One minute, I was a respectable, civilized human being, quietly scanning my groceries in the self-service lane. Then, I picked up a jar of dill pickles, and…
The jar slipped from my fingers, hit the edge of the shopping cart, and tumbled to the floor. Glass shattered. The air filled with a vinegary odor as pale green pickle juice puddled at my feet.
A hot blush of shame spread across my face as other supermarket patrons stared and store clerks went running for cleanup supplies. So embarrassing!
“Don’t worry about it.” A clerk tried to reassure me. “Happens to all of us.” I smiled, but my urge to do a humiliated Snoopy crawl out of the store didn’t fade. I also couldn’t help but notice that the clerk scanned the replacement jar of pickles for me, rather than risk a repeat offense.
To be fair, I’m not normally a klutz. But I don’t normally have mallet finger — a common ligament injury which means that the middle finger of my right hand is entombed in a clunky splint for 6-8 weeks. Which makes everything harder to do. I can’t sign my name. I manage a fork and spoon about as well as a toddler. I drop everything. Instant klutz. And plenty of embarrassment.
The clerk was right, though. Embarrassing things happen to all of us. Like discovering that you’ve left the house wearing two mismatched shoes. Like accidentally passing gas in the middle of yoga class. Like realizing that you made a ridiculous typo on a Tweet or Facebook post a day ago. Eep!
Knowing that billions of other people also make silly mistakes doesn’t always help when you’re in the middle of an embarrassing incident. What does help, however, is reminding yourself that the people around you aren’t judging you as hard as you are judging yourself if that moment. Most people don’t notice or even care that your ponytail looks less than perfect, or your lipstick has smudged a little, or that your dancing resembles Elaine’s less-than-graceful moves on Seinfeld. Who cares? Dance anyway. Let your smile be more noticeable than your lipstick. Own the moment, good or bad. Handle your klutziness with grace. When the crowd is staring and your cheeks are flushing bright red, take a sweeping bow, then repeat the wise words of PeeWee Herman. “I meant to do that.”