Sometimes We're All That Person

Since yesterday was Saturday, I found myself wandering the stacks of my local library.  Due to time constraints, I'd only allowed myself a half an hour for book selection. With the clock ticking, I skimmed spines, flicked open covers to peruse blurbs, and slowly accumulated a trio of books in the crook of my left arm.

So far so good.

Then, suddenly, I became That Person.  

I started off small by dropping a book, which fell to the ground with a sharp thwack! As I leaned to pick the book up, I felt my sunglasses slip from where I'd hooked them into the front of my green v-neck tee.1 They clattered noisily to the floor to join the book that I was in the process of scooping up. Grabbing involuntarily to catch the glasses, I felt the books in the crook of my arm slipping. Instinctively, I brought my left leg up to block them, precipitating a sort of awkward hop, and becoming aware that I was making little grunting noises.

I looked up and gave an embarrassed sort of smirk to the people who had, moments before, been working steadily on their laptops at nearby work stations, but who were now staring at me, concentration shattered, hands hovering above their keypads, waiting to see what I would do next.

I smiled and shrugged in a "what can you do?" sort of way, hoping for a bit of sympathetic commiseration. 

Expressionless, they returned to their work. 

I replaced the dropped book, sliding it one-handed into the empty space on the shelf, stopping at just the right place lest I knock books on the other side of the stack to the floor. 

Snugging my books more securely against my rib cage, I wandered across the aisle to the opposite stack in order to peruse an artful display of new, glossy-covered paranormal teen romances propped up on little wire holders.  Stupid things, I thought darkly. As I lifted one up to flip open the cover and read (judge) the inside of the dust jacket, I heard a horrible clatter, realizing belatedly that I'd failed to disengage the book properly from its little holder. The metal holder, making a horrible clanging as it succumbed to gravity, hit all three metal shelves on its way down before pinging angrily against the floor.

I stooped to pick it up with my right hand, while my left hand lifted involuntarily to block the sunglasses from falling. This, of course, gave the books in the crook of my left elbow an opportunity to make another bid for freedom. 

"Dang it!" I hissed to nobody in particular, fumbling around noisily, for all the world as if I'd woken up that morning with my hands on backwards. 

Taking no chances this time, I set my little stack of books onto the floor and perched my sunglasses on top of them before turning my attention to the display.  Once the book was back in its holder on the shelf, I stepped back with my hands slightly upraised, just watching for a moment to be sure that everything was secure before I backed away. 

I shoved back the corkscrew spirals of hair which had flopped forward over my face during my maneuverings and felt them waving around on their own as they attempted to reach some level of bouffant equilibrium. 

Then I risked a peek at the laptop crew in the work station. True to my expectation, they had again paused working to watch the show, and were now staring at me with the flat, expressionless eyes of true judgment.  

Were I to have glanced down and found the words Hot Mess embroidered in scarlet across my chest, I would not have been at all surprised. 

"Look. I'm really not as much of an idiot as I look. I have a Master's Degree, I'm a published writer, and I've earned full marks for professionalism on every single employee evaluation I've had in my thirteen-year career. Not only do I come here almost every weekend, but I also generally manage to come and go with no mishaps whatsoever. I'm not usually like this! Really!" 

Except that I didn't say any of that. I just picked up my books, hooked my sunglasses down the front of my top, and quick-stepped to the self-checkout with my head held high and my wild hair flapping. 

This has served as an excellent reminder, I told myself as I attempted to get the scanner to acknowledge the bar code on my beat-up plastic library key-chain tag, that sometimes we're all That Person.

You know the type of person that I mean: the one who causes the ruckus, backs up the line, blocks traffic, runs into things, and knocks over displays. The person who can't read the map, who gets stuck in the turnstile, who drives the wrong way up the exit ramp, and who can't figure out how to pay with cash at the self-checkout counter. The one who stops at a flashing red light and then zones out, subconsciously waiting for the light to turn green.  The person who doesn't realize that it's her cell phone going off in the middle of church; and then, when she does, can't seem to figure out how to turn the ringer off.

You know. THAT kind of person.

We like to think that people guilty of these ridiculous shenanigans are somehow less intellectually advanced than we are: that they are just the unfortunate sort of troglodyte that it's our lot to be cursed to walk alongside through this life. 

Most of all, when we observe others having these cheek-warming moments of public, soul-crushing humility, what we like best is to stop and congratulate ourselves that it's not us.

That it's never us.

That, thank God, we are just not like that.

But that's not the case. The truth is that no matter how smart, how smooth, how articulate, and how nimble we generally believe ourselves to be, well... 

The truth is that sometimes we're all That Person.

1. With hair like mine, using anything with hinges as a head band has led to more painful, eye-watering, accidental hair yanking episodes than I'd like to recall.


  1. I feel like that when I have the grandchildren at CFA. Each week something spills or hits the floor at our table.

  2. Great post.
    Though I am NEVER that person.


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