my forthcoming Pigeon-Plucking Business

I am not a morning person.

It’s not that I’m angry or sad or upset (my morning thoughts are usually pretty upbeat in fact), it’s just that it takes some time for any social skills or an ability to express emotions to kick in. This is not something my poor neighbor across the hall knew about me when he met me one morning.

Here is the ensuing conversation — the parenthetical statements are what my brain was thinking, the regular text is what my mouth was saying. You will notice grave differences between the two, unfortunately. Keep in mind that my dialogue is said extremely deadpan.

The set-up: We were both standing on the landing locking our facing apartment doors. It was 7:30 am on a weekday. He was dressed as if to go to work, as was I. He smiled and commented on all the rain we’d had recently.

Me: (Yes, it has been rather rainy lately. I hope you remembered your umbrella!) Yeah, it was coming down so hard when I woke up this morning I was thinking of showering out on my back porch.

Unwitting Neighbor, with concern in his eyes: Hah, uh, yeah, but I bet those pesky public decency laws stopped you, right?

Me: (Yes!. . . No! I would never go out in public naked. I blush when someone says the word “Cockney.”) No, it was the pigeons that stopped me, actually. I thought once it stopped raining and the sun came out all of those suds from the shampoo and soap would make the porch all sticky. . . and then I thought what a pain it would be to have to go outside every half hour or so and pluck the pigeons from the roof. Or what if they liked the taste of the suds?

[Pertinent sidenote: My back porch was also simultaneously the rooftop of the video store underneath us.]

Unwitting Neighbor, no longer smiling: Huh. Well. I’m glad you didn’t because I wouldn’t want to look out one day to see you rinsing off. No offense.

Me: (Oh my god! I’m sorry! I have gone way off the tracks here, but I just don’t know how to stop the awkward now.) Come on now, it’s not that bad. I work out. You could do much worse. [Yes, I actually said that.]

Unwitting Neighbor: Are you hitting on me?

END SCENE

For the next 2 weeks, I worried and worried about what I would say to that guy if I saw him around again. My partner had to talk me down a couple times. Thankfully, he is rather used to my awkward morning conversations and, occasionally, he even finds them charming.

Here is basically what my partner said to me during one of the said talking-downs: I’m sure that guy is telling that story to all of his friends at parties. And if you run into him again, he’ll either avoid you completely or he’ll ask you how the pigeon-plucking business is going. Either way, he will never ever forget meeting you.

I love him for that — my partner, not the neighbor. He reminded me that my morning awkwardness is just a side effect of having a personality. It’s really not that uncommon.

In this blog class I’m taking, we were challenged to comment on four new-to-us blogs, then write a post expounding on one of the comments we’ve left. I read Crystal’s funny account of forgetting to buy pepperoni for a birthday dinner and the mental fall-out that ensued. I read Andy’s lament of reading Hemingway and being subsequently ruined on writing anything ever again. And then I read about Meg’s defiance of a cranky (and absolutely wrong I might add) hipster who commented unkindly about something she’d written. I found a very common theme.

And that leads me to my point in sharing my mortifying neighbor story and its aftermath:
I call it the “Needless Obstacle Courses We Put Ourselves Through In Our Heads”. It’s acronym is unwieldy and despite its length, its effects make us short-sided. Crystal and I sweat over the small stuff. Andy, Meg, and I (along with about 95% of anyone who writes) are insecure about our writing abilities. Those two obstacle courses make us focus on the miniscule and forget to acknowledge the big picture. As Crystal said, her husband wouldn’t be upset by a missing pizza ingredient. What mattered was the thought. I think Andy, Meg, and I just needed to be reminded that writing isn’t a contest. What matters is that we enjoy doing it.

In all of our articles we move forward. Crystal goes on to remind herself not to beat herself up. Andy opens up to the possibility of revisiting some of his work despite the scars Hemingway lashed upon him. And Meg continues to write her blog. Together they remind me that all of our misgivings, beatings, and worries are self-inflicted. They’re all in our head.

Perfection isn’t the goal; simply trying to get out of our own way is the goal.

And, maybe for me, avoiding that neighbor I inadvertently hit-on for the rest of my life.

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32 thoughts on “my forthcoming Pigeon-Plucking Business

  1. This is really funny! Usually the weather is such a safe and neutral topic.

    I have the tape that reruns in my head, over and over. I say the wrong thing all of the time; not just in the morning. Your neighbor should feel flattered, even if your intention wasn’t to hit on him – he thought it was. I wouldn’t worry about it. He probably isn’t giving it as much thought as you are.

    1. Yes, Robin! I think that’s why I write– so I have to edit myself before I send it out into the world! That way the tape in my head won’t constantly replay whether something I said was mortifying or not.

    1. I *hope* it was one of those interactions that was uncomfortable at the time (because he did look uncomfortable) and then laughed when he thought about it later. I didn’t ever see him again and I no longer live in that building, so avoidance achieved! Thanks for your comment, Marcy!

  2. Oh, sigh. I am so this way, too, only my awkwardness is not limited to mornings…I can’t tell you how often I’ve unwittingly spouted a double entendre and had someone think I was hitting on them…

  3. Ha, the neighbour’s probably sitting by his window every day now waiting for you to show up and shower on your porch. That creep.

    Members of the Cockney community are such pricks sometimes, especially Dick and Peter. Don’t let them get to you.

  4. Oh how I needed this after the week I’ve had at work. This was wonderful and well worth the coffee that came out of my nose.
    Happy Friday!

  5. Sometimes *wit* just doesn’t receive the standing ovations it should…oh well at least we all appreciate it here:)

      1. Oh wow, hi! You’re the first Chicagoan I have run across here. Nice to meet you, too! (Lovely weather we’re having!)

  6. I’d imagine housing price gone up when he’s spread the word.

    He never should have smiled and commented in the weather in my opinion. Best thing to do is twitch the corner of ur mouth to form a half smile, turn around and pretend you’ve forgotten something :)works for me every time 🙂

  7. Thanks for the mention!! I really enjoyed reading your post and the conversation with your neighbor. I have definitely had moments where I say weird or wrong things out of nervousness. Sometimes I kinda like those moments because, while maybe mortifying at the time, it provides a glimpse of pure reaction. Obviously you didn’t have time to think about how you were going to respond since you didn’t anticipate the conversation. Yet in the moment, you created wonderfully descriptive and creative responses to mundane questions. That takes talent 🙂

    1. Wow, that is the nicest spin anyone has ever spun on my morning grog. Thanks Crystal! Can I hire you to just follow me around between 8 and 10am to translate what i say?

  8. I loved the scene. It was hilarious. I have had moments where I have thought, Oh God…let there be a hole that opens up and swallows me up whole…right now! Perhaps you should have added, “You should be so lucky!” at the end, winked and walked off.

    1. Ha! Juliana, that’s an awesome comeback. I, yet again, wish I could go back to that moment and redo that whole interaction just so I could get that one in, and then walk away like Beyonce after a video shoot.

      1. Haha! I get you so completely and yet again, loved the image of you walking off that way. I shared the whole post and comments with my husband and he was laughing out loud!

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