I'm a smart, well-traveled career woman with a master's degree and three published works on the market. Unfortunately, I'm also fairly awkward. Please enjoy this series chronicling some of the awkward things I've done and the lessons I've learned along the way.
Last December, I locked myself out of my new apartment.
The particulars of how it happened are irrelevant. The only facts you need are these: it was early morning, but I’d already had my shower and gotten dressed (thank God for small mercies); my hair was still wrapped in a towel; I hadn’t had any coffee yet.
The first of many blunders.
It was also cold. Florida cold, to be sure. But still. Cold. And I was barefoot.
I also hadn’t had the foresight to bring my cellphone out with me... you know, since I hadn't planned on locking myself out. I stood at the end of my driveway and looked up and down the street. What to do, what to do?
Typically, my street is crawling with retirees out for their morning walks, carrying substantial sticks to beat off stray dogs, alligators, or bands of disenfranchised youths.
That morning? No one. Of course. I might as well have been starring in that movie with Will Smith where he's the only person living above-ground in post-apocalyptic New York City and all he has is that dog for company. (Except I live in suburban South Florida, not New York City, and I don't have a dog... or well-defined abs. But that is neither here nor there).
I decided that the best thing to do would be to start walking down the (cold, deserted) street in hopes that I would bump into someone with a cell phone. My only other alternative would have been to knock on a neighbor's door, but all of the lights were out and I really didn't want to resort to that.
That's when I spied one of my down-the-road neighbors in his driveway, a neighbor I’d seen in passing but had not yet spoken to directly. He'd picked up his newspaper and was just heading back up toward the house. Because he was almost to to his front door, I started jogging down the street in my bare feet, calling out to him.
“Hey! Hi! Um, good morning! Excuse me! Hi!!!” To ensure that he wouldn't be alarmed, I made sure to smile brightly and look as friendly as possible.
To his credit, he seemed to take the sight of a towel-headed white woman jogging barefoot up his driveway in the small hours of morning completely in stride. Still, I felt the need to smooth over any potential awkwardness with heavy doses of fake charm.
“Hi,” I oozed. “I’m Ruth. I’m your new neighbor. I live right over there.” I pointed.
“I know who you are,” he said.
This came as a surprise. "Oh," I said. "Well, good." I smiled some more.
He inspected me from head to foot, eyes lingering on the towel.
My feet were very cold.
“Well, the thing is, I was wondering if I could use your phone.”
“Because I’m locked out of my place.” I pointed again, in case he had forgotten where I live.
He handed me his cell phone and watched as I stood flat-footed on the cold cement, placing several frantic calls. Finally, I determined that only poor Bethany could help me gain access to my house at that time of day.
“And I’m about to step into the saddle,” she said patiently. “So make up your mind whether you want me to come right now or whether you can wait, because once I start my ride, I’m not stopping until it’s over.”
“I need you to come now,” I said in a small voice, curling my toes under for warmth.
There followed a long silence. “Let me untack my horse, and I’ll be there.” She didn't even need to tell me how annoyed she was or that I was a raging moron. It was all implied in the pause.
I hung up the phone and handed it back to my neighbor, feeling about as ridiculous as you can imagine.
It was then that he said the magic words: "Would you like a cup of coffee?"
Would I ever! I shuffled into his warm house and wrapped my cold hands around a good-sized mug as he whisper-talked, telling me that his entire extended family was in town for the holidays, and that although he had to work that day, the rest of them would soon be getting up to head to Disney World without him.
Which is how I wound up hanging out in my neighbor's kitchen after he'd left for work, introducing myself to a seemingly-endless succession of family members as each one stumbled out to have a bowl of cereal, only to confront a towel-headed apparition in the kitchen, sipping coffee and grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
"Don't mind me, I'm just the neighbor," I said. "I locked myself out."
Needless to say, they didn't invite me to join them at Disney.
* * *
As I proofread this, the thought struck that this episode could fit not only into the Awkward Things I've Done series, but also as another fun episode in Adulting.
Such is the nature of my life.
I'm thanking God this morning for good neighbors, helpful sisters, and coffee.