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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

That was awkward

Well, that was awkward. Unless someone was gifted with perfect social graces and lucky enough to have never run into other human being is the only way to avoid the awkward moment. Whether it was the dance people do when walking toward each other and no matter how much room, nearly run into each other, the silence after an unexpected kiss, or whatever the circumstance, chances are an uncooperative moment has wormed its way into most peoples’ social lives.

I had one today and it got me thinking about awkward moments and even how in well into middle age, I still manage to have more than my portion. No matter how sure I feel, how much I master the world around me, there’s that one instant my brain throws a rod and I can feel my inner fourteen-year-old take control of my mouth. That’s what happens when my synapses misfire. My mind grabs the incarnation of my personality least likely to handle any given situation and throws him on stage.

I didn’t get a chance to eat lunch and conference calls had me pinned down. My stomach sent overwhelming messages to go grab a snack. I was out of the apples I keep at my desk. In a moment of weakness, I went to the vending machine to get some peanut butter crackers. I’m not supposed to be eating things out of vending machines and I know better, but desperate times call for carbohydrates.

Our office’s machine is an old timey vending contraption where there’s a hand crank on the mechanism. It’s not a very good machine and more often than not the snack is going to get caught up in the rings, and create a snack cluster-fuck in the back of appliance. However, being a vending machine crafted in the bronze-age, there’s some play with the controls. If the crank is turned back and forth, there’s enough movement to pry something loose before the individual snacks hit critical mass and explode as an improvised nuke. The orange stuff on Cheetos must be radioactive. Seriously, what is that stuff? In this case, I managed to dislodge my crackers, but in doing so I kicked out a candy bar I didn’t need, want, but since fortune favors the bold; ate anyway.

I felt guilty. First, I’m doing my very best to control my sugar intake. It’s not perfect control, but I’m to the point where I don’t crave sweets on most days. Eating that candy bar felt like cheating. I might as well have slept with Jennifer Lawrence and not in the fun way I imagine when watching American Hustle and she’s in those late 1970’s outfits, I mean, wow. The other kind which involves sleazy hotels and shame-filled, desperation filled with regret, for Jennifer of course. My experience would probably be different. No less shameful, but that's Jennifer Lawrence, I mean, come on. My wife would surely understand in that one and only instance. Maybe it's best she doesn't read this paragraph. Talk about awkward, but I digress.

It was also something I didn’t pay for. Yes, it was fortunate, but the person who stocks the machine is a co-worker and friend. I decided I need to do the right thing, confess to the crime and pay the fine. In this case, the fine consisted of seventy-five cents of hard US coin. A considerable sum to any four-year-old.

I marched over, explained what happened and dropped a buck on the desk and felt like my civic duty was done with the exception of an hours’ worth of exercise to work off the 1.21 gigawatts of calories in the Reese’s cups. By the way, this would never have happened it were any other candy bar. In my relative youth, I sat down and ate not one, but two, ½ pound Reese’s Cups equally a full pound of peanutty chocolaty goodness. I don’t say this to brag. I’m not proud of this, but by Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warven, they were enjoyed. My heart’s rhythm eventually came back into normal range.

The problem with my good intention: it didn’t go according to plan. My co-worker gave me the look you get when you’re accidentally covered in chocolate pudding and a thong. She told me it was okay and to take the dollar back. There’s where it got awkward. I explained I’m not really wired that way and I will feel endlessly guilty if she didn’t take the money I owed her. She rolled her eyes and waved it off. Now there’s this dollar between us. It becomes a contest of wills of who’s going to end up taking that damn dollar. It became this weight between us and I wanted to scream, ‘don’t you see what this is doing to me? Just take it!’ Probably as much as she wanted to shot, ‘why did you even bother me with this? Pick up your dumbass dollar!’

Here’s some advice for those moments. Stop everything. Put on the brakes. As the old saying goes, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. The more words involved, the deeper the hole. Stop and reassess. There isn’t going to be a graceful way out unless you’re George Clooney, or that Most Interesting Man in the World guy.

After stopping, acknowledging the awkwardness of the moment will often diffuse the situation and it will become something that the two parties will do one of the following: First, laugh about in future encounters. Second, strictly avoid one another until the nuclear half-life reduces the discomfort to manageable levels. Third, until one of the participants either quits, or dies.

What not to do: Fake an injury. Blog about it.

As for my situation, who gave in and ended up with the dollar? That’s another awkward story.

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