Friday, June 18, 2010
One Shoe Off, One Shoe On
I've been asked the same thing before. "What makes you Barb?" Everything. While there are moments in my life that are significant, some that were definitely pivotal, all of the moments are important. It's like asking a rose bush, "Which bit of dirt made you bloom?"
Years ago, a co-worker and I were talking about Most Embarrassing Moments. She asked about mine. I began with, "I was wearing a pair of brand new shoes... and, I don't know what genius decided to put the bathroom light switch higher than a five year old can reach..." She began to laugh so hard that I had to wait to continue. As she wiped her eyes she said, "I'm sorry. You sounded like Bill Cosby..." At the time, I felt it was the highest praise that I'd ever received, and it was one of those tiny, innocent moments that defined me. It was the moment that made me realize I knew how to tell a story well, that I could be funny, and that humor was a way of reaching people. Even better, it taught me that humor was a way for me to step outside of myself.
While the embarrassing moment defined me, so did the telling of it, and so did how I told of it.
I was wearing a pair of brand new shoes... and, I don't know what genius decided to put the bathroom light switch higher than a five year old can reach. I was in Miss Brown's kindergarten class, and we were all sitting in a circle, having story time. The rule was that we were not to interrupt. If we had to use the bathroom, we were allowed to get up and do so without disrupting story time. Halfway through the story, the urge hit me. So, as instructed, I quietly stood and crept away from the circle. I went into the bathroom, a small closet type at the back of the room, and realized the light was off. What to do? I was still young enough to be afraid of the dark, and too short to reach the light switch, and I didn't want to interrupt the story.
I went with intrepid. Brilliant child that I was, I figured out that if I stood on the toilet seat and leaned over, I'd be able to reach the switch with little effort. I climbed up on the seat, my new shoes squeaking slightly. I leaned over, reached the switch, flipped on the light and... SPLOOSH!... my right foot had slipped and I found myself shin deep in the toilet.
I really, desperately had to pee. I climbed out, took care of business, and pondered the possibility of staying in the bathroom until everyone went home as I stared down at my soggy shoe. Unable to avoid the inevitable any longer, I timidly opened the door and made my way back to the story time circle, my soaked shoe squishing the whole way. The twenty feet or so from the door to the circle suddenly seemed interminable as the sound of Miss Brown's voice ceased and every eye in the circle turned to me.
To Miss Brown's credit, she didn't laugh. She merely said the story would be continued later and sent the other kids to do something else, while she got my shoe and sock off and dried my foot. She also mentioned how silly she thought it was that the light switch was up so high. Thereafter, the switch was permanently taped in the 'on' position.
Even so, I've never quite gotten past the sound of my squishy shoe and the long walk across the classroom.
If anyone asks... that's who I am.