I can be dropped in the middle of most any situation and feel comfortable and interact naturally. I thank my open mind and easy-going personality for this skill (the addition of alcohol never hurts, either). However, I have found myself in certain places over the years that have made me very ill at ease.
Now, I’m not talking about walking down a dark alley at 2:00 am, my keys poking up between my clenched knuckles like some kind of ghetto Wolverine ready to lash out at anyone who appears the least bit rapey. No, I mean a feeling of severe discomfort in relatively common, public settings.
Mud Wrestling Match
I was in middle school when my family and some adult friends went to the county fair somewhere in rural Georgia. There were beer vendors at this fair. The beer was probably the reason why we were still milling about when the main attraction, female mud wrestlers (or is it rasslers?), took the stage. I wanted to ride The Gravatron again, but the drunken adults insisted that we all sit front and center to witness women in bikinis flailing around in a baby pool full of mud. I didn’t want any part of it. The whole idea seemed fundamentally wrong. But, I was trapped and before I knew it people were cheering and mud was flying. I was mortified by the whole spectacle. Then one of the ladies performed an especially energetic move and flung mud far out into the audience. I was hit. Mud splattered across my white Ghostbusters cap and pink Members Only jacket. The adults cheered and slapped me on the back like it was some great honor. I wished that I were anywhere else on the planet.
I’m not a nazi feminist or anything. I do not care that restaurants like Hooters exist or that women choose to work there. More power to ‘em. I just don’t want to eat there. The place is a lie. No one says that they go to strip clubs for the excellent rib-eye, but men will insist that they go to Hooters just for the wings. Who you trying to convince, buddy? Anyway, why I was skin-crawlingly uncomfortable the one and only time I ate at Hooters had nothing to do with false intentions. It was because I was there with my mom and my perverted, asshole step-father. I was an unwilling witness to that bastard reading the writing stretched tight across the waitress’ t-shirt like he had never seen that particular collection of letters before. I wanted to crawl under the table. Because of this incident, I will never step foot in another Hooters, I don’t care how good you say the wings are.
At some point in my college career, I had a class assignment which necessitated a visit to the campus law library. I don’t even remember what the assignment was, but I do remember walking through the double doors of that library. Of course it was silent, but this silence was heavy with purpose, almost daring to be shattered. And it was dark. The tall stacks blocked any sunlight from the windows and the fluorescents were dusty with age. The place even smelled intimidating, like old leather and fear of failure. But, it wasn’t the building that made me feel uneasy – it was the law students. They looked like they were at least ten years older than me and they were wearing suits. All of them. I hadn’t seen so many men wearing ties since my sister’s wedding. Instead of backpacks they carried briefcases and strolled through the library with stern confidence. I looked down at my plaid flannel shirt, ripped jeans and green Chuck Taylors and felt like the low-life scum these students would one day be prosecuting. I kept my head down so I wouldn’t have to see the judgemental stares and gathered my research as fast as I could.
Toys “R” Us
I don’t know what it is about this toy store, but it gives me stress hives. Maybe it’s the way they force manufactured joy down your throat or all the talking toys that plead for your attention like shelter dogs on the list to be gassed the next morning. This place is evil, I feel it. Children do not laugh in this store, they scream. I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been to this unholy ground and they were all against my will. I would rather spend a whole afternoon at a Chuck E. Cheese’s than five minutes in a Toys “R” Us. At least Chuck E. Cheese’s has skee ball, because in my world skee ball makes everything alright.