Friday, January 25, 2008

CLOAK OF SHAME


I could have written this blog last night but all I could manage after putting my kids to bed was to crawl under my covers and let the day fade into null and void. It was a humiliating day. A degrading day that kept on giving.

I awoke sick with my third cold since Christmas (damn those kids!). Hubby is out of town on his boondoggle business trip, so I dragged my congested self out of bed, pulled my dirty hair into an unattractive ponytail, skipped the make-up and drove the kids to school. I left the house feeling shitty and looking worse but since I was already out I figured I'd get some errands done so I could go home and rest. As some of you know, I started a business from home. It requires frequent trips to the local post office. I'd been there a few times before but until now I didn't realize the postal ladies have worked there forever. Customers know their names and they know the customers. Now that I have this business, I'd begun to establish a nice rapport with these ladies. I ventured in to send an international package. I didn't have the right box to ship out of the country so a friend who has a similar business suggested I turn the Priority box inside out and tape it up. Perfect, I say. So I do that and wander in with my package. Anita was taking care of me when her supervisor, Trini, took notice of my box.

"Is that a Priority box?" Trini asked.
"Yes," I told her not thinking anything of it. "I was told I could turn it inside out."
"Oh no. You cannot do that. Very bad. Very bad," Trini scolded.
Anita looked apologetic and handed the box back to me.

Now this box, this package, for reasons too boring to delve into here, had kept me busy ALL morning. I wanted this package out of my hands and pronto. I won't go into the embarrassing details but suffice it to say, I did something stupid. M-O-R-O-N-I-C. A big "L" for loser should have been stamped on my forehead. I did something, that as I looked back on it all day and into the evening, I shivered from the memory.

I blame it on the illness. My usual intelligence must have been suffocating, struggling to get out from under vast gobs of gross green gook.

Like a swarm of rabid school girls the postal ladies called me to the mat.

Yvonne stood, her hand on her hip, glaring at me, "Do you think we're stupid? Is that what you think of us?"
"No," I mustered.
"You are insulting us," she accused me.
I looked down at my purse in crimson-faced shame and murmured, "I'm not trying to insult you."

My excuse fell flat. She was right, I did insult them. I just wanted to get my business done so I could rest before the after school chaos. Insulting them was not my intent, just an unfortunate by-product. They did not let me send my package. Sheepish, I exited .

Hoping to wash that moment away, I ran some additional errands around town. At the UPS mail store, I stood on line next to a man who asked, "Aren't you the woman from the post office?"
"What?" I asked, as my bacteria-laden brain slowly registered his face.
"The woman who just got yelled at at the post office...wasn't that you?"
Sigh.
"Yes, yes," I admitted, "That was me."

I walked down the block to where I'd parked my car. A women looking for a space pulled up and asked if I was leaving.
"Yes, I'm right there," I pointed to my car.
"Great. Thanks."

I was doing a nice thing, I told myself. Being proactive. Changing the vibe of my day. Right, Oprah? Wrong. The passenger of that car got out and walked next to me.

"Oh," she said as she saw my face, "Weren't you just at the post office?"
"The UPS store?" I asked. Hoping, continuing to shell out those positive vibes.
"No, the post office. Weren't you the one they were yelling at."
Sigh.
"Yes, yes," I admitted. " That was me."

Was I wearing a scarlet USPS logo on my jacket? Did the whole community witness my humiliation. Were people talking about me over their mocha lattes?

I skulked around the rest of day, useless. I couldn't shake the cloud of disgrace that enveloped me. I wasn't myself with the guys at my favorite hamburger stand. I could see their concern when I didn't smile or try to make them laugh. No matter how many years had passed, no matter how much therapy and experience I'd had, no matter how much I'd changed, this one incident resurrected deeply buried feelings of isolation and shame. Oprah and her The Secret experts had a point. I put the "I am worthless" vibe out there and that's what came back to me. I felt alone, glum, as I had so many times in the past.

Later that afternoon, after pulling out of the carpool lane at my daughter's school, I waited at a red light on a busy boulevard. A man on the sidewalk pointed to my front tire.

"Oh, no. Please God no, don't let it be a flat, " I said to myself. "I just don't have it in me today." I opened my window.
"What's up?" I asked using a cheerful voice to mask my dread.
"You've got an orange construction cone stuck to your tire. You're driving around with it," he said

At this point, the light turned green and traffic started to move. He told me to back up and he'd pull the cone off my tire. Trying to back up during rush hour on a busy boulevard in Los Angeles is no easy task. Not only was I holding up the cars behind me, I was asking them to move back! Loud honks and angry screams later, the man peeled the flattened cone off my tire and tossed it onto the sidewalk. I thanked him in the quickest way possible and blew it on out of there.

This morning I pulled out of the same school parking lot after drop off to find the dirty orange cone standing upright next to a bus stop advertisement of Kate Hudson and Matthew McConnaughey for "Fools Gold". Despite it's slovenly appearance, the cone stood erect and proud next to the pair of glistening Hollywood gods - like it belonged there.

I'll take symbolism anywhere I can get it, especially if it means shedding my cloak of self-contempt. I had planned on taking my package (now in a non-Priority box) to a different post office to avoid further ridicule. Instead, I walked into my local post office and faced the enemy. I greeted the postal ladies warmly and contritely. They shipped off my package. I closed the circle on a bad day. I smiled.

I think I'll bring them some home-baked cookies next time, just in case...

(Moral of the story: Never turn a USPS Priority box inside out. They give it to customers free and don't want you using it for other cheap-y services. Or... just make sure it's sealed and they can't tell!)

4 Comments:

Rose said...

Good for you for going back! I recently had to do a similar thing; going back to the scene of a "crime" and it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but also the most empowering in the end!

Manic Mommy said...

You are the dirty orange cone that could.

Professor J said...

Wow. Tough day.

I came over here from "It's My Life." Nice blog.

mah-meeee said...

I totally been there! I had once thought I was clever by turning that priority box inside out to ship something to then find out that I can not do that. Those postal workerscan tell just by the size of the box! I came here via the link from rose. Will definitely be following your blog now too!

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