Terminal Embarrassment (Mmhmm, a nice pun for you there.)

Do you ever feel a weird desire to impress complete strangers for absolutely no reason?

I was at the airport a couple days ago heading toward Terminal 3 to wait for my flight from New Zealand back to California. (Awesome note...Blogger doesn't recognize 'Zealand' as a word. It wants me to change it to 'Zea land' or 'Zealot'. Poor Kiwis.) I had to take an escalator to get where I needed to go, which usually excites me...I mean, once I got over seeing a kid almost choked to death by one when I was about 10 (the guy got his sweatshirt drawstring caught underneath the cycle...don't ask me how it happened), I've always thought escalators were the height of technology. They make me want to wear bluetooth devices and clip smart phones to my leather belt. If I wore one, anyway.

But this time I had a group of three Japanese people walking rather quickly behind me. Two of them were wearing high heels, and the rapidly approaching clacking sounds were already stressing me out.

Now, I've always heard the stereotype that Americans never walk up or down escalators. Apparently we just slump there in our bluejeans and crocs waiting for the machinery to slowly deliver our fattened bodies to their destinations. Being in a foreign country on my way to a flight toward the USA, I thought the people behind me might assume I was American, so I suddenly felt this strong desire to contradict the stereotype and suprise them with my willingness to perform physical activity. As soon as I got onto the moving stairs I began to hustle my way down.

The first couple stairs were fine. I was graceful and quick like a lone gazelle leaping effortlessly through the field (do I even know what a gazelle is?). But once I got to the fourth or fifth, the clacking heals behind me got louder and faster, and I completely lost my focus. I was overstepping stairs, hanging on too tightly too the railing, tipping off to one side, and pretty much looking like a complete and utter spaz. And the worst part is that when I got to the bottom part - you know, where you do that thing where you prepare yourself to step onto non-moving ground - um, yeah. I overcompensated.

So what was an honest attempt to represent the respectable American population ended up turning into a very tired redhead looking like she was in serious need of a walker.

After my stumbling spree, the Japanese people nonchalantly walked past me and continued on their own mysterious japanese-person journey. I, however, looked up to see an entire terminal of people staring at me with eyes that could only say "Oh, yeah. We saw the whole thing."

So what did I do? I looked a few people straight in the eye and smiled this goofy-looking "oh well" kind of grin, because I wasn't about to try and look dignified this late in the game. But the funny thing is that they all nervously glanced away as soon as eye contact was made. Either my goofy looking grin was a little too scary, or something very ironic happened: I'm embarrassed that I just earthquaked my way down the escalator, and theyre embarassed that I know they witnessed my embarrassment. I mean, will the self-consciousness ever end?

Sometimes it's fun to just sit and watch people, airport terminals definitely being prime spots. You notice people "reading" the same single page in their books for twenty minutes straight. People constanly check voicemails or hold a phone to their ear that you wonder if anyone is really on the other end of. Women clutch their purses and walk down the hallway with this overconfident stride that screams "You don't wanna mug  me, I'm a fierce, independent woman...I'm strong...I'm powerful...I think I can, I think I can...you don't wanna mug me, for Pete's sake, please don't mug me!" And you just kind of wonder...with all this time we put into wondering how other people see us, are they actually really seeing us, or are they too preoccupied about judgment themselves?

 I can be pretty bad at this myself sometimes. When I lived on my own for a while, I use to only buy wheat bread and natural juices because I didn't want the person at the checkout counter thinking I was eating too many processed foods.



Emily Ann Benedict said...

I’m pretty sure the desire to please complete strangers is a common disease that affects most of us. :P At least you are willing to admit it. Don’t they always say that’s the first step… ;)

Symon Burton said...

Crazy Laura strikes again.

Neen said...

Thanks for sharing your story Laura - was funny as! I'm so glad that the escalator didn't stop. What would you do? I dread to think...

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