Tag Archives: embarrassment

People Love Torment

Scha·den·freu·de (N): a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.

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If there’s one thing I can count on in Americans, it’s the Nelson Muntz archetype. We love watching other people suffer. Any standard comedian will have some level of enjoyment in other people getting the short end of the stick, whether it be slipping on ice or missing the train by a few seconds. In fact, one of my favorite musical numbers is called “Schadenfreude.” (Warning: NSFW)

This leads me to interacting with attractive people, and my austere sense of manners. Emotions aren’t something you can simply turn off. If you can, you’re on your way to being a sociopath. I get extremely uncomfortable in avoiding embarrassment in front of 9s and 10s. These are people I consider 9s or 10s. Please keep that in mind. So, you can imagine the sheer terror I had when the physician’s assistant at my most recent doctor’s visit was a 9.

My mind starts in with the comments:

Antagony: “Hmm, what do her hands look like?”
Me: “Please don’t.”
Antagony: “Hey, eyes, pan down to the left hand. Would ya?”
Me: “NoooOOOooo!”
Antagony: “Would you look at that? She brushed up against your knee.”
Me: “What?! Oh God, mouth, keep shut!”
Antagony: “Ha! While you weren’t paying attention I got word she had no rings on her finger.”
Me: “This is a medical exam. Cut it out!”
Antagony: “I’m sure she’s in a terrible relationship with a 26 year-old med student playboy who drinks his dinner and is sleeping around behind her back.”
Nate: “None of that matters. Enough!”
Antagony: “WHAAAaat? Are you saying a 34 year-old neurotic with body by Patton Oswalt doesn’t have a chance with a gorgeous physician’s assistant who looks like she’s 10 years your junior?”
Me: “This is not the time nor the place for this!”
Antagony: “Relaaaax. Mouth hasn’t been paying attention anyway. He is going on about any known allergies in the past… what… 10 years? Besides, I’m having a LOT of fun here.”
Me: “Stop it!”

At this point I would be completely anxious I wouldn’t pull a Jon Lovitz’s character, Jay Sherman, and say it out loud. Then it would be just too awkward to bear.

I hate awkwardness, and think that’s why I couldn’t enjoy Meet the Parents. That’s all it was. I’ve been awkward many times before, and have made a concerted effort not to be awkward. Being reminded of that isn’t pleasant.

So, maybe you’ve found some enjoyment in my discomfort in striving for propriety? If so, that doesn’t make you a bad person, just human.

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Little Did I Know

I spent most of the day putting out office fires and rifling through all of my childhood memories like a Rolodex. Who uses one of those anymore? The embarrassing ones always seem more vivid. Shame was used to keep children in line. Remember “Another Brick in the Wall”?

When we grew up and went to school

There were certain teachers

Who would hurt the children anyway they could

Instead of the teachers, in my case, it was the students.

Masses. Everywhere. Animals. Inmates. Terror.

The best thing for a kid like me to do was to blend in and not get noticed by the unchecked, vicious little bastards teachers would do little to stop.

Public servants. 30 and out. Make no waves and live to be paid another day.

In classic, tragically-humorous fashion my younger years were wrought with fear and anxiety. I think it made me question life far sooner than my contemporaries, as it simply seemed surreal. One of the more laughable things I began to panic about was the thought I was the only person on the face of the planet with flatulence. Yes, I thought I was the only human being that could fart. How I arrived at this supposition was an evening of balancing myself, end up of course, against my parent’s rust-colored couch. After finally being able to put my feet on the ground over my head without rolling over, I quickly celebrated with a trumpet fanfare from the posterior section of my body.

What was that noise? Oh, God, why does it smell?! My child brain raced to remember if this had happened elsewhere. No. There were no other recorded cases of this phenomena before. Please don’t tell me I’ve been “gifted” with this ability. I want a refund!  Surely, I had never heard anyone else break wind before. I was the first case in my experience. This was not good. This was mortifying.

So, months went by and I kept that little paranoid gem to myself. Sneakily, I was trying to pull information out of other people to see if it was something common to humans will little success. My speech skills aren’t stellar, and interrogation was never my strong suit but I couldn’t let any of this top secret information out. I would never have a moment’s rest from the little savages that sit next to me for 8 hours a day. After several awkward conversations, I became discouraged. How was I going to cope with this gigantic, red F carved in my chest?!

For a long while, I was able to keep things under wraps, until the mythological tricksters of the school decided to change all that in Mrs. Shadel’s Social Studies class. I remember the subject because the books were so ridiculously thick. How were we ever to get through all of that? Anyway, I was called on to read a passage from the book. This wasn’t possible, since it was stored neatly under my seat on the suspended wire rack. Little did I know I was about to demonstrate to the world my musical “talents.”

I leaned over and put a hand on that brown-paper-bag-covered textbook only to let off a noise that would make a foghorn jealous. Frozen. I couldn’t move. A tear formed in the corner of my eye, as if I watched the ending of He-Man & She-Ra the Movie: Secret of the Sword (shut-UP, I loved that movie ಠ_ಠ). A commotion started with jeers, laughter, chiding, and all sorts of hate directed at me: the easy target. The stooge. The not-good-enough. The reject. The scapegoat. All the noises began swirling in my head and I shut my eyes to black out their faces, until I heard a voice silencing them all.

What was this? A reprieve? Was it over? Can I go back to thinking about social studies now? Not quite.

“All right,” said Mrs. Shadel, “I’m going to count to three and you’re all going to get it out of your system.”

Fuck… it’s a firing squad.

At least the noise was uniform, albeit painful. After about five seconds the teacher cut them off and went back to the lesson. I can’t remember what it was. I was too preoccupied to function. The day was ruined, and I just wanted to go home. There were a few stray insults after that, but the simple minds finally got distracted with something else. I was free to disappear… and forget… until now.

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 2, Part 5 of 6)

Sig dramatically threw himself into the seat at his desk. He let out a deep sigh and muttered “that went well. It could have been worse, at least.” All of the paperwork stared at him expectantly. Moving it around in circles with the palms of his hands, a shiny corner of color with a white border appeared. It was a picture of Chrissy and him at one particular New Year’s Eve party. For all the fighting, she could look as sweet as an angel for the camera. He was also thankful that picture was taken before the second bottle of champagne was drained and she was singing David Allen Coe‘s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” for the sixth time in a row.

“Hey, Wachiewski!” A doughy-eared, ox of a man peeked around the corner with a bright, beaming smile. “Why don’t Polacks eat pickles?”

Sig dropped the photo, stared ruefully at his desk lamp, and muttered “this day gets better and better.” Slowly turning to the aspiring comic, he replied, “I don’t know, Pauly. Why don’t Polacks eat pickles?”

“’Cause they can’t fit their head in the jar.” Sucking in as much enjoyment as he could handle, he let out his signature horse laugh. Sig sighed with resignation. After all, everyone plays the fool sometimes.

“What’s wrong? Can’t take a joke? Come on now. Where’s your sense of humor? All’s fair in love and jokes.” Pauly’s 6′ 2″ frame was looming over Sig’s desk like a docking zeppelin.

“Oh, is that right?” An oaken voice interrupted amateur hour. “Got any good ones for me?” Behind the big mook stood Sgt. Darius King, a stout, barrel-chested black man from Montgomery, Alabama.

“Heyyy, uh, Sarge. I… I don’t know what you mean.” The look on Pauly’s face was enough to know he had no idea where this was going.

“Got any good jokes for me? I could always use a good laugh.”

“Oh! OK, two guys walk into a bar…”

“Not that kind of joke.” Darius interrupted

“Oh, well, uh…”

“OK, Pauly, let’s rephrase that. Do you have any jokes about me?”

“No, Sarge, I’d never make fun of you!” sputtered Doherty.

“Really?” King’s brows arched high on his forehead. “You mean to tell me that a white, Irish cop can’t think of one, measly, little black joke?”

The trap was sprung. Pauly had walked right into it, and his eyes widened like a deer.

“No! NO! I wouldn… I’d… no!”

“Pauly,” Darius was using paternal tones now. He was a father of four and husband to Clara, the best baker the force has ever witnessed. Sig would make a habit of finding ingenious ways to swipe more than one of her blueberry muffins from the break room. “Tell me a black joke.” With a light touch, Sgt. King straightened Pauly’s collar.

Doherty’s face went beet red, and his eyes shut as if to finally moderate the things coming out of his mouth.

“A, uh, a black man and a w-w-white man start running in a race…” Who would have thought this big braggart of a man would now be a quivering mess?

“Pauly, is that really the way you talk around your white buddies?” Darius wheedled. It was getting painful to watch, but Sig held fast to his desk chair.

“No,” Pauly whimpered.

“Tell the real joke.” The sergeant’s body was contorted, almost like the coils of a snake, threatening to inflict some type of punishment if he didn’t get what he wanted. Beads of sweat broke on Pauly’s brow and he continued.

“A nigger and a white guy start running a race. Who will win?” Doherty was now a shadow of his former self.

Darius straightened up in surprise and flared his nostrils, obviously to play up the stereotype. “That’s a good question, Pauly. I don’t know. Who wins?”

“Th… the… the white guy.”

“Oh, really?! Now, why… is… that?” Darius always had a fondness for Samuel L. Jackson. It couldn’t be hidden by a planet at this point.

“B…b…because the nigger had to stop half-way and spray paint ‘motherfucker’ on the wall.” Pauly was now on the verge of tears. Insulting the sergeant was nuts, but with a joke like this?

Satisfied, Darius gave Pauly a big smile and a rich laugh. A slight nod of the head produced, “that’s funny, Pauly… but I’ve already heard that one before. Don’t quit your day job.” With that, the sergeant lightly slapped Doherty on the cheek a couple of times and walked over to the break room. Pauly fell in a nearby chair like a deflated balloon. His face gave off so much heat that it warmed his hands as he sat buried in them.

Now that the show was over, Sig got up and sprinted to the break room. There he saw Darius casually mixing the chunks of powdered creamer into his coffee. “Hey,” Sig felt the need to say something, “thanks, uh, thanks for sticking up for me back there.”

King’s head shifted back slightly to give him the appearance of a double chin. “Standing up for you? Hell no. I just wanted to watch his white ass squirm.” With a chortle, the sergeant set out on a course for his desk. He, unlike Sig, actually kept up on his paperwork.

Back at his desk, Sig started to have a fit “Now! Now! Nownownownow!” That was code for, “I need to get this done. Where do I start?” Sorting out the disheveled papers on the desk, he stuffed the large McTaterTot from breakfast that morning into his mouth. Proceeding to keep half of it out like a golden-fried tongue, he banged the stack of papers on the desktop to straighten them out.

“SIG!” Benelli walked up to the desk at a brisk pace, “we’ve got a murder in Old Town. They think it might be connected to the case. We’ve got to go!” Sig blinked at her, wide-eyed, with the wafer in the same position it had been for a while. “Get that thing out of your mouth, and let’s go!” She never thought any of his antics were funny. How depressing.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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