Every once in a while, I remember embarrassing moments (as I am sure most people do). I, however, do not remember embarrassing moments as a “Oh wasn’t that embarrassing” type of memory. I remember the moment as if I am reliving it. Recently, one moment came back unbidden from the dark recesses of my mind. You know those recesses, the ones where you store lyrics to commercials and children’s show tunes.
The horrible moment starts on a job site. Now in my defense, this site had a large number of “special” people working there. I don’t know if they were mentally disabled, did too many drugs or were just crazy. All week, random things were happening with these people.
One woman walked up to us while we were working. She was wearing a “business casual” outfit (Skirt and blouse) and looked like she wanted to say something. My co-worker turned to her and said “yes, ma’am? Can I help you?” Suddenly, without warning, this woman screamed like she was being murdered and then laughed like she had just been told the most hilarious joke. Her trainer or tamer or whatever you call it came over and took the screaming person away. My co-worker and I were easily eight inches taller than the woman and probably twice her body weight. We were huddled together in the corner, trying to move one another into the “he gets eaten first so I can run” position. The tamer came back and berated us for “frightening” the little Hannah Lecter. She then berated us for not being sensitive to special people’s needs. We said complacent things because we were worried that she would bring the crazy person back. We didn’t know the woman had special needs (like a muzzle and a padded room). Not that knowing would have made us more politically correct, but we might have screamed and cried less. We got back to work, after counting all our tools to make sure they were all there and nothing especially pointy was missing.
Later, the janitorial staff came through. One of the men was obviously mentally disabled and looked like he had Down’s syndrome. That man loved to sing. He did not sing words or a tune that I recognized. He sang something a baby would sing as it was learning to speak. Imagine, if you will, a 250 pound, six foot tall man-child singing “HREEEE DRRRRR”. Now, while you are imagining that, imagine trying to not laugh. Now imagine trying not to laugh about fifteen times a day. Ok, maybe you are a better person than me and you wouldn’t laugh at all. If that were the case, you would miss out on laughing at one of the funniest things you have seen/heard in your lifetime.
Unfortunately, neither of those is the embarrassing moment I am thinking of.
Sometime after psycho lady and the singing janitor, I decided to have a lunch at the cafeteria. While in the line, I hear everyone saying things like “I have a hamburger” and “I have a roast beef sandwich”. I was laughing in the line with my co-worker. We were making funny dances about potato chips and whispering “I have potato chips, whoo-hoo”. I get to the front of the line with my meal and there is a kindly old gentleman cashier. He asks, “What will you have?” I said, “Oh, just this.” He then says, “What will you have?” I wish I were making this next part up. I said, “The meal in front of you, are you blind?” Yup. The kindly old cashier was blind. Everyone was saying what they had on their plate because they were not inconsiderate jackasses making a disabled man uncomfortable. I asked, “What are you, blind?” to a blind man. To make you feel better, I am sure he could hear my shame. He heard something anyway. I made that wordless groan one makes when a little part of them dies. You know the sound, “hmmnnnn”. It is the sound you make when you wave at someone that you realize you don’t really know or when you accidentally get off the elevator on the wrong floor and everyone knows. Now imagine that subvocal sound permeating through every cell in my body. I am sure my shame made a sound that the blind man could hear. Now, everybody makes horribly shameful mistakes. That is what I have been told by people who have never made mistakes in their life. The part of this memory that makes me feel like a horrible person is not just the moment (which was horrible) but the fact that every time I think about it, I find it a little hilarious. I involuntarily mocked a blind man and that was horrible, but also a bit hilarious. The memory sits in my mind and reveals itself whenever my self esteem gets a little too high. The fact that I laugh at the memory doesn’t make it better. I also laugh every time I see someone in a wheelchair. I don’t laugh at their disability, usually. I laugh because of the joke that runs through my head, “What is better than winning the gold in the para-olympics? Walking” [As a side note, parallel Olympics, not paraplegic Olympics] . I always try to make excuses in my head like “Oh no, I just acknowledge their disability better than others”. That translates to “Yeah I am a jackass” in the language of someone who would, hypothetically speaking, make fun of a blind guy.