In the tradition of embarrassing stories I once published regularly on this blog, I submit a recent experience which ultimately proved that I am no less awkward and bumbling now that I have left my 20s. I suppose that I expected 30 would bring with it some greater feeling of adequacy or self-respect, a feeling of being a capable adult. I am happy to report that no such alterations to my personality have materialized as I enter my fourth decade.
Case in point: the other day at work I took my lunch break a local pizza establishment near my office, because New York pizza is one of the best things created by man in his thousands of years of making stuff. I was listening to a comedy podcast on my new iPhone (yes, I know... I KNOW) and thus slightly tuned out to my surroundings, as is often the case, podcast or not. I ordered two slices which, at this particular pizza joint, meant I got a free soda. However, I was so hungry and wrapped up in what I was listening to that I grabbed my pizza and left my soda on the counter.
Sitting down in a back corner of the small dining area, I proceeded happily to enjoy my first slice of pizza while simultaneously snickering at a clever pun or witty retort from the comedians in my podcast. It is important than you picture the scene exactly as I lived it - in my right hand, a folded slice of cheese pizza. In my left, a simple paper napkin for the purposes of keeping my face clean of grease and cheesey bits. My eating process therefore relatively straightforward: take a bite from my right hand, wipe my face with my left hand. Rinse and repeat. This technique was working out fairly well, and before too long I had reduced the slice in my right hand down to just the crust. At this point, the system broke down.
In my defense, the podcast was at that exact moment especially hilarious, causing me to be distracted by fits of silent laughter. Furthermore, the remaining piece of crust in my right hand was now about the same size and close to the same weight as the napkin in my left. This might help to explain why, in a moment of confusion, I went to take a bite from my left hand rather than my right, putting a paper napkin completely in my mouth and starting to chew.
I quickly recognized my mistake and, as smoothly and as calmly as possible, spat the now moist napkin out onto the table. Feeling slightly sheepish, I peeked up at my surroundings, hopeful that nobody had seen my error.
The entire restaurant, including two pizza guys and about ten customers, were staring at me with various expressions on their face. Some looked puzzled. Others seemed to be biting their tongues to keep from laughing. Others showed less restraint and chuckled visibly. It seemed that for the last minute or two, the pizza guy at the counter had been attempting to get my attention in order to inform me that I had forgotten my free soda. Unable to reach me through my podcast-haze, he had enlisted the help of the other patrons. Thus, the entire restaurant was an attentive audience to my napkin-eating debacle.
"Well," I thought, "I'll play this off smoothly, pretending nothing untoward just happened, and I'll quickly slink back into safe anonymity. Claim the soda, and the other people in the store will go back to their own lives and forget all about it!"
I removed my earphones.
"Dude," the pizza guy said, smiling in a sort of shocked way, "Did you just eat your napkin?"
"Um...." I replied, "I thought it was pizza."
General pandemonium and laughter. I devoured my other slice in about 20 seconds, smiled apologetically to everybody, and fled back out onto the street.