March 1st was the most beautiful day we've seen in months and I couldn't help but give in to the temptation to take Cole for a walk, despite the mud puddles punctuating the sidewalks. We set out to the art gallery and I had to maneuver his stroller in some very creative ways so I didn't get a soaker. I devised a very nifty little technique which reminded me of being a skateboarder. It was THAT cool. I'd see a puddle ahead and I'd gain a bit of speed so the momentum would carry me through. I'd push Cole straight through the puddle (well, in the stroller he was safe and dry) and I'd bounce one foot over onto the grass or snow to one side of the puddle (a stance that was unstable but which I could cleverly manage if I had the right speed and momentum and, obviously, skill) and then quickly regain my footing on the sidewalk on the far side of the puddle. Safe and dry. SOOOOO clever.
So as I was returning home from the art gallery, Cole and I said hello to another woman approaching from a parking lot with her baby. That is when I saw an upcoming puddle and I thought I'd show off my dainty little two-step move to avoid getting my feet wet. I gained speed confidently, danced my left foot onto the slippery embankment to the left of the puddle, reached far across the puddle with my right foot and, somehow, mispredicted and set my right foot, with all my weight and momentum and speed, down on the wheel of Cole's stroller (which was, of course, moving forward with the same speed). Being an unstable surface, my foot lurched forward and I found myself doing something like a dynamic splits, the stroller splashed up a huge stream of water and I caught myself before I sat down in the puddle but not before receiving a thorough doussing up my backside, through my pants and all the layers through to my skin, from right ankle to my waist.
I was embarrassed. And I tried to think of something clever to turn around and say to the woman who was walking a few steps behind me, staring at my soaking ass. But I couldn't. And just as I was mustering up the courage to say something funny at my own expense to break the awkwardness I was feeling, she crossed the road and was gone.
At LEAST, I thought, I am only a block from home.
And then I saw my sixteen year old neighbour (I'll call him Chaz) walking his dog, Edge, as he does every afternoon. Chaz is a dashing young man with his dark hair in a ponytail and he has Asperger's, so he has received lots of therapy and training in social etiquette and he is, as a consequence, an EXTREME picture of courtesy.
Edge saw me and kept stopping to look back at me. The pair were walking about fifteen feet ahead. I slowed my pace and willed Chaz not to turn around. But Edge paused again and again with an excitedly wagging tail and looking back at me expectantly.
Finally, the inevitable happend, and Chaz turned and saw me and politely smiled. He always smiles politely. He is over-the-top polite. He waved hello. I waved hello.
Then he took Edge onto the grassy shoulder, as he had been instructed to do during a situation such as this, and he waited for us to pass. I desperately tried to wave him ahead (and tried not to look desperate), "Oh no, just go on ahead. We're slow," I tried to make excuses. But he is a gentleman and would not have it.
I gave in. With surrender in my soul, but trying hard to hold my chin up high, I walked with mock-merriment past him, saying another passing greeting, and walked on, as he, no doubt, fell back into step behind him, in full view of a seeming-pants-wetting. What could I do, I walked casually, refusing to pick-up the pace. That would show shame. And there was nothing to be ashamed of. The last thing I could handle was him THINKING I was ashamed and that I had maybe actually lost bladder control on my walk and this was the result. I even considered turning around and explaining apologetically, "I fell in a puddle." But I thought better of it.
All I could do was muster up every ounce of dignity and whistle my way home.