Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Socially Awkward Penguin Meets Socially Awkward Penguin

I see her next to the sample table at Trader Joe's. She's an older woman, maybe in her late 50s or early 60s. Blonde, well dressed. A real class act. If I had one criticism, it would be that she has butter on her face.

This cannot stand. Someone has to tell her. But I can't, because my mouth is full of the same buttered scone that sullied her face. I look around, hoping someone else will notice. No one does. How can you people just stand there and do nothing? How long can it take to chew and swallow a bite-sized sample of scone? Apparently a while. She had a head start of perhaps 30 seconds, and I'm afraid she'll walk away before I can tell her.

I catch her attention and mime wiping something off the corner of my mouth. This ignites a dormant insecurity in her that had been brewing just below the surface, but she has no idea what I'm referring to.

After what seems like hours, I finish chewing and tell her, "You have butter on your face."

She wipes it off, but her insecurity has not been soothed. I feel bad. Should I not have told her? No, that's crazy. No decent person would let anyone - anyone - go around like that.

"Um, can I ask you something?" she asks.

"Sure," I say tentatively. What have I done?

"This is probably the weirdest question a stranger will ever ask you, but can you see the spot on my tooth?" she pulls back her upper lip to reveal a tooth with a small white spot. The tooth isn't a molar, but it's far enough back that she'd have to be grinning like an absolute maniac for anyone to see it.

"Not unless you point it out," I say.

She's visibly relieved.

"I just had dental work done," she explains. "The dentist said that extra white spot would go away after a while, but when you pointed, I thought it must be noticeable after all."

"Oh, God. No. No! I would never point at a spot on someone's tooth. Not that I could see it anyway. But I'm not a jerk. I would never!"

Mercifully for both of us, we part ways. I'm glad she was a fellow socially awkward penguin, because it's always a relief to find one in an unlikely package. I'm glad for her too, because I imagine she must have been glad I wasn't some smooth operator. Still, it made the whole scene infinitely more painful than it should have been. Despite the distraction, I didn't fail to notice the scone was pretty good.

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