There’s a feeling you can get, after you’ve done something horrible. It’s so bad, that you might consider poking your own eye out (if for nothing else than a viable distraction.)
My first job (besides babysitting) was as a hostess at Eat’n Park Family Restaurant. A woman about 10 years older transferred there. She had been a waitress for a long time (even a decorated
one. Yes, Eat’n Park is special like that.) She also
had the name “Lisa,” just like me. That’s about all the ingredients needed for good communication and lasting friendship, right? um. No.
Sometimes I’d goof off and crack jokes in passing with Lisa. No big deal. (If you know me, this is all highly typical behavior.)
One day, like a stoke of retardedness, it came into my head to wisecrack when I noticed Lisa had a blue pen scribble on her forearm. I noticed it was actually a very sloppily rendered mark of her own name. The “L” was super long on the bottom, and not in a cursive way. It was just odd. It struck me as humorous. I already knew she had a 4 year old daughter. Her little girl had probably been playing with her waitressing pen and wrote out her mom’s name all by herself. Or maybe Lisa had done it–for a joke, or because she was bored. So, feeling my comic Einstein vibe coming on me (which is inversely proportionate to my rational thought and good judgment), I said–rather flippantly, I might ad–“Hey, what’s that on your arm? Is that so you don’t forget your name?”
Sudden. Dead. Powerful stare.
Awkward pause. I could hear a spider near the salad bar blink.
Then I noticed she had a sort of sad “How could you, you freaking jerk?” look on her tired face. (I picked up on that because I’m really good at feeling people out!)
It was a tattoo.
A horrible one.
Perhaps a drunk boyfriend or trashed stepdad scrawled it there. Who knows. But whatever the story was, it was part of a painful past. A past she did not want thrown in her face by some stupid and insensitive quip from a dumb teenager.
My heart froze with panic. It’s the kind of panic where you start to smell yourself. Sometimes a cold sweat mustache erupts on your lip.
Would she stab me with a steak knife?
Plan to burn me “accidentally” with a scrod entrée platter? (Wicked hot, they are!)
I fumbled around, and got out, “um… hahah… I’m just kidding.” I was trying desperately to appear nonchalant. I considered whistling a tune to prove it.
Still, she just looked at me–steadily.
“I’m sorry,” I said, getting up the nerve. It felt like a blanket of shame washed over me. Self-loathing–all over the place.
She shook it off, and went back to work. From then on I tried to be extraordinary nice to her, in every way I could think of. I bused her tables, and got her refreshing beverages, and tried to be as pleasant, and positive as I could. She didn’t hold it against me, beyond a day or so.
Once, after a 10p.m.-5 a.m. shift when my dad failed to pick me up, she even drove me home in her weary beater of a car.
I still wonder about her.
It was poke-your-eye-out shame.
I’ll never forget it.
Have you ever had “inner death by shame”? (you can just answer yes or no, unless you want to be brave and tell your story)