I’ve had bad luck when it comes to awkward moments with transportation. I think it started on family road trips when I was around 7 — my siblings and I would wave frantically at passing cars or, when that got old, smush our faces against the windows pretending to be asleep as the other two watched for people’s reactions and whenever someone noticed and started laughing, the “sleeper” would jump up and we’d all start laughing at them for falling for our clever trick. Thanks parents, for encouraging such normal behavior.
When I started driving, I decided my car would be my very own concert arena and sung my heart out, even with the windows down. More than once, I was stopped in the hallway by someone who’d say, “Hey, I saw you driving your Bronco yesterday in town and it was SO funny — you looked like you were REALLY into your music!” Does singing along and banging on the steering wheel with an occasional finger pointing dance count as being “into my music”? Maybe so.
And now that I’m in NYC, I’ve had plenty of awkward times on the subways. Sure, I’ve warned you all of the 5 daily dangers of subway rides (http://hellogiggles.com/5-
dangers-of-daily-subway-rides) , but there’s more – oh, so much more – when it
comes to cringe-worthy situations I get myself into.
Talking to a crazy person
About a month ago, a man wheeled himself into the train and then faced me, blocking the closest exit. I wasn’t fully aware that he was even there because I was so into Mindy Kaling’s book, but then heard, “Hello, miss?” I looked up. “Will you be my girlfriend?” Part of me wanted to go back to my book and just ignore him, because I’m so weird in these moments with creepy strangers. But he asked very loud and now everyone was staring, so I had to respond. “Sorry,” I said, forcing a genuine smile. “I have a boyfriend.” Then, out of nowhere, he yelled, “If you don’t make love to me right now, I’m going to kill myself!” Yikes. Okay, maybe if it was Jason Segel saying that in a hushed whisper after we celebrated our engagement with friends and family and I was wearing a gorgeous, shiny dress instead of my hoodie, knit hat and glasses, I’d be a little flattered. But this man was clearly not well, and suddenly everyone on the train lost eye contact with me. Thanks a lot, humanity. I just sat there, shaking, staring into my book with tears forming until he got off at the next stop. Now, whenever I lend that book to someone, I’ll have to explain the tear-stained pages and how it was obviously Mindy’s chapter on dating men instead of boys that made me bawl like a baby.
Making (and holding) eye contact
I’m really bad with this, and by bad, I mean I’m great at it. I write a lot on the subway, which has taught me something about myself – when one of my writing sessions turns into daydreaming, I’ll look up and stare into space without realizing it. That is, if “space” is technically a stranger’s face. When I realize that I’m doing it (because they’re looking right back at me), I try to compensate for the creepiness by proving that I was just deep in thought. Suddenly, I’m nodding to myself and tapping my pen against my notebook while switching off and on between pursing my lips and mouthing words slightly – like I have a sentence forming, but just need to search my mind’s word bank for the perfect completion. Unfortunately, I’m also a horrible liar, so I’m not sure if I fool anyone really. Plus, once I know someone’s looked at me once, I have to keep checking to see if they’re still doing it. And occasionally, when the person continues looking, I hold their gaze, hoping it’s a hint that they should stop. But more than once, it’s led to a stare down which I don’t recommend. It’s uncomfortable.
The bend and snap
Really, I just mean dropping something on the ground, but I felt like the Legally Blonde reference was needed. I work at a tween magazine, so most days on the train, I’ll be working on rough drafts of my pages that I’ve printed out. The problem? Most days I also drop one of the papers, and it usually floats through the air and lands in the center of the train car face-up, so everyone can clearly read the quiz I’m working on: “How do you beat friend drama?” That’s when I silently pray that no one thinks I’m a creepy 20-something year old who lives and breathes to discover why I rock at friendships. Duh, it’s because I’m awesome. Another moment I don’t enjoy? Dropping something below my own seat and then noticing that someone sitting close to me has decided that their good deed for the day is going to be grabbing it for me. Only, it’s obvious that it’s going to be much more of a struggle for them, and I’m already in a half-reach at the same time because I can get to it SO easily, but I don’t want to offend them by not accepting their gesture. But then again, I didn’t ask them to try to reach behind my feet, did I? So I quickly snatch it up and smile with no teeth (I don’t want to show teeth in a way that says, “Aha! Good deed DENIED!”) to silently say, “Thanks for trying.” Still leaves me feeling like my karma points have dropped dramatically.
Giving money to panhandlers
Speaking of karma, giving money to those in need should make you feel great, right? Not always. Sometimes when you reach in your wallet to pull out a dollar, it’s hard to get out, so you have to pull a couple of other bills out as well, like a $5 or $10. But you still just hand over the dollar and the panhandler simply looks at you and shakes his or her head, but takes it anyway. Then you’re filled with guilt. But who knows what they’ll spend the money on? (Sounds like something my grandma would ask.) But it’s like the time a sweet girl offered a man a loaf of delicious bread from a farmers’ market and he brushed her off, yelling, “What the bleep would I do with a loaf of bread?!” (I added the bleep.) All I wanted was to say, “I don’t know, eat it?” and get high fives from my fellow commuters, but I refrained. I feel like that could have been my shining Liz Lemon moment, being so proud of myself and looking for high fives.
It’s a good thing flying cars aren’t “a thing” yet. Because I guarantee I’ll have some awkward moments when it comes time to get me one of those…most likely having weird rendezvous with pigeons and getting tangled in telephone pole wires.