I went straight to the gym after work so that I could beat the evening rush. The locker room greeted me with its familiar smell – stale body odor combined with every Old Spice deodorant scent. I darted my way to an open space while averting my eyes from the same old men that consistently walk around naked.
After changing, I grabbed my iPod and headed for the door. Then I realized I had to poop. This wasn’t my first time doing so at the gym, but it would certainly be my most memorable.
I always use the handicapped stall because it’s the roomiest. And there’s a good amount of irony in the fact that there’s a handicapped stall at the gym. I lock the door behind me and put my headphones in. Like any sanitary person, I cover the seat in toilet paper to protect my butt from the unknown. The roll of toilet paper is sitting on top of the holder, which I find annoying. How hard is it to put it in the little box?
I sit down and hear the sound of footsteps. Anxiety wells up as I realize they’re heading my way, getting louder and louder. I picture the outsider busting in and seeing me with my pants around my ankles. The steps get closer and my breath quickens. Suddenly a hand grabs the top of the door and another pushes.
The lock catches and the stall stealer realizes it’s occupied. He backs away, enters the stall beside me, and sits down. I let out a sigh of relief and pick a song on my iPod.
Suddenly – thud.
I look up to see his of toilet paper on the ground, rolling into my stall, out of my reach.
Life brings us many types of special moments. Some are great, some are bad. Some make you jump for joy, some make you punch a wall. Some make you laugh until you cry, and some make you cry until you laugh. The best moments, though, are the ones that make you clench your teeth together, suck in air, and say “ahhhhhhhh shit.”
Life’s awkward moments.
We’ve all been there. Answering “Good” after being asked “What’s up?” Apologizing to someone in a store for bumping into them and then realizing it’s a mannequin. It’s inevitable. Some people run from these situations, head down, embarrassed.
I embrace them.
The concept of awkward becomes apparent when we think back on everything that happened in grades 6, 7, and 8. When we enter high school, we fall into a false sense of security. Awkward moments don’t happen to us anymore, and we can’t believe the way we acted in middle school.
Then we go to college and the term takes on a whole new meaning. We walk of shame home on a Sunday and run into friends that are going to church. We meet someone whose name we immediately forget and then see them every time we leave the house.
We learn to expect a certain level of awkwardness in our daily lives. We begin to act awkward ourselves. We get too comfortable around our friends and our awkward tendencies turn into our normal tendencies.
Then we graduate. We meet people who have no idea who we are but can’t turn off our awkward characteristics because we’ve forgotten how. Now every interaction is awkward.
- You wave to someone who is waving to someone else behind you.
- You’re meeting someone important for the first time and you both reach out to shake hands. You miss – they shake your fingers.
- You go in for the hug when saying goodbye to a new friend. They don’t.
- The moment you realize the joke you’re telling isn’t going to be funny.
- You’re hand grazes a stranger’s butt in a crowded space.
- You and someone else do the weird dance that happens when you’re trying to get out of each other’s way.
- You hit your shin on anything.
- You make eye contact with an approaching acquaintance way too early and now have to force conversation until you pass each other.
- You go in for the handshake while the other guy goes in for what I like to call the “bro shake” and it becomes a convoluted hand-bro shake hybrid where no one looks cool.
All of us suffer through these moments. However, next time you’re in an awkward situation and you’re feeling like an idiot, don’t fret. You’re not alone. We’ve all made these mistakes and will continue to until we’re too old to care. The sooner you learn to embrace them, to more hilarious your life will be.
“No no no no no,” is all I could think. “Crap. What do I do? I can’t reach that. Do I pretend I’m not here? Do I pretend I didn’t see it? Of course I saw it, how could I miss it? Do I lift my feet up so he thinks no one is in the stall? He tried to get in though. Crap crap crap.”
Frozen in terror, I stare at his feet in the stall next to me. He leans forward.
“Ok, he’s gonna grab it and that’s it.”
He reaches under the wall and into my stall. He grabs the trail of toilet paper left behind and slowly tugs it to bring it back to him.
But his tugging is too aggressive. The toilet paper rolls even farther away from both his reach and mine. I regret picking the roomy stall.
He realizes what’s happening and stops pulling. Still frozen and speechless, I watch as he stands up, pulls up his pants, and exits the stall.
“Thank God, he’s changing stalls.” I let out a sign of relief and begin to get the feeling back in my fingertips.
Suddenly he drops to the bathroom floor and his entire arm shoots into my stall. He’s extending with everything he’s got. Finally, I speak up.
“Oh crap uh sorry,” is all I can get out before he interrupts with “No problem!” Even though I know I can’t reach the roll, I lean forward as if that will help him find it and make me a better person for trying. Finally his flailing arm finds it and snatches it out of my stall. He stands up, toilet paper in hand, and returns to his stall to finish his business.
I pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.