Some days, no matter how hard we try, we end up doing things that make us seem like bad people.
I’m talking in general here to pretend it’s not just me, although I wonder sometimes. Anyway, last Tuesday was one of those days for me. In a gross exaggeration that feels accurate (and that’s all that matters), nothing went right (except for when it did) and too much went wrong (except for when it didn’t).
Really it should have been an amazing day, since it started off with a big old hit of adrenaline and then relief (dopamine? Serotonin? I really don’t know). I woke up and couldn’t find my wallet anywhere. It’s not a small wallet–it’s about seven inches long and four inches thick, big black leather, wide as my fist. So there weren’t a lot of places it could have been hiding, and I checked them all a couple of times. I texted Brendan because I’d been at his house the night before, but he couldn’t find it. I tried to be at once cheerful and pragmatic, which turned into sullen and doom-auguring. I remembered pulling it out in case I needed to pay for frozen yogurt with some friends. Then their Groupon covered it so I put it away. That left only a few places I could have dropped it (or had it stolen): the frozen yogurt place, the ground, the Brown Line/CTA stop, or Brendan’s apartment.
I texted Haven, who’d been on the Brown Line with me. Did she remember anyone suspicious and/or my being unusually clumsy last night? She did not. I started to get paranoid. Either Brendan was blind, Haven and I were blind, I was stupid enough to drop my wallet in a frozen yogurt store, or I’d been robbed.
By the time I got to work I’d resigned myself to re-ordering credit cards, finally getting an Illinois state license, and finagling a new library card. Sorry, registration to parents’ car. Sorry, Phi Beta Kappa card, but you never did anything for me anyway. Sorry, forty bucks I just got at the ATM. I wanted to hit myself for not having put a piece of paper with my phone number somewhere in my wallet. I now realize, of course, that there were 15 business cards in there with my cell phone number. So that could have been worse.
Just to check, I called the frozen yogurt place. The call went like this:
L: Hi, I just wanted to check–I was there yesterday and wanted to know if you found a wallet. It’s big and black and belongs to Laura Str–
Yogurt Guy: Oh, yeah, it’s right here in front of me.
L: Yeah, ok, thanks anyw–wait, it is?
So that was unexpectedly awesome. When does that happen? It’s like getting pulled over for speeding and getting let off the hook for fixing the cop’s sunglasses–terrifying at first, and a little inconvenient, but so worth the extra effort. My day should have been set from there on out.
It wasn’t. It was a clumsy day, and a tired day, and a strangely emotional day because I was so tired. My CTA card gave up the ghost and both times I tried to catch a train, an attendant had to let me in after twenty minutes of fruitlessly trying my card. A run helped a little, but then I went to guitar class and things spiraled out of control. See, even my hyperbole is bad when talking about this.
It was the first day of an 8-week term. Guitar students are supposed to sit in the auditorium to wait and be told where to go for their class. There was a sign on the door explicitly saying to go to the auditorium. Now, I knew my class was going to be too full. I always get there just five minutes early and there’s never a space for me, so I have to go retrieve a chair and a stand from some random room two stories up and then cram into the corner with the drum set. So I got there Twenty. Minutes. Early.
I was so prepared. I had a book and everything. And I was going to go straight to the room we’ve been in for the last two sessions when something–my lingering respect for the authority of the written word, perhaps–made me stop and go to the auditorium. Surely everyone would see that sign and do the same. It was TAPED to the DOOR. If I kept myself on the balls of my feet I could spring down and secure a seat.
I saw some girls from my class come in, which was a good sign, but then they left, which was a bad sign. Still, I’d chosen to believe, without any visual evidence, that my teacher would come up and lead us down, that I was where it would be best to be, and that hey, our classroom could have changed. Other people tuned their guitars. I waited.
They announced the rooms. My teacher Steve did not show. The room was the same. I walked down with several others.
To find the room entirely full, not a chair left, with Steve presiding. No one had paid attention to the sign. No one. And now my 20 minutes was in vain. I could’ve punched a cymbal. I kind of wish I’d punched a cymbal. Instead, I tried to make a joke about it.
In retrospect, the words “What, can’t you people read?” is never the best choice, however lightly you phrase it. Especially when it’s followed by a defensive mumble of, “There was a sign–the auditorium–”
I had one of those moments where I could tell exactly how much of a jerk I sounded like, and there wasn’t anything I could do to remedy it. I could dig myself in deeper, though. Which I proceeded to do without thinking, by pushing past another woman who was looking for a chair, bumping her and her guitar in the process and taking the only available seat so that she had to sit in the back corner by the drum set.
Now. In the moment I apologized, and I think it was audible (but I’m not sure). I was maybe one pace behind this woman. And I was frustrated at always having to take a crap seat in this class, and for having had a weird day. But that’s not really an excuse. This was this woman’s first time in this class, with this teacher, and Steve can be overwhelming. He just throws strange terms out there and does little licks and expects you to pick up on things. So I’m sure she had a less than stellar first class. And I’m mostly to blame for it.
The wrap-up is benign; class was fine, everyone got in, we had fun. I did try to catch this woman to apologize, but she motored out of class before I got a chance. I’ll try to apologize for being rude next week. But as I left the building, I saw her speeding away in front of me, just far enough that I couldn’t reach her, and I felt like an unmitigated jerk. Which heartens me a little. I hope that people who are jerks to me feel bad about it afterwards, at least some times. I know from experiences like this that they’re usually not being a jerk out of spite or anything, just because they’re having a bad time or aren’t thinking. I don’t really hold grudges. I just hope this lady understands or will understand that my bad behavior had nothing to do with her.
The last thing I need’s an enemy who already owns a shotgun-ready guitar case.
(PS: Props to you two people who understand the title reference.)