Monday, October 23, 2006

Some times I'm mired so deep in clusters that I wonder if I exist merely as a cautionary tale for others.

Much of my time here is spent deriding the boobery of others and pointing out idiocy that merits the venomous rancor I am so keenly equipped to dole out. Well, I'm nothing if not an equal-opportunity offender, and I'm not going to pull punches when I'm guilty of a phenomenal bit of boobery. My only hope is that you will learn from my errors, one of which I will tell you today and the other soon to follow. The one in today's post is much funnier (to me) although it was a lot more embarrassing to experience at the time. The other bit of boobery no doubt will come home to roost like ripples in a pond, but more on that later.

Now, usually when you screw up something, if you're lucky, no one will see it and you can correct it and make everything right. If you cut someone off in a car, hopefully you don't cause an accident and you can sheepishly mouth the word "sorry" (i.e., I'm an idiot) to other motorists, and hopefully you haven't stoked their ire hotly enough to provoke the can of road rage they are just dying to open up.

Rarely does one face a gauntlet of shame that lasts more than an instant, thankfully. When you feel particularly culpable, waves of humiliation can keep lapping at the banks of your conscience for days, weeks and even years down the road. Going forth and sinning no more(or at least not sinning in that way again) is a great remedy to keep the feelings of worthlessness and doubt at bay, and in extreme cases, we have been blessed with a plethora of pharmaceuticals to bludgeon such negative emotions into oblivion.

Saturday I experienced something so monumentally horrific, socially speaking, that I am still trying to process it. It was super-awkward. Here's what happened:

I was going to a local lake with a girlfriend and we were meeting other friends there at a named point in the park. About 15 years ago or so, I rode around the lake on my bicycle a couple times a week with friends, and I knew its paths and roads well. However, since that time, the layout of motorways has changed with regard to bike/pedestrian paths.

My friend was driving and we were going in the right direction, I knew, but I wasn't sure exactly where we should turn off. We were following a car and driving very slowly, mindful of pedestrians and cyclists while also looking for our friends. There must have been a sign that said "no vehicles beyond this point" somewhere along the way, but we certainly didn't see it, and sometime the car ahead turned, but again, we were looking ahead and not noticing where or why they turned off. (Also, other points in the park have poles in the path about 4 feet apart which would prevent a vehicle such as a car from entering a restricted pedestrian/cycle zone.) Next thing we know, the road is narrowing and narrowing and we suddenly find ourselves on the bicycle path at water's edge, a paved strip that is barely wider than the vehicle.

At this point, there is no doubt we are in the wrong place and we are looking desperately for a way to get off the path. Meanwhile every person we see either flips us off, yells, curses or very imaginatively deploys a combination of the three. My friend said "Phlegm, I just want to crawl into a hole and die!" We're laughing, but it's that nervous "what fresh hell is this?" awkward sort of laughter.

From the window, I asked a woman "we don't know how we got on this path and we don't know how to get out, can you help us?" She was surprisingly gracious (at this point we were fearful of being stoned to death, so a kind word went an awful long way) and told us that the path only got more narrow with no outlet whatever ahead, and that we needed to turn around and go back the way we came.

We pulled over onto the grass and turned around, and then some rocket surgeon yelled "get off the grass!" There's just no pleasing some people. Get off the path? Get off the grass? Make up your mind.

Mind you, we'd just come about a half mile in probably 10 minutes that seemed like 45, what with all the rancor, and now we were heading back to re-visit head-on the purple-faced rage of folks ranging from urban whole-grain earth-shoe latter-day hippies through to weekend-warrior extreme cyclist white collar guys - eek.

As one big doughy frat-boy vented his spleen in our direction, I thought "yeah, we're on the wrong thoroughfare, but I'm not the one with the wedding tackle on display in a swampy, petroleum-product pair of biker shorts." If I'd been clever, I would have just held the L-is-for-loser symbol up to my forehead to let people know "uh, yeah, we noticed we're, like, on the wrong damned road, already."

I got home and called me mum, and she chuckled and said "now those cyclists have had a taste of how it feels when one of them is in the road on the highway." Somehow, I don't think they were making that intellectual stretch at that moment, but it was a welcome fresh perspective.

Dad laughed and laughed--we both did-- and he said he would like to have been along for that ride, that it sounded funny. It was funny, but it was mortifying, and I honestly wish it hadn't happened. We weren't driving wildly or recklessly, and we certainly wouldn't have run over a person under any circumstance, but it was a major screw-up. Of course, it's preferable that we'd never ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's not as though we maliciously set out to ruin someone's day - it was an honest mistake. It's incredible how from a benign sate you can suddenly blunder your way into something that turns into a huge mess.

Yeah. We're dummies.

Anyway, I hope your weekend was happily devoid of anything approaching the painful lessons of my weekend.


HollyB said...

Well, Phleghmy, look at it this way, while they were venting at you, some other hapless individual was safe from their ire. You were actually performing a public service. Goddess loves you. And just think of the good Kharma you've stovkpiled.
Feel better now?

Kelly said...

Wow, the way people reacted, you would have thought you were in Philly!

Zelda said...

The only thing that could have made this story better is if you'd run down one of them. You would have lived out one of my greatest fantasies.

That being said, you and I handle humiliation very similarly. Do you ever get almost unbearable urges to slam your head against a wall and go "STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!?"

phlegmfatale said...

hollyb - well, you're awfully sweet, and yeah, maybe they weren't such jerks to other mere mortals later on in the day, because I'm sure they are still talking about the assholes in a car on the bike path today. Someone else told me we were the second car to do that. Thank goodness.

kelly - remind me never to go to Philly! *L* Nah, scratch that - I love those sammiches

zelda - *L* Well, if we'd run one down, I might have more reliable computer performance because I'd be posting the blog from jail. Wouldn't that be a fresh perspective, indeed! It's funny that I lived out your fantasy, but I'll bet in yours you're riding boldly forward, sword held high and bare-breasted, Bodicea style, whereas I was in full-on tail-tucked-between-legs mode!
How did you know about the head-slamming urge?

Anonymous said...

God I hate when that happens. You have my sympathy.

People can be such aholes.

phlegmfatale said...

hammer - thanks so much - just reading that makes me feel better. :)

Just Another Old Geezer said...

I agree with your mum. Not much in traffic irritates me more than a group of nits in multi-colored spandex on their gazillion speed bicycles getting in my way. I say if I can't drive on their bike paths, they shouldn't be allowed on my streets. The comforting thought is that in a very tight situation, it'll be Town Car 1, Bike 0.

And hammer's right, too.

Meg said...

Oh, the hazzards of not going on a road trip on weekends.

Over here, I heard a woman on National Radio trying to establish a readily recognizable hand gensutre to mean "Sorry", for just this sort of an occasion. Presumably you'd want at least one hand on the wheel, so it's either one hand, or a head movement, but it must be recognizable from some distance and be very different from the finger. Any suggestions?

When you are an expert in boobery like I am, indivisual instances don't register any more, so you have a bit of a way to go to achieve expert level.

Liz said...

My parents ended up driving through some town square in England and, while they were trying to get back out to where cars were allowed, my mother just smiled and did her best queenly wave at everyone and acted like she had every right to be there. Cracked me up to no end.

Anonymous said...

Ah, joke 'em if they can't take a f*ck, as Robin Williams used to say, back when he was funny.

You need to go get the DVD of Neko Case's Austin City Limits performance. It just came out, and I think that it'd cheer you up. said...

Very well written - was right there with you, slumped in the rear seat so they couldn't see me!

Tickersoid said...

When I screw up like that, I forget within 24 hours. It's a gift.

Becky said...

That does sound like it was rather awkward, esp. when you know that you made the mistake and are just trying to correct it.

Janean said...

There, but for the grace of God, go I!
Ya' just wanna go back, stand on the path and say "YES! I drove here! and it was an ACCIDENT, OKAY?!?!?"
Some people get SO upset over small stuff. You said yourself you didn't kill anyone, so they should just HESH and count themselves lucky! :D
Thanks for sharing. That was my chuckle for the day. Did you find your friends you were supposed to meet?

phlegmfatale said...

myron - whew! thanks - I'm feeling so much better. I'm so glad I blogged this- I was so embarrassed that I almost didn't mention it here

meg - let me know when that mea culpa gesture is finally perfected - I need it!

liz - that is SO funny - I laughed and laughed - I wish I'd thought of the queenly wave

jamie For real! Oh, and thanks, I will get that Neko Case cd - she's great to watch

mushy - good to know other good people were along for the ride

tickersoid - that IS a gift!

becky - Yeah, we just wanted to be loved - is that so wrong?

janean - Exactly - who knows what embarrassment is just around the wrong corner for every one of us, every day of our lives? Yes, we found our friends, and we managed to have a fantastic time in spite of the initial stress.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I ended up driving the wrong way on a one-way through a city park many years ago and have always remembered the embarassment. What is it with parks anyway?

FHB said...

People are assholes. What can you do?