slashed my knees and shins on the coral on the ocean floor.
Colin didn't notice, though, and asked me if I liked seafood. I replied in the affirmative, and he said, "There's this great sushi place I want to take you to."There was only one place I wanted to be taken to, and that was to my home, where a big box of bandaids awaited me.
"Whoa," he said, suddenly pointing at my legs. "You're bleeding."
I pretended I hadn't noticed. "What? Oh, yeah. Look at that."
"Don't get eaten by a shark!" he yelled as he raced back into the water and started swimming back to shore. I sighed, this time lamenting the fact that my stupid death was now probably going to get national attention.

Back on shore, Colin asked if I was ready to go. I said yes, and that my mom had texted me, needing me home. (She hadn't.) He patted the pockets of his swim trunks, and then looked befuddled. "What did I do with my keys?" he asked.
I shrugged. We walked to his car, thinking maybe he'd left them in there. He hadn't. And the car was locked.
We retraced our steps back to the beach, and he burst into laughter. "They were in my waistband! They totally fell out in the ocean!"
I failed to see the humor of the situation. "Does anyone have a spare?"
"My parents might," he said. "But my cell phone is locked in the car, and I don't know their numbers."
And then he was off, speed-walking through the parking lot toward a family of tourists getting into a mini-van. "Hey!" he said, getting their attention. "I lost my keys in the ocean. Can you give us a ride home?"

Completely taken aback, and probably just as creeped out by the situation as I was, they agreed, and the next thing I knew, I was standing in Colin's garage. "Do you like my motorcycle?" he said, pointing to a Harley.
"A motorcycle hit my dog when I was in fifth grade. Now she only had three legs," I said by way of an answer.
He frowned, and then opened the passenger door of the Mustang that was sitting next to the Harley. "Here, I'll take you home," he said.
I can do this, I thought. If I can force three hours of awkward conversation, I can last another fifteen minutes.
But as he drove, Colin took it to a new level and started telling me about the problems he had with his ex-girlfriend. After a few minutes of venting, he sighed and said, "I don't know. Have you ever been in a relationship?"
"No," I said. "I've never had a boyfriend."
"Yeah," he replied, nodding enthusiastically. "I could kind of tell."
"Excuse me?" I said, with what I hoped was a steely look.
"Look at you!" he said, laughed. "You're a frickin' Amazon! What are you, five-nine?"
"Five-ten," I muttered, turning my glare out the side window.
He continued his monologue on failed relationships for a few more minutes. Finally, we were pulling into my cluster of condos, and he said contemplatively, "Why do you think it is that you have this special kind of social awkwardness? I mean, you look like you'd be a popular girl."
Through gritted teeth I replied, "I don't know," and then we were in the parking lot.
"Thanks," I said as I got out of the car. He said he'd be sure to text me later to let me know what the gang would be up to that weekend.Great.

In the house, the rest of my family was in the midst of uproarious laughter.
"I saw you!" my dad exclaimed.
"What?" I said, the blood draining out of my face (and out of the wounds on my legs).
"I saw you on the beach! You didn't see me, but you and that guy walked right past me! I felt like I was dead and I was watching your life from beyond the grave.”
“Dad!” I shrieked. “What didn’t you say anything?”

Throwing his hands up, he replied, "I didn't want it to be awkward!"


  1. HAHAHAHAHAHA! still funny.

  2. OH MY GOSH!!! This is amazing. Seriously, these things only happen to you.

  3. melody, what big feet you have!