Embarrassment can happen to anyone
By Debbie Kerr
When my children were young, odd things embarrassed them and each time it happened I thought it was cute. Of course, when I was embarrassed the word cute never entered my mind. In fact, as an adult, I would never be embarrassed by anything little…or so I thought.
Like many people, I am working from home during the pandemic. I communicate with my co-workers using email and video-conferencing software called Zoom. When I use Zoom, I can see and hear the people in my online meetings and allow them to see what is displayed on my computer screen (called sharing). Unfortunately, it was the combination of seeing, hearing, and sharing that got me in trouble.
Unlike other stories that you may have heard about Zoom meetings, I wasn’t caught dressed inappropriately. No one walked behind me naked or only wearing a towel. There were no children or pets involved. I didn’t make any inappropriate sounds. But still, I managed to embarrass myself.
Fortunately, my bad Zoom experience was near the end of the day. I thought the end of my workday would mark the end of my embarrassment. I was wrong.
I was surprised (and slightly embarrassed, again) that I couldn’t shake the feeling, even as I tried to make supper. I was cutting vegetables for a stir fry, which apparently was not challenging enough to distract me. And, even though there were a lot of vegetables to cut, my mind would not focus on anything else but that meeting. It was crazy. The reaction to my embarrassing moment was lasting a lot longer than the moment itself.
I told myself that what happened wasn’t really so bad. I told myself to acknowledge my feelings, deal with them, and then move on. But that was not to be. I couldn’t get past the “acknowledge your feelings” part. I thought maybe I would feel better if I talked to a friend.
This “talk” was not something that needed a quick response, so I reached out to my friend using Messenger. I keyed in my message and waited. After 30 seconds (possibly a whole minute) I realized that my friend was not responding fast enough to meet my needs. My heart was racing. I told myself that this was ridiculous. I felt a sense of panic. What seemed like a big deal before was really nothing at this point, yet my stress continued. In fact, it seemed to get a little worse.
I decided to contact another friend. This time I took the communication method to the next level. I sent a text message. Even as I waited for a response to my text, I realized that the wording in my messages was making the whole situation sound a lot worse than it was. Just after that thought, I got a response to my text but decided it would take too long to explain everything in a series of text messages. I asked my friend if she was available to talk on the phone.
Now, I’d done it. In my mind, switching from sending a text to making a phone call implied a greater sense of urgency. By taking this step, I felt like I had elevated my teeny-tiny event to a disproportionate level. I started to feel stupid, and now I panic because I knew I had over-reacted. I couldn’t say never mind at this point. It would have been like sending up a flare to tell someone I needed help only to send up a second flare to say “never mind”. There’s a reason they don’t make flares with that message. So in fairness to the friend who said that she was free to talk, I made the call.
“So what’s up?” she said.
The moment was here. Now I had to share my story when it now seemed ridiculous to even mention. And now my BIG story only took about one minute to communicate. It was an ah-shucks moment that now gave me a secondary feeling of embarrassment. Fortunately, because she’s a friend, she didn’t make me feel stupid. She seemed relieved that it was only a minor issue and not the disaster I implied. She told me what I knew all along; it wasn’t that bad. She followed her reassuring words with her own Zoom story and a few YouTube examples. I was not alone on several levels.
That night, I was once again on a Zoom call, but this time I was on a call with a group of friends, people other than the two lucky friends I had reached out to earlier. In that call, I shared my embarrassing story again. Apparently it wasn’t embarrassing enough to hide from anyone. This time, less than three hours later, the whole traumatic experience was funny to both me and the people I was talking to. In fact, by this time, I had returned to being my usual goofy self. I was able to make people laugh. Some of them even commented that they hadn’t laughed like that in a long time. They even commented that it was just what they needed.
This series of events was a learning experience for me. I discovered the following:
And last, but not least, I learned a few tricks about Zoom from the friend I tried to reach using Messenger. Thanks to her help, I will always know for sure when a one-on-one conversation actually involves four people.
Now, before you let your imaginations run wild, remember, it wasn't that bad.
Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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