Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Cosmic Idiot

I am a naturally awkward person who can stumble over threads on the ground, run right into furniture that isn't blocking my way, and do and say stupid things so effortlessly I amaze myself. So it isn't as though it's hard to catch me doing clumsy things . But there is one woman in this town who has been unerringly (and eerily) present during my many diverse acts of klutzery over the years, and I am beginning to wonder what is up.

The first time I met this woman was in a local shop where I had gone with my kids. At the cash register, I reached into my bag to pull out my purse--and somehow managed to scatter the contents of my bag all over the floor. Half-eaten candies fused to their wrappers, coins, a hairbrush bristling with hair, a grotty-looking lipstick, and several dozen receipts all went flying, covering several square meters of floor. Before I could pick up my belongings, I looked straight into this woman's eyes. Her expression--eyebrows raised in amused scorn--did nothing to make me feel any less clumsy.

The second encounter was in front of the school where my daughter and I were having a spirited 'discussion'. I stopped to take a deep, steadying breath and there my censorious friend was, her eyes narrowed in disapproval as she took me in, in my red-faced, shrill-voiced, fishwife state (this woman, I have since learned, has three grown children.  I wonder: did they never give her a hard time?). Our third meeting was when I was learning to drive and had stalled the car at a busy intersection in a town forty miles away. I looked up and saw those familiar, deeply disapproving eyes frowning at me in my rear-view mirror, and that was when I knew that there were other forces at work--cosmic forces. Since that last occasion, there have many been others. She has caught me in my nightgown and hiking boots, scraping ice from our car windshield with a square plastic flower pot, swearing a blue streak at a split-open garbage bag on the sidewalk, shrieking and in hot pursuit of a cat who came into our house and sprayed three rooms.

But here is the eerie thing: other than on these occasions, I doubt I have seen this woman at all. It is as though she materializes only when I am doing something ridiculous and spectacularly unattractive.

Last night I saw her again. We arrived home late, after a full day of work, learning Chinese, and helping our daughter move, and in the midst of the first good rain we've had in weeks. I was in my pajamas and ready to go to bed, when I realized that I hadn't put down organic slug pellets. I was exhausted, but I could not chance leaving the slugs to ravage my hostas, zucchini, and pumpkins--after that long dry spell, they'd be out there in force with all the rain. So I got up, found a flashlight, and went outside with the slug pellets. And there on the paving stones in front of our entrance, I saw literally dozens, perhaps hundreds of slugs. They were so thick on the ground I could barely manage not to step on them as I made my way across the concrete. I am all about saving, and it was crazy to waste good pellets on all those slugs, so conveniently accessible. So I found a plastic container and embarked on a slug safari. In the end, I scooped up enough slugs to fill a half-liter container. But what could I do with them? I shuddered to think of them slithering up the sides of the trash can, and I couldn't stomach the idea of emptying them onto the pavement and squishing them. Three blocks away from our house there is a creek where ducks often come. I decided to dump my prey there. At least they would have a chance--or make a good meal for the ducks.

I was half the way there, holding my plastic container full of slugs at arm's length--and yes, in my pajamas--when there she was. The look on her face topped any of the looks she has given me before, and believe me, this woman has scorn down to a fine art. I held the slugs out by way of explanation, gave her my brightest smile, and bid her a cheery good night-- in Mandarin.

After all, there are other forces at work here--cosmic forces. And if I'm destined to look like an idiot, I might as well go all the way.

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10 comments:

Lisa Shafer said...

My 1st thought: Some folks have guardian angels; looks like you've been assigned a demon.
My 2nd thought: It's really too bad you didn't just dump the slugs over her feet, then spew out an explanation in Mandarin and run away. ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

Ever read a Bradbury story called "The Crowd?"
That might be the reason this woman shows up at such opportune times

Mirka Breen said...

This person seems more like a spirit in your life- the spirit of humiliations past, or an incarnation of someone you embarrassed in a former life...
Well, we are storytellers^, aren't we. I feel compelled to explain. More unsettling would be to chuck it to the unexplainable.

Mary Witzl said...

Lisa -- If only my Mandarin was up to explanations! As it was, I'm just amazed I came up with 'wan shang hao' on the hoof.

Charles -- I remember something about an accident, and the people who materialized out of nowhere to witness it (unless I'm thinking of another story). She has a knack, that's for certain.

Mirka -- 'The spirit of humiliations past' would make a great title for a story, wouldn't it? I like to think I embarrassed this woman in a former life and was only getting my just desserts. On the other hand, I'd sort of like to embarrass her in THIS life. I do worry about my karma. :)

annebingham said...

There is only one solution, Mary. Move to China.

Kim Ayres said...

Sometimes we are the hero in our own story, sometimes we are a bit part player, and sometimes we are the entertainment in someone else's...

Kit said...

Great story... and those slugs - i too would have wanted to feed them to the ducks. Next time why don't you invite her to tea and maybe you'll break the eerie cosmic witness spell and find out that she was just trying not to laugh!

planetnomad said...

Hahaha! This post is so funny! And I can relate. When I was in college, any time I did something clumsy, I'd look up and there would be this one cute guy. I thought he was cute but I didn't especially like him, but it got to the point that if I dropped anything or tripped, I'd look around for him.

Mary Witzl said...

Anne--By God, you're right! I'll have to give that a try. :)

Kim--It's nice to have some kind of function, I guess. What I'd like is a tape of all the nonsense I've done in front of her so I too could enjoy it.

Kit--Yikes! I'm not brave enough. She really does have a certain disdainful, off-putting look on her face--I'm sure it's not just me. I had a friend who used to chat up people who gave him dirty looks. I envied him no end for his courage.

PlanetNomad--I'm glad to know others have had this experience! If I really analyzed the situation, I'm sure I'd find that the number of gauche things I do is so great that this really isn't a coincidence. But it's still pretty weird.

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

Mary, are you sure this woman is real? This is so creepy! Do move to China!