Thirty Seconds Ago… Speechless

I’m not even sure how to start this one…

I got up from my computer after about three hours of staring at the screen. Unsure of whether I’m tired from no recent chill time or just simply sleepy, I shook the feeling, pepped myself up and headed to go grab lunch. My day had been pretty uneventful, and I was not prepared for any events, of any kind.

Anyway, I took the shortcut through the sub-levels of the buildings to get to the deli. I take the sub-levels for two reasons; one: because it’s faster, and two: to avoid all traffic, avoiding as many people as possible. Today though, as I walked the long empty hallway toward the elevators, there was already a man there waiting. This was no big deal though because I pass this particular guy quite often in this part of the hallways, and he rarely says much more than “Hello”. Keep in mind that this is an extremely long hall and I am not yet close enough to verbally speak. So now that I am about thirty yards away, he turns, sees me and greets me — but not in a way that I was prepared to be greeted. Let me rephrase: NOTHING could have prepared me for his greeting.Read More »

Thirty Seconds Ago… Transitional Awkwardness

Dealing with your parents as you get older can be very liberating. It can also be very awkward. Both parties are trying to learn each other and respect each other as individuals rather than extensions. Mother and Father will both have to go through this process on their own with each individual child; and since I am the oldest, I seemed to have gotten all of the awkwardness. My mother pretty much had a smooth transition, since she was a stay-at-home mom. My dad on the other hand, found it a bit more complicated to deal with us as adults. Not in a bad way, but when he was concerned about us (his oldest boys), he had to get used to conveying it. So he used my mom as a medium until he got better at it.

How was this awkward? Let me give you an example…

A few years ago, my dad made a startling discovery about me that I guess he just never noticed. One night I knocked on my parent’s bedroom door to ask my mom a question. As we talked, I noticed my dad staring directly; intently, as if I had done something wrong. When I looked at him though, he looked away. I continued my conversation with my mom. A few seconds later, my dad is peering into my face again as though he is trying to detect a lie or something. I stopped talking, looked at him again, and waited for him to interject. He turned back to the television. At this point, I had the information I needed from my mom and started out of the room, completely weirded out by my dad’s strange behavior.

Now my dad is a person of concern, but has very little tact when showing it — like any typical dad, I would imagine. So before I can get out of the room, I hear him ask my mom, in a tone that was supposed to be a whisper, “Sharon… Is that boy crossed-eyed?”

I stopped. I turned around and looked my mom directly in the eyes and replied, “A little bit.”

The look on his face was a gasp away from bewildered. It was like he was meeting me for the first time Thirty Seconds Ago. I actually enjoyed seeing him uncomfortable because it was new to me; and I was the cause of it. I wanted to exaggerate the laziness in my left eye and just train it on him to see how he would react.

He could have just asked me, “Reggie, have you been wearing your contacts or glasses?” I would have known exactly what he was referring to, but because of that transitional awkwardness, the whole situation was weird. Since then, I think he has been paying close attention to my younger siblings, as not to ever be caught off guard like that again!

Thirty Seconds Ago… The Honda

There wasn’t anything at the house to eat. It was too late to fix anything, but right at the point when I was about to decide to go home and go to bed, I took notice of the Wendy’s. I made an anxious right turn from the left lane headed towards the drive-thru. The Honda didn’t respond the way that I was used to though. It was a bit sluggish; and had been for a while, now that I thought about it. Pulling into the lot, my parents’ voices echoed through my mind, “Reggie, you need a dependable car.”

“Whatever.”

The Honda had been a great car. It was a gold 1995 two-door Honda Accord that had taken me everywhere I needed to go. Over the last few months though, it had been showing symptoms of meeting its end. However, you always find a way to look past what you don’t want to see; so in my mind, The Honda was practically brand new.

So I pulled up to the drive-thru speaker in my “brand new” battle-scarred Honda and placed my order. “That’ll be $5.35,” the speaker announced. I pulled up to the window and prepared my payment. “Your total is $5.35,” the cashier repeated as I placed a ten-dollar bill in her hand. At that very moment, there was an extremely loud popping sound. The cashier snatched back her arm, and left me wide-eyed and startled. I immediately noticed the heat gauge on the dashboard far into the red area. Still not completely sure of what was happening, I noticed that the cashier was locking and backing away from the window. She was staring at me as if there was a timer on my forehead; and it was ticking down from seven, six, five, four…

At the four count, white smoke enshrouded the front of the car. Not wanting to be inside the car for the final three counts, I undid my seatbelt and launched myself from the passenger side of the car James Bond style. There were now two cars behind mine. The third car in line threw itself in reverse and went out of the parking lot the same way that I came in. I almost suggested for the second car to do the same as I stood in the cold waiting for The Honda to explode. After about thirty seconds of waiting, an explosion never came. I had come to realize that the car had run hot and blew a hose somewhere under the hood. It was steam that was I was seeing; not smoke.

I cautiously made my way back to the car and let it roll into a parking spot. Under the hood it was just as I had suspected; a blown hose that would only take about twenty minutes to replace, and The Honda would be back in action. As I sat in my car to look up the needed parts, my stomach reminded me of why I was here to begin with. I had never received my order, or my change, from the cashier. The drive-thru line had continued. Now all I could hope for is that the cashier had placed my order and change to the side. That way, I would simply walk up to the window, take what was mine, and return to my immobile transportation.

The walk back to the window seemed to take forever. I waited for the car at the window to leave, so that I could jump in front of the next car and sort out the issue with the cashier. As expected, the transaction was nowhere as simple as I had hoped.

“Umm, I ordered a number three and had to pull away because of car issues.” I tried to make it sound as if I didn’t abandon the vehicle in fear of an explosion. The cashier tried to contain her laughter as she looked at me explain the previous events. “See what happened was,” she started with a smile. “In all the commotion, I gave your order to the car that was behind you. I have your change, but you’ll have to place your order again.”

“I just had a medium number three with a coke.”

“Okay, I’ll place that order now,” she said near laughing. “Just wait here so that the cars behind you don’t get your order.” With that, she disappeared out of sight. Another girl peeked from behind a wall at me and quickly retreated in a fit of laughter. It was only the $5.35 keeping me from walking away and leaving the entire situation. I couldn’t wrap my mind around giving away any amount of money over a little embarrassment. I tried to play it cool as if I wasn’t standing at a drive-thru window in front of a line of cars.

However, it got to be too much when I overheard the children in the car behind me. They were chanting, “IN-VIS-ABLE CAR! IN-VIS-ABLE CAR! IN-VIS-ABLE CAR!” I turned to see exactly where the tormenting incantations were coming from as their parents tried to quiet them out of pity for my misfortunes. I gave up. “Forget the food; I’m not even hungry anymore… And the money.” I started walking towards my broken-down Honda. Halfway to the car, I heard the window slide open and, “Sir, here’s your order.” I walked back to snatch the bag and finally make my way to the comforts of my tinted windows.

Until this very day, I still do not visit any drive-thru without checking every gauge on the dashboard.

Thirty Seconds Ago… Elevator Ride

Boom! That’s the sound that should have been made as I badged through the security gate this particular Friday morning. If you didn’t know any better you would have thought I owned the entire Coca-Cola brand. This is not a strange feeling for me though. I’m always trying to make sure my ego is on the lower of its three settings. There’s confident, cocky, and only person on the planet; and this Friday morning, I did not mentally calibrate to function with not even one of the other 7 billion individuals surrounding me. I was walking on air, with the wind to my back, and “Eye of the Tiger” was playing in the background everywhere I went.

Even though feeling like the only person on the planet is a fantastic feeling, it removes the part of reasoning that tells you to take precautions. Since your five senses have shut off everything and everyone around you, does not mean that everything and everyone around you has ceased to exist. This ego trip is usually ended with a very very rude awakening. Rarely do you make it to the end of the day in the same mood. Friday, mine last about 45 minutes.

I start every day over a cup of coffee. I substitute breakfast for that cup of coffee. It’s all I need. Once I got to the coffee bar, they had my favorite blend – Jamaican Me Crazy.

“I’ll have your daily special blend… Large.”

“No dark roast today?” asked my barista. I was a daily regular and would love to think that I’m also her favorite.

“No ma’am,” I responded… And that’s when the boiled eggs behind the glass counter caught my attention. “But I will have the boiled eggs.” The eggs came in twos in little clear plastic cups and lids. Nothing would be denied me today. I saw eggs, so I bought them; didn’t even want them.

“All set,” Ms. Ann said as she passed me my order. I paid, thanked her as always and headed to my desk.

By the time I had reached my seat, half of the brewed goodness had met its end. So without delay, I made quick work of the first egg. I don’t know if I hadn’t had one in a while, or if it was really that good. So I downed the second on to compare it to the first. It was mediocre. The rest of the coffee capped my mini breakfast. Off to work I went.

Not even an hour later, I heard a weird noise that instantly disrupted my workflow. I looked around to see if I could find anything to account for the sound. I did not, so I continued my tasks.

Then again; the sound. This time it was accompanied by a vibration in my stomach. I knew at that moment that I was in trouble. Sweat started to form above my brow and “Eye of the Tiger” had stopped playing in the middle of the second verse. I was instantly aware of everyone around me as I tried to map the quickest escape route to the most private restroom.

“You’ve done it now, genius,” I thought. “Coffee and eggs… You’re not used to that. You should have known better!”

I coolly slipped from my cubicle towards the stairwell. I flew down the steps and resumed coolness as strolled across the campus to the service elevators. I couldn’t chance being on an elevator with someone and holding this kind of pressure. I pressed the button over and over in an attempt to rush its arrival. It had been about a minute and the elevator was still twelve floors from the ground, and seemed to be stopping on every floor.

The risk had to be taken. I stiffly walked around to the regular passenger elevators. The strolling was done. Being cool was over. Humility had set in, and my ego had left me high and dry. All I needed now was a private restroom, and would be ever so grateful to get to one.

Good. No one was waiting. I pressed up and jumped on at the sound of the ding. “Nineteen please,” I said to myself. In a few seconds, I would be just fine. However, I hadn’t calculated that some pretty intern would get on at the fourth floor excited about her job and looking forward to meeting new people.

As the elevator slowed to a stop, I grew angry and nervous at the same time. The young lady stepped inside, glowing of ambition. She smiled and said, “Hello.” I could only nod back in response. It took forever for the doors to close again. There was a little wisp of wind fighting to escape from me, but I would not let this happen to me – or this poor innocent girl. I squeezed a little harder as the sweat beaded across my forehead. The numbers on the wall indicating our position only marked us at floor nine. I looked at the number pad of floor choices simply to realize she hadn’t pressed anything. My stomach turned as I realized I might not be able to keep my body in submission for the rest of the trip. If I were to press another button and scurry off, I might offend her in some way… Not to mention any sudden movements from me might offend her in another way. I decided to take my chances and stand completely still.

“Are you okay?” I guess she had taken notice of my sweating, stiffness, silence and overall awkwardness. The question caught me off guard and startled me. I turned and gave her a blank stare as I released an unfortunate tragedy on both of us. It was a quiet, long release. Worry filled her eyes as she tried to comprehend my state of being. I could only stare and shake my head as what I hoped she could interpret as an apology for what was about to happen to her. An unsettling odor crept from beneath us and ploddingly wrapped itself around our throats. The young lady, now recognizing the situation, slowly started to shake her head as to deny the apologies of my own shaking head. Eyes locked, we both tried to cope; she with betrayal and I with deathly embarrassment. She let out a whimper of a cough as the almost visible smell clouded the space between us. I said, “I’m so sorry.” She didn’t respond. I’m pretty sure it was to avoid breathing any more of the poison.

It took what seemed to be five whole minutes before the doors opened to the nineteenth floor. She rushed off before me and went left. Thankfully, I had to travel to the right to my rarely inhabited restroom. I stayed there for nearly an hour to for fear of seeing her when I exited. When I did come out though, I rushed towards the service elevators to take the less-traveled route back to my side of the campus.

Fortunately for me though, I never saw that young lady again… Up until about thirty seconds ago…

Thirty Seconds Ago… Workout

More than going to the gym to actually workout, I liked dressing up to go to the gym. I liked the gym look. As I looked in the mirror and flexed a bit, I was actually checking out my new kicks. They matched my gray sweat pants and baseball cap; and a black v-neck tee a size too small just to add definition to the cut of my upper arms. So with my gray and black getup on, I decided it was time to start my normal routine for the most cardio with the least sweat. That normally consisted of about fifteen minutes on the treadmill and one round of weights. Ten leg presses, ten bicep curls, ten bench presses, and ten inclined sit-ups is usually how I finished. I often left in a fashion that showed no signs of having worked out at all. I didn’t really need to work out though. I maintained a reasonable size and weight with this routine and was happy where I was.

So this particular day would have been the same; if the other me wouldn’t have shown up. This guy waltzes in with the exact same thing I have on except the colors are all inverted. The hat was identical though. Everything else was a gray to my black and a black to my gray. I instantly felt like my territory was being threatened. Now there were dudes in that gym three times my size, and there were dudes in the gym half my size. I was that middle size that you couldn’t tell if I was in the gym to gain weight or lose weight. I was toned enough to tell I had some workout ethic, but not it didn’t look as though I worked out everyday for three hours a day. I looked natural, and I liked it that way. So here comes this other natural-looking dude with the exact same thing on that I have on. As I was folding my decorative workout towels and placing them in my nice Nike show bag, I slowly look this guy over and noticed his chest was slightly bigger than mine. Whereas I more keen to being slim and keeping fat off, he was more keen to muscle building. He just walked right by the treadmills like they weren’t even there! He carried his muscle-bound ego straight towards the weight bench that I had just finished with and loaded forty more pounds onto the bar. I was even trying to stare discreetly anymore. I felt like he was making this a personal competition, and I needed to know what I was up against.

“Reggie, stop it.” I thought to myself. “You don’t even know this guy. He’s minding his business, so you just mind yours.” With that I zipped my bag and stood to my feet.

He was staring right at me. I was leaving, but his gaze stopped me right in my tracks. He was thinking the same thing I was thinking. I knew I wasn’t crazy. He was intruding on my territory; and my departure was a sign of defeat. He took a swig from his water bottle as gave my sly smirk as he wiped his mouth with the back of hand.

“Who does he think he is?” I dropped my bag right there at the rest bench. I didn’t have time not did I care to take it back to the locker room. I marched to the weight set next to my new worst enemy. He was already in position to lift, so I didn’t have much time to get in position with him. I actually had to take some of the weights off of my bar to match his, so I was nearly sprinting to redefine myself as the dominate average male.

The jerk waited.

As I laid back and gripped the cold metal bar, he said, “Don’t hurt yourself.” I took that as a cue to start. I pushed the bar from the cusps of the rack. This was definitely heavier than the weight that I was used to lifting, but it’s not that I couldn’t lift it; I just never wanted to. I pressed the first five reps out with ease. Number six was a struggle. Number seven ripped open a can of fire in my chest that sent a heat wave through my entire body. My legs were tight from balancing my body on the bench. Sweat popped from my forehead as though my brain was swelling and expelling any unneeded fluids. Yeah… that’s exactly what was happening. An aneurism didn’t seem so far away. This was the immediate problem though. The problem was that the combusted fire can in my chest had sent a heat wave up my arms and locked my elbows. I was stuck. I was stuck and the other me finish his count at fifteen. I heard him drop the bar back into its place and sit up. I guess when he looked and saw me, he knew something had gone wrong.

“Hey bro, you alright?” he asked.There was a genuine sound of concern in his voice. I gritted my teeth and pushed out a “yeeessss” that was worthy of a man taking his last breath. I had been in this position now for about thirty seconds. The elbow locks that had been placed on my arms were about to give out. I started to shake and tremble from the wrist down. The shaking, balancing and sweating felt as though my body was rupturing from the inside out. My feet and legs were now being forced into the air by trying to keep the weights lifted.

My doppelgänger had seen enough, and he rushed over to save my life. When he grabbed the bar, he alleviated more weight from the right side than the left which caused that arm to completely give in. So within a split second, I rolled off the bench and onto the floor as the other half of the weights crashed directly where my neck and head would have been.

The embarrassment was too much to handle. I got up instantly and rushed to grab my bag and escape this prison of shame that I had built around myself. I could tell most of the weight area was completely still, watching me. I heard a few quiet laughs and a “Shawty, almost lost his head”. I almost ran. I kept my composure until I got to the rest bench where my bag had been waiting for me to finish making a fool of myself. I reached down and touched the strap, but my hand and fingers had gone numb. I couldn’t pick it up. I tried with the left hand and noticed I couldn’t even feel the bag. Laughs started to penetrate my very existence.

If I were to die right now, it would only relieve my soul of such cruelty that the human condition cannot bear.

After thinking what I had hoped to be my last poetic thought, I waited for two seconds. I was still very much alive. As a last resort, I stuck on my right foot through the strap and headed out the gym. The noodles on either side of my body just dangled as I gained speed. The glass door flew open as I crashed into it dragging the bag behind me.

Luckily I parked on the side of the building where people couldn’t see me. I had to sit outside my car for twenty minutes before I could manage to retrieve the keys, unlock the door and drive away.

I haven’t been back to that gym. I will never go back to that gym.

And I lived happily ever after… Until about thirty seconds ago…

Thirty Seconds Ago… The Fight

When I looked up and caught the piercing stare of the woman I have called my girlfriend for the last few months, I knew this relationship was over. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I’m sure guys all over the world know that look. It’s the one where they stare past your eyeballs straight into your brain to read your thoughts. It’s the look where their nose is flared up, and they can smell your crap before you even say it. You know that look that they have as if they have the answer to your lie before you tell it? Yeah… It was that look. Even so, it wasn’t the look that bothered me. It was that fact that she was marching straight towards me flailing a single piece of paper. Since I was in the backyard of her house, I could immediately scratch off the fact that she had printed that piece of paper from my own computer. I rarely log off of anything since I’m the only one who uses my computer, so access to old emails from girls before or love letters would have been easy access. Whatever this evidence was that she was holding though, was from her computer, but was about to be used against me. I decided to stop wondering and let her explain.

She stood across from me as I leaned back in the steel garden chair; and awaited the cue to walk away from what had seemed to be a good thing.

The stares continued. I refused to ask the cliché, “What’s wrong?” My mind was made up, and pride had already settled itself deep within me concerning her, that paper she was holding, and whatever she was about to say.

After a few more seconds of awkward nothingness, she threw the paper to me and announced, “I just finished reading your last Thirty Seconds Ago post.” Immediately I released the pride I was holding and remembered what it was about.
“Babe,” I started.

“Oh naw Mr. Casanova! Don’t Babe me now!” That statement introduced me to the first of many neck rolls to come.

I continued, “That was something I had written a while back. I didn’t have time to write anything yesterday, so I just pulled something from a stash.” That was true, and she was buying it. But then I had to go and say, “And how do you know it wasn’t about you?”

The annoyance that had seemed to be fading when I asked that. I had forgotten the details of the essay, but I instantly knew that there were more than enough details in it for my now ex-girlfriend to know that it was not about her. She then reminded me of some of the details.

“Negro, I am five feet four inches tall! Do I look like a “long-legged ladder of love” to you? Oh I guess I’m also a “chocolate treat for the eyes to taste” too?”

“Yeah you can be all of that to me, Babe!” At this point, I was just trying not to laugh. I just wanted this to end in a not-so-messy fashion.

“Please!” she retorted. “Do I look chocolate? I’m lighter than Peter Cottontail and you’re trying to fool me into thinking that was about me! Whoever that is you described sounds like what Mother Earth would look like as a person… And it makes me feel like Frodo Baggins, Reggie! Frodo Baggins!”

I took a pen from my pocket to write down some of the nonsense that was spewing from her frustration. It was too good to not have a record of it.

“Oh so you’re writing this down for your next Thirty Second story? Negro, you may as well call this one Thirty Days Ago because I’m gonna be on you all month!”

I chuckled and replied, “No you won’t.” I picked up my things and headed around the house to my car. Only my hat was still inside. I’d buy another one on the way home. I had my bag with me since I had been working in the fine summer sun.

We spoke on the phone a couple days later and laughed about the whole thing. She blamed most of it on the monthly gift, and we both got over ourselves. We never got back together, but the door isn’t completely closed either.

And I lived happily ever after… Until about Thirty Seconds Ago…

Thirty Seconds Ago… The Flight

With my small carryon bag now snugly tucked away in the overhead bin, I plopped into my seat and made myself comfy for the two and a half hour flight to see my brother in New York. He had been waiting on this day for about a month now and I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. Everything was set and in order for me to arrive on his campus at about 1 o’clock PM. It was 8AM now and the plane was rustling with its last few passengers getting comfortable. I searched my pockets for my earbuds to enjoy a few tunes on the way (they were also useful for deterring unwanted conversation).

I noticed I was smiling; but I was having a good morning so why stop shouldn’t I be? I granted the portly flight attendant a nod of the head. He was also smiling. You could tell he really enjoyed his job though. He reached up and grabbed the little walkie talkie to address the passengers for our routine instructions and flight details. His beet red cheeks and cheery wide eyes made him a pleasant and reassuring face for the flight.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen,” he started with a voice that was just masculine enough to know that it was a male talking. “We will be departing in about two minutes and I want to assure you that this will be the smoothest ride of your life.” He chuckled, as did couple most the passengers. His jolliness was contagious and his charm was that of an elderly school nurse, who made the visit to her office a calming session in a bad situation. As he rattled off the cruising altitudes and speeds and emergency procedures, I slowly drifted off into thought. 

“What wonderful friends I have, to make sure I get flight vouchers for such a low price. And with such a delightful flight attendant, I could not have asked for a better deal. Just think, I nearly spent four times the amount that I did for a less accommodating flight. WHEW!” The plane shifted and started down the runway. This directed my attention back to the flight attendant as he finished his speech with:

“Thank you all for choosing Skyy Airlines and enjoy your flight to Albany, Georgia.”

“ALBANY, GEORGIA?!?” I asked abruptly. My outburst startled a few of my surrounding flight mates.

“Yes sir,” the round man responded with the first sign of anything besides pleasantness registering on his face since I first laid eyes on him. “Is there a problem?”

With the plane gaining speed down the runway, I humbly replied, “No. Not at all” and laid back into my seat.

I enjoyed all twelve minutes of that flight from Atlanta to Albany, Georgia. My brother got over the fact that no one showed up for his first Family & Friends Day.

And I lived happily ever after… Until about 30 seconds ago…