I’ve written before about seemingly being the subject of a television show, which is, of course, completely ludicrous. On one level I understand that. The problem is, weird situations often occur in my life and that makes it harder to believe someone isn’t trying out jokes (or possibly that sit-coms are far more realistic than anyone realized). These situations seem too well crafted to be real, and yet they are absolutely true. I know. I lived them.
Sometimes it is just a small moment, such as when I was getting my driver’s license renewed in 2008. I was still working in Nashville at the time, so I had to take part of the day off (I needed a new photo). I waited in line, then waited in the seating area, and finally waited a bit longer in the line for new photos. My turn finally came so I dutifully sat in front of the bland background and tried to arrange an expression somewhere between mug shot and yearbook photo.
The camera flashed and I blinked my eyes to clear them. As I was recovering, the woman who took the photo leaned toward the monitor (which I could not view). She bared her teeth and sucked her breath through them in the global sign for distaste.
“What is it?” I asked.
“We’re . . . going to need to take that again.”
“No problem. Wait . . . what?”
“We need to take your picture again.”
“Because it didn’t turn out very well.”
“Just how bad does it have to be that you think it needs to be redone?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, driver’s license photos are known for being bad, so I figure it has to be really bad if you actually want to take it again.”
“We need to take it again.”
“Wait a minute. Is it actually a good picture and you can’t let it slip through? You want to take a bad photo don’t you?”
“I do now.”
“Noted.” She took the picture as I said it.
More recently, when I worked at a small company transitioning to a larger company, I found myself in another such situation. Our office went from one of three people to closer to twenty. We suddenly had departments, a President, and a new coffee maker (which I still miss). The coffee maker was a fancy model that brewed one cup at a time. It was easy to use. You simply would follow the on screen instructions, add the coffee packet(s) when the door opened and the instructions on screen directed, and a steaming cup of your liking was brewed. As the installer (for a coffee maker!) finished up, our new President wanted to ensure we all understood this process.
He gathered everyone in the office in the break room. We crowded in and listened.
“As you can see, we have a new coffee machine. We will now review the procedure to make coffee with this new machine.” He then motioned to the installer and said, “I’ll turn the presentation over to you.”
The installer had clearly never been asked to do this before, but soldiered on, “Uh, well, you just read the screen, press the buttons and follow the directions for when to add the coffee.”
“And where do we find the coffee?” asked the President.
“Uh, over here in this case with all the displayed coffee packets.”
“What if we forget the process?”
The installer seemed doubtful of that, but answered, “Well, we have these instructions cards here by the machine and the coffee. They also have recipes for different flavors and styles.”
“What if we spill coffee on the instructions.”
“Well, they’re, uh, laminated.”
“Excellent. Are there any questions?”
I couldn’t resist, “How about tea, or hot chocolate?” I actually knew the machine could do both, it was on the instructions.
“Good question!” He turned to the installer, “Can it make tea and hot chocolate and, if so, how?”
“Uh, yeah . . .”
“How do you make it?”
“You just, uh, follow the instructions on the screen.”
“Good. Pretty easy. Any other questions?” There were not. “Good, hopefully everyone was paying attention, but just to make sure. . .” he pointed to our lone intern, “you, intern, make a cup of coffee.” And that was the moment I realized I was starring in an episode of The Office.
There’s a pattern here. I wind up in situations that just seem scripted. Real people don’t behave this way. They same types of things certainly don’t keep occurring. Except, of course, that they do for me.
When I started college, a group of us would often go out to eat. One night, we were waiting to be seated in Red Lobster (high class, I know). We were just standing around talking when a not unattractive woman walks up to me and says, “Hey, don’t I know you?” Everyone with me starts looking from her to me.
” . . . I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure? I think I know you from somewhere.”
“Pretty sure I’d remember you.”
“Oh well. Too bad.”
“Cause I wished I knew you.”
“Okay . . .”
“Hey, you should come see me sometime. I dance up at Cat West. My name’s Sapphire.”
My friends were now trying desperately to keep from laughing. Partially because she said her name was Sapphire, but mostly because by “dancing”, she meant stripping. I had never been to a strip club (still haven’t, don’t plan on it) and my friends were relishing my discomfort. Fortunately, she was seated before us.
“What just happened?” One friend asked, no longer containing his laughter.
“I have no idea.”
This would have been strange enough had a similar conversation not happened at Shoney’s while we were enjoying the late night Breakfast Bar. I was filling a new plate when a woman named Jade started up a conversation with me. It too led to inviting me to see her dance. My same friends looked at me with “what gives?” expressions. I could only shrug.
Another night, at the other Shoney’s, it was a woman named Topaz (what’s with the semi-precious stones?) who spoke to me. I walked back to my table and muttered, “Not one word.” I got five.
“What is it with you?”
These situations (and many similar) keep me from shaking the feeling that something is a little off about my life. At least my pain and discomfort can provide some measure of mirth. I’m actually happy that these situations can produce laughter. As long as it’s not too much laughter of course.