I was already way past the point of putting Sarah on a pedestal. Our last encounter had gone something like this:
I noticed Sarah was standing in a group of mutual friends who were talking after school. I joined the conversation and pretended not to notice she was there. One-by-one, people left the group to catch rides home from school. Bit-by-bit the group dwindled until it was just me, my best friend and her. My friend instantly noticed the situation, smiled and made an excuse about having to leave right that minute.
We stood awkwardly avoiding eye contact.
I looked down at the carpet which had just been redone and unleashed poetic beauty on her:
“This is sure some nice carpet!”
Yes, I realized, that had been out loud.
She looked at me, let out a huge laugh, gave me an expression that said “really!?” and walked away.
To make an already unfortunate situation even worse, my best friend who had been standing in the group earlier, had sneakily positioned himself away but within earshot. He had heard the entire event.
Years have passed and I am yet to live down my comment on interior decorating :-)
The Escape Hatch
For better or for worse, I share a trait with a small portion of the population that continually disrupts my life plans. It is something I call my Escape Hatch.
My Escape Hatch is the variable I throw in when I am feeling too routine or ordinary. I use it only when I can’t help myself and each time the results have become some of my favorite memories.
To be clear, the Carpet Incident was not me using my Escape Hatch. That was me being a moron. While both true, the traits are not related.
The first time I mentioned my Escape Hatch on this blog was when I told the story of my impromptu adventure to Belize. I mentioned it again when I related the story of how I woke up one morning and decided to skip my schedule and instead spent the day shooting guns and getting a tattoo.
This time I want to use it to explain how the story with Sarah ended.
Turning It Around
A week after the Carpet Incident, I became overloaded with school work. I went into my hyper disciplined mode and was going heads down at full speed to get everything done.
The next day I reached the point where I needed to use my Escape Hatch. It wasn’t deliberate. It just happened.
I was sitting in advisory (homeroom at other High Schools) and spontaneously stood up and left the room. The teacher followed me but I hid behind the corner before he could find me.
I remembered from another awkward conversation with Sarah that she really hated her physics teacher. I was in a leadership program at the time and used this reputation as I went to the front office and grabbed a stack of hall passes. The office manager looked at me but just assumed I was grabbing them for our leadership teacher.
I went straight to Sarah’s physic’s class. I walked in, interrupted the lesson and told the teacher I needed to talk to Sarah. I handed the teacher the official looking piece of paper (which I had signed) and escorted the girl out of the room.
Alone in the hallway, I told her I was taking her on a date. She giggled and agreed. We walked out the back of the school.
That day I had parked in the teachers parking lot (a year prior I had secured myself a staff badge by posing as an employee at the school district office) so it was easier than normal to leave the campus.
The first thing I did was take her to her home so she could get dressed and ready.
As it turned out, she lived in a giant mansion. When we arrived I was impressed but a tad bit embarrassed. Her pool house was the size of the house I grew up in.
She invited me in and we carried on a normal conversation. Halfway through, she interrupted and said she wanted to show me her room. Upstairs we went.
Standing alone in her room she gave me the unmistakable Kiss Me eyes. Keeping confident but mysterious eye contact, I walked toward her.
Just then, we were interrupted by the slamming of the door downstairs. She shrieked, “Damn, the maid is here, we need to go!”
We sneaked out the back and got back into my car. Leaving her property in neutral (as to not turn on the engine and alert the maid) we headed in the direction of my house.
As normal, the front door to parent’s house was locked. We went around the back and I shimmied open the back door. Feeling great, I opened the door like a gentleman and let her in first.
As soon as she passed through the door, I smelt something awful.
The dog had shit all over the dining room.
From the first glance it was clear that not only had the mutt eaten something he shouldn’t have, he had also proceeded to really make his point by dragging his ass on the floor in a half attempt to clean himself.
We had gone from her luxurious mansion to my shit covered tiny house.
Without addressing the situation, we moved past the disaster zone and went downstairs into the living room. The smell was as bad down there as it was upstairs.
To her credit, she gave me a second chance. This girl knew what she wanted.
“I am tired, do you have somewhere to lay down?”
Without waiting for me to respond, she sat down on the couch.
Unfortunately for both of us, my dog’s evil plan had completely derailed me and all of my Ferris Bueller like machoism evaporated.
I sat on the opposing couch.
She looked at me strangely and then mentioned how cold she was.
“Do you have a scary movie we can watch?”, again with the Kiss Me eyes.
Even my sewer dog couldn’t stop the inevitable now. Nobody could.
Nobody, except as I quickly learned, nobody but me.
I put on the movie and never joined her on her couch. The pedestal was too high and I couldn’t climb it.
That afternoon we watched half of a movie and I took her to a truly awkward lunch at Panera Bakery.
I never did get anywhere with that girl. I just couldn’t make it happen. I have no idea where she lives now and likely won’t ever talk to her again.
When I used to look back on this story, I would first laugh and then cringe. This is not the case anymore. Now, enough time has passed where I can see the gift this situation gave me.
The fuel for overcoming life’s challenges has to come from somewhere. Sometimes it is a dark place and other times it comes from somewhere familiar.
I think that is the real value of my Escape Hatch. It ruins my plans.
Many aspects of my life are pre-calculated (my life list deadline, my business ventures, my daily routine). Like someone playing chess, I spend a lot of time thinking about things that have not yet occurred.
When I use my Escape Hatch, it turns the chessboard sideways and dumps off all of my preconceived notions. It frees me.
Sometimes, as in the case with this girl, it puts me in situations I can not yet handle. Other times, like with my impromptu trip to Belize, it puts me in situations I could never have planned. These moments are extremely important to my personal evolution. They force me to grow in ways I know I couldn’t otherwise. This growth, through awkward mistakes or confidence building stories, is the fuel I use to navigate the ups and downs of everyday life.
In its own funny way, these moments of spontaneity are the secret ingredients that enable my life list plans to work as often as they do. It is the supply of something unexpected that enables me to achieve goals where others have failed.