Like a lot of people who browse the internet too much, I sometimes fall prey to a weird belief that I'm not stupid. This delusion is then further reinforced by hanging around with other people who think that they're not stupid either. The more I browse the internet too much, and the more I hang out with other people who browse the internet too much too, the greater the delusion becomes that I am not an idiot.
This would then cause me problems when I did something stupid, because I somehow felt it was not representative. It was a blip on the graph. Uncharacteristic. The result, of course, was embarrassment, but not just the usual, ordinary embarrassment of an idiot who has come to terms with his idiocy. No, it was the crippling, facepalm, all day, head-shaking, eyes-closed, toe-cringing, laying silently in hot water, wardrobe-hiding, making aaaaaaaahhhhhhh noises kind of embarrassment. Less like a little brief pang of ‘oh, dear, what a silly bean I am,’ and more like an ancient hanging dynasty of lingering samurai shame.
Years after the worst-offending incidents, indeed, I could be happily strolling along, thinking about life’s nice little things, like ducks holding umbrellas, and some crippling embarrassment from years ago would suddenly strike again.
Here, for example, is a particularly persistent one that often tries to wander uninvited back into my day.
Back when I was studying Media Nonsense at the University of That Cost Too Much Money, I had to complete two weeks of work experience for my degree. Not wanting to really experience any work, however, I asked my cousin if I could visit him at the Post Production Studio where he did real things for TV people in exchange for currency. In the mornings, I would be a glorified runner, making tea and coffee for other TV people who did real things in exchange for currency, and in the afternoons I would spend time with a different department each day.
Time, meanwhile, continued to insist on being a forwards-only thing, offering no possibility to change what had just happened. While I couldn’t change it, however, I realised that I could change how I thought about it. My solution was something I now call the ‘Etch-a-Sketch Method of Retrospection.’
I stopped thinking about my life as an aging canvas where all of its embarrassing details were permanently painted on to its past, but one long string of temporary nonsense drawings.
Indeed, perhaps only five minutes passed between me walking through that door into an ordinary situation, then walking out it again in that baffling context of wide-eyed dread. I mean, it was weird, certainly, but it wouldn’t topple civilisations. Rather than potentially carry around that new heavy baggage of shame for the lifespan of small mammals, or letting the memory haunt me with a significance that others reserved for car crashes, I realised what a temporary, fleeting thing it was. A particularly rubbish drawing on that day’s Etch-a-Sketch.
LOOK MUMMY ART
The nice man would complain about me, avoid me in the building, and later feature me in a small anecdote to his spouse (‘honey, there was a fucking weirdo today’). Quickly, though, he would forget about that tiny strange character in his day called me, then get on with his actual life of being a very nice man who may or may not make shit TV shows. Who knows.
Meanwhile, I could sigh, give the Etch-a-Sketch a shake, then carry dumbly on.