Something humiliating recently happened to me.
It made the list of the top five most mortifying things that have happened in my life.
I can’t remember the other four, but they must have been pretty bad.
It’s necessary for me to put the scenario in context. In October, my husband left town for a week to go hunting out west. When he planned this trip in August, I got the genius idea of flying to Nashville with my two girls, ages 1 and 3, to visit longtime friends and their families, for the Halloween weekend that my husband was scheduled to be away.
All the kids can go trick-or-treating together and I can get in some much needed girl time with my “show-your-butt” friends*.
*Show-your-butt friends: people with whom you have solid enough friendships where you can engage in temper tantrums, make extremely snarky comments, and revelations that you’ve had homicidal thoughts toward people who repeatedly annoy you, without fear of judgment or ridicule. People who are good enough friends to tell you if you need to suck on a mint or when it’s time to tweeze your unibrow.
I’m speaking hypothetically.
The weekend in Tennessee was fun, but exhausting; mainly because Nashville is in a different time zone than Tampa and also because it happened to be daylight saving time, which meant my girls (and I!) were awake at 4 a.m. every day.
When the weekend was over and I returned to Tampa for three additional days of fun as a “single parent” before my husband was supposed to return, I was struck with career responsibilities of having to commute to Lakeland (one hour away) each day for work on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
I returned to the office on Wednesday after traveling to Lakeland to respond to a few emails before having to jet to pick the girls up from daycare before it closed.
The law firm where I work is in an office building that has 41 floors. Accordingly, thousands of employees from hundreds of businesses work in the same building as me. That’s a lotta people. What’s notable is there is a separate elevator bank from the lobby into the parking garage, which comprises the first 14 floors of the building.
As I was rushing from the lobby toward the garage elevators to get to my car on time to get the girls by the 6 p.m. deadline (picture the scene from Home Alone where Kevin’s family is frantically running through the Chicago airport to make their flight to Paris on time), I saw three strangers inside an elevator with the doors wide open.
We made eye contact.
Anyone with a shred of elevator etiquette knows that if you are inside an open elevator and make eye contact with someone who is heading toward the elevators, you must hold the door open. Or at least make it appear that you’ve made an effort to prevent the doors from closing.
(This is exactly why, when the shoe is on the other foot, I always go to the back of the elevator and stare at my iPhone. To prevent the possibility of making eye contact with someone and having to hold the doors open when I’m in a hurry.)
As I literally ran toward the open elevator wearing three inch heels (my bunions were-a-barking), I stopped just in time to prevent the elevator doors from slicing off my nose as they shut in my face.
I was shocked. Why did these people not hold the elevator doors open? How hard is it to push the freaking “Door Open” button?
Uncharacteristically, I loudly declared, “You Assholes!”
And then the doors opened back up.
The people inside the elevator stared at me awkwardly.
Ashamed and defeated, I had no choice but to step onto the elevator with a handful of strangers who just heard me call them assholes.
“I’m not a jerk,” I wanted to explain, “I am just an exhausted mom who has had a shortage of wine and sleep over the last seven days… and the cussing wasn’t my intention… it was my nervous tic!”
By this point, another woman had walked up from behind me in the lobby and witnessed the entire event. She followed me onto the elevator, pushed the button to the floor where she was parked, and stared at the ground before she began shuddering with laughter. Her body was shaking. She resembled a youngster who was trying to not laugh out loud in church, which only made her more hysterical.
To make matters worse, I was parked on the top floor of the garage. Which meant I had to wait for the three strangers and the hyena to get off the elevator before it was my turn.
“Of course,” I thought. “Of course this would happen!”
While I probably couldn’t recognize the three strangers in the elevator, I don’t believe I’ve encountered them since my little snafu. I sure hope they wouldn’t be able to identify me.
Parenting makes you do desperate things. Traveling halfway across the country while balancing a career and a temporary status as a single parent can turn even the most stable people into lunatics.
Not that I’m stable. But you see where I’m going.
I’ve forgiven myself for losing my cool and hope the strangers feel the same sense of compassion.
Sometimes when we have egg all over our faces, we need to laugh about it, shake it off, and try to do better next time.
Or call in the reinforcements (Grandma!) if your spouse leaves town.