Tagged: embarrassing

I flipped over my handlebars in Philly traffic

This happened while I was biking home from work on Friday. Center City Philly. Heading toward Broad St on Spruce. The sidewalks were crowded with people walking home from work or heading to happy hour bars, and there was a fair amount of traffic in the street.

There’s a bike lane on the right side of the street, but I needed to make a left on Broad. So I waited for my opportunity, then merged over in between a couple cars to the left turn lane.

Now I’m on the left side of the one-way street, riding next to the driver’s side of traffic. As I was nearing Broad in the turn lane, I was riding next to a grey Range Rover. Big vehicle. It’s the kind of SUV they drove on the OC, except Seth Cohen would have driven less aggressively.

Preparing to make the left, the driver started easing over more and more to the left side of the street. I was getting crowded in between the car and the curb. The driver probably didn’t notice me.

I panicked a little, afraid I was going to be run off the road, so I squeezed my brakes hoping to come to a complete stop. Instead, my front wheel turned a bit toward the curb and I lost control. I flipped over my handlebars going forward and landed on my knees and hands in the street between the curb and the car. My bike landed upside down on my back then flopped onto the street in front of me. I felt like an asshole. Bruised and embarrassed.

The Range Rover slammed on it’s brakes. I slowly got up and picked up my bike. I could see that a young blond woman was driving. A guy got out of the passenger seat and ran over toward me. I assumed he was going to make sure I was okay and to help me get out of the street and onto the sidewalk. Instead, he raced over to the driver’s side of the car and started looking for damage. The driver rolled down her window.

Guy: “You dented my car!”
Me: “What?”
Guy: “You dented my car, man! Right there! Take off those sunglasses and you’ll be able to see it.”
Me: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Lady: (to me) “Are you okay?” (to the guy) “Get back in the car.”
Guy: “You got bike insurance?” (He said this with a snide tone. I think it was supposed to be funny and insulting.)
Me: “I don’t know what you mean by that.”

The driver seemed to be the guy’s wife. She immediately tried to diffuse the situation. I got the impression she wanted her husband to get back in the car so they could drive off and get their weekend started. I picked up my bike and laid it down on the sidewalk.

Guy: “He dented our car!”
Lady: “Are you sure?”
Me: “Listen, I was just trying to stop and get out of your way.”

There was definitely a little ding on the driver door. There was no way to tell if it was from my bike or if it had been there for weeks. The lady got out to take a look. I was still in a daze. I didn’t talk much. The guy and his wife had their own little conversation about whether or not there was a ding and whether or not it was caused by my bike. They also talked about filing an insurance claim. She reminded the guy that they had some kind of dent repair coverage through their warranty.

The guy was pretty amped up. Yelling and gesturing in a very animated way. He was a tubby little wealthy-looking guy in shorts and a bright orange polo shirt. His wife was fit and probably 10 years younger than him. She calmed him down and made him get back into the car.

She and I spoke for another few minutes. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t hurt. I told her I didn’t think I broke anything. She suggested we exchange info. I guess that’s the sort of thing people do when there’s a traffic accident. I didn’t know how to react. So I just gave her my info and took her phone number. Then we all rode off.

The whole ordeal was probably 10 minutes. Super awkward and surreal. I was a little embarrassed that I fell off my bike in front of dozens of people. And I was in shock from the fall. Just dazed and bruised. I couldn’t believe the guy’s reaction to the whole thing. He was fuming.

During the couple of minutes when the couple were talking to each other and checking out their car, a young couple walked up to me on the sidewalk. The guy had sort of a hipster look. Tall guy, skinny jeans, flat-brimmed baseball cap. He looked at me directly in the eyes and said “You okay, man?” Maybe it was just because of that surreal daze I was in, but I picked up a tough-guy tone in his voice. Like he was implying “You need me to help you deal with this asshole?” “I’m okay, man. Thanks for asking though.”

A constant reminder of my outcast status

During the first school week in first grade, my teacher gave all the students an assignment: draw a self portrait. She gave us each a sheet of paper and a box of crayons and told us to get started. Even looking back on it now, that’s a pretty daunting task for a 6 year old. And to add to the pressure, she told us she was going to hang all of the drawings on the wall. She said she’d place our name under our picture to help the students remember each others’ names. That means it should be at least somewhat of a realistic portrayal.

I didn’t even know where to start. Should I draw a profile? A full body head-to-toe picture? I looked around the room, trying not to look like I was cheating (not that that’s even possible for a self portrait). It seemed like the other kids were sticking to mug shot style drawings. Most of the kids around me had started by drawing a big oval. I followed their lead and pulled out the black crayon.

I drew sort of an egg shape on the sheet of paper, then added to circles for eyes and a big semicircle for a smile. Not a bad start really. By this point I was feeling pretty confident. My picture wasn’t awful. The border of the egg shape was nice and smooth, and the eye circles were perfectly round. I was moving right along now.

I decided I had to give my picture some characteristics that would let the other kids know it was me – some uniqueness. I have blond hair and blue eyes. Easy. I added some yellow lines for hair and a couple of small blue circles for my eye color. Not bad. But it felt like something was missing. The picture had the bright areas of yellow and blue, but mostly it was black lines on a white background.

Ahh yes! Skin tone. I wanted to fill in the face with some skin color, so I scanned the crayon box for something appropriate. Nothing. No “flesh” or “tan” colors. I was using the classic Crayola 8 pack.

I mulled over the decision for a few minutes then decided to go with the closest color I could find. I pulled out the orange crayon and started filling in one cheek. It looked kinda weird, but maybe that’s because I had only filled in a small section. I moved on to the other side of the face, then the nose area, then the chin. Soon, my entire face was filled with bright orange. It looked terrible, but I could only assume that all the other kids had the same problem. In that moment, I remember thinking the black kids in class were lucky that Crayola included “brown” in the 8 pack.

The teacher started wandering around the room, collecting everyone’s drawings. As she lifted up each sheet, I started to notice that some of the other kids left their faces white. They didn’t bother to color it in. I thought maybe they were lazy or slow. I pitied them.

The teacher finished collecting the papers and then hung them up on the wall one by one. She started on the top left corner of one wall, and put them all in a row from left to right across the top of the entire wall. As she tacked up each picture, I began to realize that it wasn’t just a handful of slackers who forgot to fill in their skin color – it was everyone. Even the black kids left their faces white.

She hung up maybe 15 pictures before she got to mine. And as each picture was revealed, my actual face turned redder and redder with my growing embarrassment. By the time she got to mine, it felt like my skin was on fire. I was sweating. Then she got to my picture. It would have been more realistic if I had used red instead of orange.

Of course all the other kids laughed when they saw it. And who could blame them. This is probably the first life event I can remember where I felt truly different. All I wanted in the world was to be like all the other kids. My orange face remained on the wall for weeks, surrounded by all those white faces, a constant reminder of my outcast status.

I knocked a girl out at a punk show

In 1996 and I was fighting my way through an identity crisis. I was a college junior with an indie rock obsession and a penchant for cheap whiskey and even cheaper beer. I dubbed one of my favorite beverages “iced tea”. This concoction was one part Canadian whiskey, two parts water, and a few teaspoons of sugar over ice. I’d follow this up with a few cans of Milwaukee’s Best (The Beast).

During the semester in which this story takes place, I was edging toward a blue collar, faux-rockabilly sort of look. I wore jeans, a long-sleeve plaid flannel over a white t-shirt, with oxblood red low-top Doc Martens. My hair was getting long, and I had gotten into the habit of slicking it back behind my ears with a generous slathering of Vitalis.

I headed to the Hardback Cafe in Gainesville to see an old friend play in his band Hot Water Music. It was a little weird for me – going to see a hardcore show. I was heavily into that scene in high school, but during college I had mellowed out a lot. I spent far more time listening to the likes of Sebadoh, Pavement, and The Mountain Goats than I did listening to hardcore bands. And it had been years since I last spent any time in a mosh pit. But this was a special occasion. Old friends, awesome music, and a gullet full of alcohol – I was ready to throw down.

The band started up and I made my way toward the front of the crowd. I knew the music, and I had memorized the lyrics. I was fucking psyched. I consciously decided to forget all inhibitions so I could rock the fuck out. I longed for the early 90’s when I spent every weekend checking out hardcore shows and Saturday nights ended with me dripping in sweat (and sometimes blood).

Lost in the moment, I jumped and threw fists into the air, banging around with a couple of other die hards. It was so nostalgic for me – feeling like I was to be back in the scene.

Three or four songs into the set, they played one of my favorites. I started screaming along with the chorus and I jumped back with passion. I felt bodies hit against mine and I turned around to brace myself for the physical reaction from the other guys in the pit. But no one was pushing back. Instead, there was a girl laying on the floor. I immediately bent down to help her up. Her friend grabbed one hand and I took the other as we guided her out of the crowd toward a nearby barstool.

She sat down on the stool and gathered herself. She was bawling. Completely sobbing. And her lip was bleeding. It didn’t look like the kind of bleeding that would lead to stitches – more like she got punched in the face. And it was all my fault. I was embarrassed and apologetic. I offered to do anything I could to help or. Water? Damp towel? Anything? Just thinking about it now, a dozen years later, still gives me douche chills.

She seemed to accept my apology – but I was certain she and everyone else who witnessed the event thought I was a fucking jackass. Paranoia set in immediately (is it paranoia if it’s true?). I stuck around for another song or two, standing way behind the crowd in the back of the room. Then I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was red-faced and sweating from embarrassment. I had to get the fuck out of there.

After that, I couldn’t bear to hear that song anymore. Every time I tried to listen to it, I pictured that horrible moment when I smashed a girl’s face. I never saw that girl again. And I stayed far away from the hardcore/punk scene. I felt like I clearly didn’t belong. I stuck strictly to indie rock and lo-fi.

I still have that 7″ single in my basement. Maybe one of these days I’ll give it a listen. I’m a glutton for punishment.

My roommate lost control at the Rotator

This is the second in a series of stories about my college roommates. For the purposes of this story, I’ll allow some anonymity and will refer to my roommate as “Elvis”.

Elvis invited a couple of friends to visit for the weekend. That alone is a recipe for disaster. Gainesville is home to more than 50,000 college students and dozens (maybe hundreds) of bars. Every weekend is a party, and every decent bar is swarming with scantily-clad hotties and guys guzzling uber cheap beer. When people visited from out of town, the night often ended in a fog. Saturday and Sunday mornings inevitably led to a mumbled, “What happened last night?”

This particular evening, we gathered the troops and headed to our favorite bar – a place just outside of town called JD Penguins. The place was a real dive. For years, the bar’s regulars were the kind of guys who bellied up to the bar at noon and stayed there till midnight. Real full-time drunks. But somehow in the early 90’s hipsters stumbled upon the place and before long it was a true hipster hangout. They even hired a DJ who played things like Morrissey, the Flaming Lips, and Pavement.

This place had one major draw. It’s probably the thing that drew the attention of the first college aged trendsetters who made the place popular. It had a giant rotating bar. The bar slowly spun – maybe one revolution every 15 minutes or so. The bartenders worked in the middle of the big circular bar, while the patrons sat around the circumference. Of course we never referred to the place as JD Penguins. It was always called “the Rotator.”

So me and Elvis and the guys showed up at the Rotator ready to get shitfaced. The beer was cheap – I think it was $1.50 for a Sam Adams draft. It was affordable enough to down a couple 12 ounce beers for every rotation of the bar. That way, by the time you were done with one beer, you’d be near another Sam Adams tap just in time for a refill. After a few hours you were bombed.

It was right about this time that Elvis started feeling woozy. The 12+ beers and the rotation of the bar had gotten to him. He was wavering, almost like he was going to fall off his barstool. He put his head down on the bar and a minute later he suddenly sat up. He had that look on his face. You know the one. That look – like “I’m going to fucking puke all over this bar.” But he didn’t puke. Instead he wobbled toward the bathroom with that expression of shock and fear. He made it to the bathroom door and disappeared into a stall. No puke.

After a few minutes, Elvis stumbled back to the bar looking slightly refreshed with a goofy grin on his face. We assumed he had been in there tossing his cookies. He sat back down at the bar and ordered another beer. He assured us he was feeling much better. The night raged on and we made it home safely.

The next morning, everyone woke up feeling like balls. A couple of us exchanged the whole “man, what happened last night” thing. And then I remembered that Elvis hurled in the Rotator bathroom.

Me: “Dude, how are you feeling today? I can’t believe you puked last night.”
Elvis: “What? I didn’t puke.”
Me: “You totally did. You were in the bathroom for like five minutes last night.”
Elvis: “Oh… at the Rotator?… I didn’t vomit, man.”
Me: “Dude we saw you get up looking all freaked out like you were about to puke – and you ran into the bathroom.”
Elvis: “Alright. Here’s the deal. I think I passed out at the bar for a minute. I must have lost control. Because I suddenly woke up sitting at the bar and I realized I had shit my pants. I ran to the bathroom to clean up.”
All of us: “What the fuck are you talking about?!?”
Elvis: “Seriously. I shit my pants at the bar. I went into the bathroom and threw my underwear into the trashcan. I washed up and started drinking again.”

How’s that for dedication? Disgusting perhaps, but it shows dedication nonetheless.