Tag Archives: awkward

Notes I Took While Watching Your Date

I see and judge you.

Hi there,

You probably didn’t notice, but I was here yesterday while you were on your date. I was in the corner, staring directly at you.

I’d been here for about two hours when your date sat down, and about two hours and five minutes when you came along. As my attention span for work reached its upper limit, your conversation and interactions got more and more interesting. You were maybe seven feet away from me, the café was very quiet, and I could hear everything. I happened to take a few pages of notes on your rendezvous and I’m more than happy to share some of them with you.

First of all, your date chose a very awkward table. Most normal human beings prefer to sit next to a wall or a structure that shelters at least one side. This comes from an evolutionarily instilled desire to avoid predators. Walls provide a sense of security and allow the dining party to relax and enjoy their coffee and conversation. The fact your date willingly chose an exposed table means a number of things. She could be trying to kill you, but she could also trust your ability to fend off potential threats. At the worst, she might be a psychopath and a danger to herself and others.

Not only did she choose an awful table, she defended her decision when you asked about it, implying that she believed her poor table choice made her a quirky, unique girl, which it did not. Girls who think they are spontaneous and fun rarely are. They will tire you out with their foolhardy decisions and pretend to enjoy picnicking on highways. My recommendation: let her choose the table next time and see what she picks. If she fails again, go to the bathroom and crawl out the window. You don’t want to know what she’s capable of.

Some important developments occurred during her lengthy bathroom break, during which I looked up and saw you eating by yourself. When I looked up a few minutes later, I saw that not only were you still eating by yourself, you were sweating. It appears you welcomed the break from talking and leapt at the chance to eat your food without her watching, a move I applaud.

However, the sweat glistening on your brow indicated both to me and your date that you may have been enjoying your egg sandwich too vigorously–not an attractive quality. To be fair, she was gone for a hot second, which is not a great sign. If she really liked you, she would have held off anything major until after the date, unless it was an emergency that threatened to make itself uncomfortably present. If she was touching up make-up, she’s a diva, and if she was hanging out texting friends and reading articles on her smart phone, then I think you and I both know what that means.

At any rate, I’m glad that we could share your date together. I don’t particularly like her, but you seem like a nice, normal guy and I wish both you all the best.


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A Nerd Fights Her Destiny

The bane of the science classroom.

I spent most of sixth grade sucking up to my teachers by leaving them anonymous thank you notes along with homemade muffins. My social status suffered accordingly. The day before summer break, as I watched the popular crowd milling in the hallways, I promised myself seventh grade would be different. I would prance with the best of them. My yearbook would be so full of signatures  I would have to buy extra pages. I was going to be gloriously popular and it was going to be awesome.

Summer zoomed by, and all of the sudden I was stepping into my first class of seventh grade. Big changes were afoot. In the back of the classroom sat the cool girls, radiating indifference and social status, already discussing the coming weekend’s social happenings. Next to them was an empty chair. If I could just sit there, I and the cool girls would be BFFs and giggle together until we died. All of my dreams were coming true.

Suddenly I heard, “Emily! Emily! Sit up here!” It might as well have been the call of the grave.  Two friends from my former life as a frumpy nobody sat at the very front of the classroom and beckoned to me, as friends do. They were of my own social class, both of them nerdly and pleasant, but I was completely aware they could not help my popularity level.

Tempted by the familiar faces, I hesitated. I looked again to the vacant seat, longing to be next to the cool girls despite the fact I could almost  taste their animosity and knew I wasn’t welcome there. Overcome with fear, I finally turned towards my geeky and less good looking friends.

I wish I could say this was the deciding moment, that from then on I didn’t want to be popular. But I did, devastatingly so, and it was only my blinding cowardice that kept me from palming my old friends in the face and approaching the preening girls at the back.

I made my way to the front of the classroom where my fellow nobodys eagerly pulled a chair up to the head of the table, which jutted directly into the aisle. Mr. Harrington taught right behind me, and the extent of my back damage due to swiveling and craning is still unknown.

But I made the best of the awkwardness, and used my proximity to the teacher to ask an astonishing amount of ridiculously off topic questions, like “What is color?” in the middle of Ch.8: Rocks. Thankfully, because of my location and intense focus on Mr. Harrington, I never felt the weight of the class’s collective eye rolling.

Despite my initial disappointment, I was actually living out my dream of being the ultimate teacher’s pet as well as beginning my life as an attention monger. Soon this opportunity to nerd out mitigated my desire to chase popularity. Why sit in the back and put on lip gloss when I could lead an entire classroom on rabbit trails and goose chases? Though I still occasionally wished to be popular, I believe this class was the point at which I learned I was probably happier as a nerdy and obnoxious student than a social ladder climber. In the end, I couldn’t resist my destiny. Abercrombie would have to look elsewhere for new customers.*

*Full disclosure: I shopped at Abercrombie until sophomore year of high school. Oh the shame……

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Remembering the Frenchman Who Showed Us His Apartment Today

Here was the bed he slept in. And this was the kitchen he would always make his instant coffee in. Do you remember how much he loved instant coffee? He would always offer us some even though we never accepted. And do you remember how he would let us wander in his apartment as we examined it, awkwardly standing by as I took a few haphazard photos? His complete lack of facial expressions was so disconcerting!

This was the bathroom he showered in and the toilet he used, the sink he sometimes shaved over and the black-splotched mirror he would look into as he brushed his teeth.

These were the books he read, and oh! There was the one he was currently reading: Modern Trends in Post-Colonial Interpretations of Revolutionary Artwork. He was such a scholar, getting his PhD I believe.

Remember when he told us in his endearing French accent about the crazy lady who lived in the vacant building across from his apartment and how she would scream at the people in the subsidized bread line as they were fighting? How we nervously laughed and laughed! We were so unsure of what the proper response should be!

And when, right after meeting him at Hardees, I asked him what his wife does and it turned out she was the lady sitting right next to you? Wasn’t that funny!

The way he asked us whether or not we wanted the apartment was certainly charming as well. He inhaled deeply and said, “So, do you think this is something like what you are looking for,” and as we looked at each other we both knew that there was no way we would ever want to live somewhere the kitchen is the size of the bathtub.

As soon as we’d seen the kitchen, we heard the death knell of our relationship. There would be no second meeting to sign the contract or determine the final details of the lease. There would be no exchange of phone numbers with the real estate agent or the bowab, and no other semi-firm handshakes.

And so it is with fondness I remember those awkward moments we spent in his tiny apartment, examining his home and finding it wanting. Though our friendship, and I hope we can call it friendship, lasted only a painful 30 minutes, I know I will be unable to forget the complete lack of comfort I felt while in his presence. It may have been the fact we were not speaking in his native tongue, or perhaps he had forgotten how to interact with humans other than his wife and research subjects because of his time spent buried under PhD work. Whatever the reason for his particular brand of charm, his company was priceless. I do hope he finds someone else to rent his apartment quite soon.

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Lessons in Conspicuousness

It did not look like this, but it did have a steeple

Cairo is obviously well known for its churches. Though it’s no match for Edmond, Oklahoma with regard to church density, it certainly holds its own for church diversity. There are Coptic churches, Armenian churches, Greek Orthodox churches, Protestant churches, churches with mostly Egyptians, churches with mostly foreigners, churches with services in English and Arabic and French and Coptic, churches that God loves, churches that God hates, churches for humans, churches with services on Friday, churches with services on Sunday, and churches with everything in between.

Tonight, friends and I began a church hopping discovery-fest: an expedition in the smorgasbord of church possibilities. I do believe that if every church service we go to is as interesting as the one we went to tonight, then I will have no shortage of blog posts the rest of my time here in Cairo. This blog is, of course, my main motive for doing anything besides sitting in my apartment and watching movies on MBC.

We had planned to go to St. Andrew’s church, a church that has a website and works with refugees, a church that, according to the website, was established over 100 years ago and has a service on Sunday at 7:00. St. Andrew’s was also conveniently close to where we live, which was great because we love visiting the house of God but not if he’s living too far away from us. The church we ended up going to most certainly does not have a website.

Instead of St. Andrew’s church, we accidentally attended a small, evangelical church of an unknown breed, mistaking it for St. Andrews because it was…a church. We hadn’t even considered the possibility of stumbling upon the wrong church. After exiting the Nasser metro stop, we espied a steeple and homed in on it, oblivious to the fact we were missing our intended destination. Finding a gate in a high wall with a cross on it, we gave each other confident nods of confirmation, and pushed it back only to find ourselves in a kind of courtyard, in front of us a small church that resembled a gingerbread house. We entered the tiny sanctuary right as the service was beginning and found that we, three Americans, nearly doubled the size of the congregation. We also were also about 40 years younger than the average attendee. It is safe to say we stood out a bit.

The white-walled church was quite plain, its main decorations a large back lit cross behind the pulpit and a smattering of air conditioners and fans. Though the pastor was no Josh Groban, he successfully led our small band of believers in worship acappela style from the foremost right pew all the while  looking ahead at the powerpoint that he was also operating. The fellow congregants also had varying vocal abilities, each one’s imperfections perfectly audible. My favorite happened to be an elderly lady blessed with the voice of a wooden desk, but a very passionate one at that.

After singing, I learned that Egyptian sermons are just as sleep inducing as American ones. Luckily I was kept awake by the pastor’s occasional shouting and the occasional Bible drill. These Bible drills were actually just him calling out scripture passages, but they became a drill since he would wait to continue until he was sure everyone, especially the foreigners, had found the appropriate verse. Monitoring us was an easy task as we were all exposed beneath his gaze. Cognizant of this vulnerability, I tried to remain awake even more since I knew there was no way the pastor would let one tenth of the congregation slumber in peace.

Post-service, we introduced ourselves to everyone there and realized they were quite eager to keep our young blood in the flock, even taking my friend’s number in order to keep in touch. We, however, were slightly more hesitant, and though we enjoyed the experience, I don’t think it was the spiritual food any of us were looking for, so I can only hope friend doesn’t get a phone call next Sunday night with someone worried about his heavenly status.

It also turned out that the church we were trying to go to was right across the street. Oops. Who knew there would be two so close to each other? The things you learn….

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Walk around, get offered a job

After class today, roomie and I and friend walked to the Cairo Opera House since roomie had heard that a great Egyptian piano player would be there tonight and we wanted to see if there were any tickets left. Unfortunately, there weren’t any left, not for tonight nor for the 30th and that was a bummer.

But on the bright side, we got to see the Opera House which was quite beautiful, though the pop music (think N’Sync) that playing on the speakers didn’t quite go with the elegant buildings. Everything was made out of white marble and there were well groomed gardens throughout the entire art complex. All in all, a very impressive experience. If I ever have the inclination to pretend I’m interested in culture, I know exactly where to go.

As we were leaving the ticket office, a man with a folder approached us. The conversation went more or less like this:

“Do you want a job in event planning?” asked the man.

“Excuse me?” said friend.

“Do you want a job in event planning?”

“Uh….no we don’t really have time…”

“Well you should come to an exhibition on modern dance this Thursday at the Opera House”

“Okay. Thanks….do you know where the metro is?”

All in all, it was quite a strange conversation. Out of everything we could have been offered, why a job in event planning? He could have been saying he has an uncle with a great camel farm that we should visit, or maybe given us a restaurant recommendation, but a job that requires a skill set? Really? Anyways, we’ll see what happens on Thursday. Maybe I’ll bring my CV and resume just in case my American appearance isn’t enough.

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