Tag Archives: embarrassment

When Looks are Deceiving

Several months ago I bought a Groupon (or maybe it was a LivingSocial…when you get fifteen of those emails a day they do tend to blur) for five classes at a local barre studio.  I’d heard barre was incredibly difficult, but when I pictured ballet mixed with yoga all I could see was a lot of stretching, and obviously, spandex.

My gal pal Lindsay was also picking up on the trend, so we agreed to meet for a barre class the following week.  First I thought I’d try one solo to get myself acquainted with this newfangled exercise, but I didn’t realize joining this class would be like breaking into Fort Knox.

To begin with, the studio is in an office building, one which looks identical to every building in downtown Bellevue.  There isn’t a sign on the building’s exterior, so I missed the driveway only to see a tiny sandwich board at the end of it pointing to the parking. 

After parking, I got off the elevator and walked into the studio a responsible ten minutes early.  The receptionist stared at me blankly as I gave her my best “greet me and ask if I need help” face.  Left to the introductions myself, I said, “Hi.  I’m here for the 5:45 class?  I have a Groupon-LivingSocial for five classes.” 

She stifled a laugh.  “This class?  Today?  Did you sign up online?”  I paused before responding, as dozens of women poured into the room behind me. 

“Um, no,” I replied.  “I wasn’t aware I had to pre-book.”  What was this?  The Olympic trials?

I looked over at the children’s play area and realized I’d stumbled down the rabbit hole into Bellevue Mom territory.  In a flash, I could see the well-coiffed women arriving for their 11AM class each day, dressed in head-to-toe Lululemon, pushing baby Victoria in a Bugaboo stroller.  I shivered and returned my attention to the principal of Sass Elementary in front of me.

“Today’s class is completely full, with a waiting list,” she told me coolly.  “The best I can offer you is for you to wait over there until after class starts, and if someone doesn’t show I can give you their spot.” 

If I hadn’t just driven across town, searched for the building, and parked in a garage, I would have told her that it wasn’t worth my time.  But I was standing there in yoga-wear, and we both knew I wanted in that class.   So I sat.

After ten minutes of pretending to flip through magazines, she told me the class was full, as expected.  She gave me instructions on signing up for future classes online, and recommended I do so several days before my desired class.  I barely made eye contact as I left.

Days later, I told Lindsay that this class was designed to make us feel unwanted and unattractive, two qualities we both despised.  She told me it couldn’t possibly be that bad, and to meet me there the following week (provided we both signed up, of course).

By the day of the class, the bitter taste in my mouth had dissipated, and we joked about showing up in tights and legwarmers.  We were convinced this was nothing more than a vanity excercise designed to make Bellevue Moms feel like they were working out without actually doing so. 

We lined up dutifully at the barre, giggling and nonchalant about the work in front of us.  Everyone grabbed half-pound weights, but we chose three-pound weights because seriously, half a pound? Why grab a weight at all? 

The class started innocently enough with a standard warm-up, and then the instructor told us how to move our arms with those measly weights.

Within a minute and a half Linds and I were looking at each other with the slightest hint of panic.  Our arms were trembling and every time we thought the instructor would relent, she’d just make us hold it longer.  Each move was harder than the last and we started to grimace to get through it. 

Without a pause she lead us right into leg work and thirty seconds hardly passed before we looked at each other doubled over in laughter.  We couldn’t function because it was so, so hard and the pain wasn’t nearly as horrifying as the embarrassment of our underestimation. 

“Drop an inch lower, and HOLD.  You can do this, ladies, your legs should be shaking right now,” she yelled cheerfully. 

There was no time to account for time at all, because our minds were lost in the pain.  We were thrown face-first into submission and found ourselves loving every humiliating second. 

Lindsay turned toward me from a deep plie, “We’re doing this twice a week,” she gasped between gritted teeth.

“Forget yoga,” I grunted back.  “I need this woman’s legs.”

So we did.  Every week we showed up and sweated and giggled until extended travel took my partner away from me.  Refusing to quit, I called Kelly, who I knew could take the pain.

“You’re making me nervous,” she confessed over email.  “What if I can’t do it???”

Realizing I might lose her before class had even started, I lied, “You’ll be fine!”

Without realizing it, I’d lied to myself as well, because instead of our usual chipper instructor,  we were led by a drill sergeant disguised as a barre instructor.  Before we’d even finished the warm-up, she’d zeroed in on us as the rookies and pointed out our many mistakes.

Ten minutes into the class, Kelly looked over at me with a look of desperation.  I felt validated, so instead of saying something supportive, I said “I TOLD you!” which she found helpful, I’m sure.

She also found the brutality to be addictive, and has since gone to several more classes.  She takes those beatings like a champ.

What makes the class so difficult, one might wonder?  It doesn’t look difficult, after all.  I always look around the room and marvel at how easy the poses look.  I suppose it’s the micro-movement; instead of doing full repetitions with weights, you hold your arms straight in front of you and move them up and down a mere inch.  Oddly, it’s much harder than doing a full repetition.  Same with the legs — instead of a full squat, you squat down and then move up and down an inch until the fire in your legs is spreading over your entire body.

Torture is really the best way I can explain it.  Beautiful, effective torture.  The major bummer is that it’s twenty bucks per class, so I’ve stolen classes by way of memorization so I can do it for free at our home gym.  This is sort of pathetic, but I’m OK with it.

At the end of my first class, sitting exhausted across the room from me was my old nemesis, the receptionist.  She gave me a nod of approval, which made me realize her initial hostility had more to do with assuming I was a lightweight Bellevue Mom than anything else.  Having survived the class, I gave her the smile of a comrade who’s been through the same battle and come out alive. 

Needing to be wheeled out of class on a stretcher, but alive.


Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

Raindrops on Roses

Yesterday I was at Trader Joe’s for my weekly grocery run, and as I waited in the checkout line I looked out the door to the parking lot.  It had been lightly sprinkling when I’d come in, but now it was a colossal downpour rarely seen in Seattle.  I looked down at my clothes: no raincoat.  Earlier that morning, like an idiot, I’d told myself “April showers, May flowers…who needs a raincoat?”

After paying, I pushed my cart outside and stood under the awning.  I took one step out from under it and was splattered in drenching rain.  I jumped back and spent thirty seconds debating how long would be too long to wait for the rain to pass, but decided that was a truly pathetic response for a nearly fifteen-year Seattleite.  In order to reduce the soak, I visualized my approach like a sprinter pictures crossing the finish line — I’d unlock the doors, grab both grocery bags, open the door, toss both bags inside, and then hurry back to return the cart.

It was all planned.  What’s that they say about the best-laid plans?

I dashed along the sidewalk to my car, which was parked in front of the building, so I didn’t have far to go.  I grabbed the handle of the cloth bag and the handle of the paper bag and stepped off the curb to move toward the car door.  I never saw the cement parking stop that caught both of my feet — I fell so fast I didn’t even realize I’d fallen.  I was standing one moment, and the next I was lying face-first in an inch of water, all of my groceries splayed out before me.  My mind raced to catch up to what was happening, but all I could think was “Why is the puddle red?”  Suddenly I realized a bottle of wine had shattered and was soaking not just the cement but my groceries, too.

“Oh my gosh are you OK?” a woman behind me asked.  She looked truly horrified and stopped to stare.

“I’m fine, I think,” I replied, not knowing which way was up.  “I think I’m fine.”  I finally stood up and tried to triage the situation.  As the rain continued to pour, I couldn’t decide what was most urgent — my cell phone lying face down in water, my leather purse lying on its side in the water, or both bags of groceries which were now soaked through.  It’s incredibly bizarre how the brain functions when it’s in minor shock — all of this seemed to last for forty-five minutes, but actually occurred in about twenty seconds.

I picked up my purse, keys and cell phone and threw them over my shoulder.  I grabbed the cloth bag which wouldn’t break on the bottom, and determined that the groceries inside were mostly OK.  I threw it in the car, splattering a pint of water all over the seat.  I gingerly picked up the shattered glass fragments from the concrete and put them in the disintegrating paper bag with the ruined groceries.  It occurred to me just then that I’d now have to re-shop for all of these items, and the thought of it completely overwhelmed me.

I picked up the bag and carried it inside, in a daze.  I stood in the doorway dripping water from my hair and clothes, and put the bag down on the floor.  I looked around for an employee but couldn’t really get over the fact that I was standing in the middle of a grocery store fighting back tears, and didn’t want anyone to see me at all.  Finally I walked up to the nearest one who had a chipper can-I-help-you look until she turned and saw me and dropped her jaw.

“I need help,” I said feebly, “I fell in the parking lot and need a garbage can for my groceries…” I didn’t finish before she interrupted.

“Oh my gosh, oh you poor dear!  Are you OK?  Are you hurt?” she asked earnestly.

“I’m alright,” I replied, realizing for the first time that my left knee was actually throbbing and my left hand was scraped.  “I picked up the glass because I don’t want someone to get hurt…” I trailed off because she had already picked up my soaking bag and was guiding me toward the other side of the store.

“We’re going to get these replaced for you,” she said matter-of-factly, the idea of which had never even occurred to me.  “Just give me a moment while I see what you have here.”

I bit my lip to keep from crying because her kindness was all it would take to break the dam.  I grabbed a paper towel and started wringing the water out of my hair and off my clothes.  I looked down at my leather boots which were beyond help, and realized I was wearing leggings that should have torn, but were surprisingly intact.

The woman came out of the back room with a piece of paper and a basket and started running around the store filling it up with all of my ruined items.  I was shocked to see this and wanted to trail after her to tell her I could do it, but the odd thing was, I really couldn’t.  If they had thrown away my groceries I know I would have turned around and driven home without the items, because I was still shaking and my knee was aching.  Toss in my humiliated face and soaked clothes and you have someone who is not willing to wander the aisles for food.

I closed my eyes and heaved a major sigh of gratitude that the employees of Trader Joe’s were such angels.  In doing so, I must have looked even worse because a fellow shopper walked by, looked at me, and stopped.

“Arrrrrre you OK?” he asked.  I told him I was fine and mentally noted that however bad I thought I looked, it was probably twice that.

The lady with my groceries came back and said, “I’m so sorry but we’re all out of the ground flax seed you had in your bag, so we’re going to refund you for that.”  The idea that she was inconveniencing me with her lack of flax seed was so laughable that I did just that — I laughed.

I looked down at her name-tag and noted her name – Nancy – so I could write a composed thank you note, as I didn’t have the words to tell her thank you sufficiently.

Another employee walked up to me and handed me the two dollars and change for the flax seed, and then double-bagged my fresh groceries.  Just then Nancy came walking over with a bouquet of flowers, and I caught my breath at their generosity.

“Nancy, I can’t thank you enough.  I really am so embarrassed and I’m so grateful for your help,” I told her.  “The flowers are just above and beyond, I don’t know what to say.”

She instantly saw that I was one word away from bursting into tears, so instead she hugged me.

I walked to the car with my groceries and flowers, amazed at the kindness of strangers.  In the words of Anne Lamott, God was really showing off on this one.

I got in the car and finally cried like I’d wanted to since the moment I fell.  Except these tears weren’t just filled with a bruised knee and ego, they were also filled to overflowing with gratitude.


Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Tragedy or Rescue?

Last week I flew to Bethlehem, PA for my grandma’s memorial service (I will post about that when I’m finished writing it).  Oddly enough, both flights were easy and on time, which I can’t say has happened often in recent memory.  Nice work, Delta.

The sticky widget was the connection.  The layover in Detroit was only 30 minutes.  Perhaps they were just being kind by moving me out of Detroit as quickly as humanly possible.  If that was their intention, then I tip my hat to them.

For the flight out of Seattle, I was seated next to an outspoken woman in her sixties, and an outspoken woman in her thirties.   They had managed to bond in the ten seconds before my arrival and welcomed me into their sisterhood, even though I usually make a point of ignoring all people on planes.

They had just switched seats out of mutual preference, and when I took my seat in the middle (imagine, no one wanting to trade my seat) they were quick to cheerily ask each other and me, “Which would you rather be?  The person who is inconvenienced, or the person who is inconveniencing others?  I’d rather be inconvenienced.  Definitely!”  They each nodded in agreement, affirming their mutual self-sacrifice.

What is this, I asked myself, Girl Scout tryouts?

Before I could respond, the older lady turned to me and said the usual, “Where are you traveling?”  After I replied, like clockwork, she exclaimed, “Me too!”


“Weren’t you thrilled by the fares?  I mean, what a steal.  Isn’t Delta the absolute best?” she inquired further.

Maybe it’s just me, but one does not typically compare airfare once airfare has been purchased, because most people understand that ticket prices fluctuate by the hour, and one is sure to either feel terrible about her own price or make someone else feel terrible about their price.  This woman did not know this.

“Actually,” I replied (because why not make her feel a little remorse for starting this conversation?) “I am traveling for a funeral, so I had to purchase my ticket just last night, and I paid three times as much as you.”

“Oh!” she gasped.  “Oh I’m sorry.  Well did you at least take advantage of Delta’s fantastic bereavement program?”

Again, why ask this question when the opportunity for me to take advantage of it has already passed?  What could possibly be gained?

“Um no, I’m afraid not,” I replied.  “I called another airline who said they don’t offer those types of discounts, so I didn’t bother calling for Delta’s.”

“Oh that’s such a shame, because they do.  They do!” she said.

I reached for my People magazine.

Four hours later we were about to land, and she turned to me and said, “We only have thirty minutes to make it to our gate, and I’ve already checked the map of the Detroit airport and it’s going to be quite a haul.  So we’re really going to have to make a run for it.”

We?  Did I fall unconscious at some point during the flight and say in my sleep that I needed a travel partner?  I smiled sweetly and agreed that it would be close.  As soon as the plane landed, she barked at me to get my bags, and then we filed out of the plane.  I didn’t see her for a moment, and thought I’d be able to navigate the airport in peace, when I looked ahead and saw her up the galley waiting for me.

The walk that followed was ten different kinds of awkward.  Since she set the standard by waiting for me, I had no choice but to stick with her the rest of the journey.   And it was a journey.  Long walk, moving walkway, escalator, air tram, escalator, moving walkway, escalator.

At every escalator or moving walkway, we’d do this horrifically awkward shuffle of not knowing whether we should get on side-by-side and openly acknowledge each other, or whether we should split up and each take our own, pretending we were not really together.  Please don’t forget that in this whole “traveling companion” exchange we had not even learned each other’s names.

To add to the unbearable awkwardness, we had to keep up this fake I’m-waiting-for-you-but-I’m-acting-like-I’m-not charade.  She’d fall behind, and I’d walk like a sloth until she caught up.  We had to navigate the tram system together, with each of us telling the other where we thought we should get off and where it would lead.

One doesn’t realize how intimate these minute traveling decisions are until one has to perform them with a stranger.  We’re actually pretty vulnerable when we’re in an unfamiliar place, and suggesting the wrong route or acting more calm than you feel is something we usually only share with those in our inner circles.

After about a ten minute walk/ride/sprint through the Detroit airport, we approached the last escalator.  After doing what was by now our practiced dance of choosing which escalator to ride, we chose separate ones.  We couldn’t see the top of the staircases, and there was only one major sign that said the escalators lead to our B gates.

All of a sudden, the few men in front of me started getting shorter.  That’s weird, I thought.  Are they all bending down…no, instantly I realized my escalator ride was ending much too soon.

I looked over to my traveling companion and she was already ten feet above me.  She saw what was happening too, and shouted, “I’ll turn around!  I’ll come back down for you!”

Suddenly all of our faking and subtlety and aloof attitudes were proven to be the lie that they were, and I was shouting back, “No!  You go!  I’ll find my way!  It’ll be OK!”  Desperately, she yelled in response, “I’ll hold the plane for you!”

At this point everyone around us knew for sure that I was an absolute idiot.  Who doesn’t realize the escalator only goes two floors?  To which I might reply, how often does this happen?  When on earth are two escalators literally side-by-side, and one stops halfway up?

Immediately it was quiet and I was left standing in a much smaller space than the one I was sure my friend was walking onto, and I searched to no avail for a down escalator.  I found an elevator and it opened to reveal several handicapped people.  I felt like an absolute jerk as I interrupted their ride for my one floor gain.

As I exited the elevator and walked toward my gate, I realized my view of my seatmate hand changed.  I couldn’t believe a stranger would embarrass herself by shouting in a public place, all for my comfort.  Sure, she probably knew that I could find my way to the gate alone, but she acknowledged that together we’d gone ninety percent of the way there, and she didn’t want to let me walk that last ten percent alone.

After I arrived at the gate with minutes to spare, she found me and said, “You made it!  Terrific.  I’m going to go get a snack.”

And that was that.  Our journey had ended.  I sighed with relief that she probably wouldn’t be sitting next to me on the ride to Bethlehem.  We would no longer have to overcome Lewis and Clark-esque challenges.  I also realized, a little sadly, that no one would be by my side the rest of the way.


Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)