Toney and I snuck away on Friday afternoon for a couple pints of happy-hour Sierra Nevadas at the local pressed-slacks bar. And while we were enjoying the hops, we remembered something from our California days that had us both laughing.
When we first moved out there my new boss tried to include us in a lot of social activities. He’d uprooted us, with small baby in-tow, from our comfortable life in Atlanta, and was obviously trying to make the transition a little easier. He’s a nice guy, who, I think, took it personally when I moved to Scranton years later; from the day I told him my decision, things were never quite the same between the two of us.
Anyway, he and his wife would invite us to dinner on many of those early weekends, and we’d go over there and try to think of interesting things to say. I’m not comfortable making semi-formal chit-chat with people I don’t know, so it was all fairly excruciating for me. But I did it, for the sake of my “career” (ha!), and because it was a nice gesture on their part.
They live in a sprawling home, with a spectacular view. It was obviously built in the 1970s, and reminded me of the Brady Bunch house. Not exactly, but close enough to make me see phantom Alices out of the corner of my eye.
In the backyard was an incredible swimming pool, with a rock cliff and waterfall at one end. I’d never seen anything quite like it, except in Sir Mix-A-Lot videos.
And inside, probably because of the ’70s influence, everything was on different levels. Every room, it seemed, required a person to take one step up or one step down, upon entering and exiting. In fact, some rooms had multiple levels within them. The architect must have earned his chops designing fun houses for amusement parks.
So, what do you think happened? That’s correct, we’d go over there and trip and stumble around, like big ol’ doofuses.
The problem, you see, is that we were uptight and focusing on the conversation. And we’d forget about all the step-ups and step-downs. I remember following them through their living room, toward the den at the rear of the house, and suddenly stepping off one of those curbs.
My right ankle folded under, both my legs went rubbery, and I free-fell onto an end table. Knick-knacks went sailing in every direction, and a lamp almost tipped over. Highly embarrassing.
And on our next visit, I believe, Toney tripped on our way to the front door, and might have done a full forward roll. Probably not, but that’s the way I choose to remember it…
After two or three of these humiliating incidents, I started to believe the house was conspiring against us. I was sure rooms that were sunken on previous visits, were now elevated, etc. It was like a Bentley Little novel.
It got so bad we’d actually park in front of their house, and give each other a pep talk before going in. “What are we going to do tonight? We’re going to pay attention to where we’re walking – at all times!”
Then we’d go inside, stumble into the kitchen, and almost plunge our heads in a pot of boiling spaghetti noodles.
Yeah, we tried to laugh it off in a self-deprecating manner, but I once caught our host and hostess shooting each other a conspiratorial “Holy shit, what’s wrong with these people?” look. So, it was no good, no good at all.
It got a little better with time, but I don’t believe we ever fully mastered their big ol’ house o’ levels. Ever-changing levels, I’m convinced…
And that’ll do it for today, boys and girls. I’m hoping you’ll make me feel better with some stories of your own. Have you ever humiliated yourself in front of a boss, or authority figure? I can’t be the only one?
Tell us about it, won’t you? Use the comments link below.
And I’ll see ya next time.