It stands to reason there must be people who are comfortable enough with attention and drama to tell the truth when they are hurt, but I have never met one.
Instead you will witness a human lose their footing on a busy street, tumble to the hard cement only to leap up and proclaim that they are perfectly fine. Off they will limp, waving a bloody hand at the gathering crowd and repeating, “I’m OK I’m OK!” pausing briefly to spit out a couple teeth.
Embarrassment trumps pain every time.
I was watching the news the other night and a reporter was standing on the street speaking into his microphone when a well dressed woman walking behind him suddenly dropped out of sight. It was like she had fallen down a manhole. For a brief second I thought perhaps that was precisely what had happened, except she popped back up looking slightly dishevelled but with a look on her face that clearly said, “You didn’t see that. I did not fall down behind a reporter on live TV. I am going to keep walking and no one will be the wiser.”
Looking neither left nor right she held herself tall and marched off camera. It all happened so fast that she might have pulled it off had the anchor person not noticed it. Sometimes instant replay isn’t your friend.
Used to be a live news crew was about the only way your mishaps might be recorded. Such is not the case anymore. These days with cellphone cameras in every pocket it’s hard to get away with much. A tumble today could be a viral hit on the Internet tomorrow.
And you know what? Maybe that’s a good thing. I’ve been thinking that human dignity is vastly over rated. Life is messy and unpredictable and so are we whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Trying to be the person who never falls down is nothing but a recipe for stress.
If you have ever stared up at a ceiling at 4 a.m. reliving an embarrassing moment over and over you know what I am talking about. Thoughts of “I can’t believe I said that!’ or “I can’t believe I did that!” roll about our heads. Well, why not? Why can’t you believe it? Unless you’ve been refurbished with robotic parts you shouldn’t be surprised to have had a public display of humanness.
People often talk about dying of embarrassment but you don’t. I once read a book where the author encouraged readers to go down to a busy shopping mall and loudly call out the time to people walking past.
“It’s 4:15 p.m.! It’s 4:16 p.m.! It’s 4:17 p.m.!” And so forth. The exercise was meant to prove that acute embarrassment not only won’t kill you, it will actually make you stronger. I am pretty sure it would also get you arrested but what do I know. If I lived in a big city I might try it, but as a lifelong resident of a small town the assignment is a bit more daunting. On the plus side there wouldn’t be as many people in the mall, but on the negative side I would know them. Worse, they would know me right back. The author assumed people might laugh, point or most likely of all, simply pretend you didn’t exist. Such would not be the case in a small town. Instead I would have people coming up to me saying, “Shannon! Why are you standing there calling out the time? Are you feeling okay? Do you want me to phone Darcy? How about your mother? You know what? I think I just saw your sister in Shoppers Drug Mart. I’ll go get her.”
By nightfall it would be the talk of the entire town and would remain so for generations to come.
No matter. Fortunately I’m not the kind of person who needs to stand in a mall shouting out the time to overcome my fear of embarrassment. Nope. I’m the kind of person who creates embarrassing experiences to overcome every day of my life. Next week I might even share a few of them with you.
Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from northern BC. You can read past columns by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com