I have a tendency to be a little fucking strange... a lot awkward and more than a fair amount of weird. “So, you’re quirky?” Yeah, yeah. Quirky. In my early 20’s at a casual work lunch, my boss told a story about how a woman accused her of flirting with her husband. My boss told us her response to the wife was, “Please, I don’t want your short, bald husband.” Everyone around the corporate lunch table laughed... except me. I was confused. So I asked her, “Wait, how did you know he had short balls?” Now, just like everyone around that lunch table, you might be thinking to yourself, “WTF!” Let me explain. What everyone else heard: “Short bald husband.” A man of small stature with little to no hair on his head. What I heard: “Short balled husband.” A man with remarkably ‘short’ testicles. Yup. This is me. This is my brain. It took me quite some time to accept myself. When someone asks, "How are you?" I'm no longer surprised when my response is, "Feeling things. Living earth." I expect a few puzzled looks every so often. Why do I respond that way? I have no fucking idea. I want to say, "Awesome. Thanks for asking. How are you?" But it seems, from time to time, I'm not capable of such simple small talk. And, as luck would have it, my being awkward isn't reserved for chit chat. I can also make a total ass of myself when trying to do something nice for others. Take this past Friday for example. I just wanted to buy coffee for a fellow Starbucks lover in the drive-thru. Instead, I think I may have lost my local shop a repeat customer. No way that woman will be back and risk bumping into me again.
It was the last day of school for my boys and, of course, I woke up late. I spent the morning running around yelling and searching for missing shoes before finally hopping into the car, barefoot and still in my pajamas. Typical mom shit. Fifteen minutes after I dropped them off, I got a phone call from my oldest son. "Mom, I forgot my science textbook. You have to bring it to me now or you'll have to pay for it." Yup. Typical kid shit. After changing into more presentable attire, I made a second drop-off at the school. I let out a frustrated sigh as I pulled away. Of course, this is how the last day of school would turn out. The adrenaline started to wear off from rushing around and my head started to throb. I needed coffee.
During the drive to Starbucks, the DJ on the radio was talking about the Mister Rogers documentary. It got me thinking about stepping-up my kindness game. I wanted to start doing more good deeds for "my neighbor." This would be my first step towards disaster. There I was, a car away from ordering my coffee in the drive-thru. As I opened my wallet to check for cash, I realized I had two $10 Starbucks gift cards. This was it. This was my time to shine. I would buy coffee for "my neighbor." But not the normal way. EVERYONE buys for the person behind them. I would buy for the person in front of me. How? Well, I'd walk up to their car window, hand them a gift card and say, "Your coffee is on me today. Have a great day!" Then we'd share a smile and life would seem a little less bleak. I truly believed that’s what would happen before I opened my door and stepped out.
Maybe I should have walked slower, but I was excited. I had a little pep in my step. And in my voice. I can see now how that "pep" could translate to carjacker, but at the time I was riding high on my impending act of kindness. I never expected to cause a sense of impending doom. As I leaned down next to the open car window, I noticed the driver was talking with another woman in her passenger seat.
"Hey!" I called out. The woman's head spun around, and her eyes bulged from her head. She was leaning so far away from me; her torso was in the other woman's lap.
"AHHH! OH MY GOD! WHAT?!" She yelled in a panic.
"A $10 gift card for you," I said as her eyes scanned my hands for weapons.
"WHAT?! OKAY. FINE. I'LL TAKE IT." She was still yelling. I assume in an effort to assert dominance.
"Yes. Gift card. Coffee." I pointed. I was Tarzan. Me, carjacker. Her, terrified.
"OKAY. GREAT." Still yelling. It was obvious that she wanted me to go away. I stood there for a moment or two, silent. I was trying to quickly think of something to say to defuse the situation, but I knew I'd only make things worse. I then thought, "What the fuck are you doing?! You're still standing here. Silent. You look insane!" It was time to leave.
I walked back to my car and ordered my coffee. I watched as the woman in front of me paid with cash and not my gift card. Then I watched as she pointed me out to the cashier, who gazed back at me with a very puzzled look on her face. I started shaking my head and laughing at what had just happened. Why did I shout "Hey!?" Why couldn't I have chosen a less intimidating greeting? A nice standard, "Hello," would have sufficed. Also, why didn't I try to reassure her that I was just a nice person with a good intention? Instead, I turned into fucking Sling Blade!! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?!" I pulled up to the drive-thru window and paid for my latte. I'm certain while I was there, they made sure to get a clear shot of me on the surveillance footage. A print-out of my face would definitely be posted in the manager's office the next day. Only I could go from "Good Samaritan" to "Gift Cardjacker," in the blink of an eye. Sorry, Mister Rogers. I tried. This neighbor just comes off more like stranger danger .