Wednesday, February 23, 2011

E is for Empire State (or "Now I know why I'm not named Grace")

I'm a little accident-prone.

Okay, I'm a LOT accident prone.

This is partly due to inattention on my part -- I get wrapped up in something (conversation, music, a storefront) and then forget to look where I'm going. Or pay attention to what I'm doing. Or -- well, whatever, really. And then ... before you know it? I've fallen down, or walked into something. It's also partly due just to being a klutz.

I have a friend who recently cut her leg badly and is obsessing about the scar. Every time she mentions it, I think wistfully of how lovely it would be to have only ONE scar. I can't imagine. I am a roadmap of misadventure.

But because I have no shame, dignity, or pride, I will share with you what is probably the most epic of all of the "Oh my God you did NOT just do that" moments... because to this day it remains at the top of the list of defining moments in my oh so graceless life.

Flash back, if you will, to 1991. I was a freshman in high school, rocking it with some crazy hair and significantly unfortunate fashion choices. I was also in the high school band, where I played a mean bass clarinet (which is a joke, as there is no such thing as playing a mean bass clarinet).

Every other year, the band went on a trip. That year, we were going to New York City. I had never been there -- my father isn't a city guy, and hates traffic, so the odds of getting there on a family vacation were nonexistent -- and I was beside myself with excitement. The Statue of Liberty! The Empire State Building! Broadway! Who CARED that I was going to have to go in a school bus -- I was going! (And the boy I had a mad crush on was going too ... which raised the level of awesome significantly.)

I don't know, Dear Reader, if you've ever had the chance to ride in a school bus from Maine to New York, but let me tell you -- it's not the ideal way to travel. It's a little bouncy. And, you know, loud. But who cared? I was going to New York. In the sort of company of a boy who had no idea that, in my 15 year old way, I was madly in love with him. Life on the big yellow bus was good.

As was New York. I loved it from the first moment I stepped off the bus. The noise! The energy! The people! The SHOPPING (Oh, Fifth Avenue ... you are still like the mother ship calling me home ...). The first day was like a cupcake made of fabulous frosted with incredible, and I took a big hearty bite.

The second day, however, was a bit of a different story.

We woke up to rain. Whatever, rain's not a big deal, right? Our agenda was: Statue of Liberty, something else that I have since forgotten, then Broadway. Our instructions were to dress nicely as we wouldn't be returning to the hotel before going to the theatre. So I did -- I had some lovely white pants, a new pink top, and my sneakers because, heck, I was 15 and we were going to be walking. Topped with a neon windbreaker. (It was the 90s... as odd as this outfit now sounds, I actually did look quite nice). Add my glasses and I was good to go.

We loaded up on the bus. By the time we got to Battery Park, it was POURING, and we only had a few minutes in which to catch the ferry. So we were instructed to run.

I ran.

Let me add here that running isn't really something anyone would recommend as an activity for me as,  due to the grace issues, I'm not always the most astute WALKER. But I tried to comply and ran.

This worked out for about 5 minutes.

Then I caught my sneaker on some broken pavement and went down HARD. In one of the largest puddles I have ever seen. It was sort of like a small swimming pool, this puddle, and I went in up to my elbows.

"THAT sucked," I thought, when I came back to myself after flying through the air.


Because they were.

Including Boy of My Secret Dreams.

If the ground had opened up to swallow me at that moment, all anyone would have heard out of me would have been a quiet "Thank you."

I slowly stood up. They had all -- 100 plus of them -- stopped short and were just STARING at me. While I had frequently dreamed of playing to a crowd of people and having their undivided attention, this was NOT what I was hoping for. I didn't know what to do. So I did the first thing that came to mind:

I laughed. Then I took a large, sweeping bow -- and resumed running (albeit a little more, ahem, carefully) to the line.

We missed the ferry (this was not my fault) and had to wait. It continued to rain. My windbreaker, between the rain and the puddle, gave up with the "water resistant" and became "water friendly". It soaked up the water like a sponge and suddenly weighed about 15 pounds. That was okay with me, because it made it longer -- longer enough so that it covered the rear of my newly TRANSPARENT white pants.

We were all waiting in line and shivering when I looked down to find that my white pants were ALSO transparent and tie-dyed white pants, because my new pink shirt? Oh yeah, it was running. The longer we stood there, the more pink dye seeped into my pants.

No worries, I thought, I am totally fine with this. It's completely okay. I'm going to see Lady Liberty! How cool is that?

And then lenses fell out of my glasses. A familiar, crushworthy male voice said, "Um, I think you dropped this."

Humiliation = complete.

The day was salvaged. We did make it to Liberty Island. We skipped the second activity and all went back to the hotel to change because we were a sorry, soggy lot. Someone fixed my glasses. Secret Crush complimented me on my dramatic bowing ability.  Life was quickly good again.

I think of that day often -- not because I like to dwell on 15 year old awkwardness (who does?) but because it reminds me that everything passes. I was so mortified when I fell in that puddle in front of EVERYONE -- my friends, people who I thought were cool and wanted to think I was cool, Secret Crush, my teachers -- that I wanted to expire on the spot. But when something happens, be it crazy or painful or embarassing or whatever -- you can either shrink from it or you can face it.

Head on.

And when you're done, you can take a bow.


  1. Doing that bow was BRILLIANT. That is poise under pressure!

  2. Anne -- I wish I could take some kind of credit for it, but honestly, it was the only thing that came popping into my head.

  3. Haha! I am so glad you had me go back and read this!

  4. Also, remember Wayne missed the ferry when leaving the island. I think we can also partly blame him for any delay in activities.