Ever done anything really, really embarrassing? Something you never told anyone?
Whenever I'm asked to tell an embarrassing story, this one always comes to mind first. And I almost never tell it. Instead I talk about the first day of sixth grade when I brought my lunch in a ... gasp!...lunchbox, instead of a brown paper bag. Or I tell about wearing my dress backwards on Mother's Day two years ago. But I've decided the time has come to let this story out of hiding. It happened in front of strangers, and there's no reason to keep it in the dark any longer. Besides, it's been at least ten years....
I went to a college about an hour away from home. Most of the time my dad drove me back and forth as my parents didn't allow me to have my car at school. Somewhere near the end of my college career, they gave me permission to drive it down for a week or two. It must have been the beginning of a semester, because I remember that the car was loaded down with clothes and college necessities.
Most of the roads to school were two lanes. One or two stretches spanned four lanes, but most of the distance passed through wooded rural areas. It was a peaceful drive that only slowed for one or two small towns. Generally, if we didn't get behind a chicken truck or a tractor, the drive took between 65 and 70 minutes. And it was usually uneventful.
Except for when the road crews were doing construction.
I distinctly remember coming around a bend in the road and slowing to a stop behind a very long line of cars and big trucks. I was anxious to get to school and disappointed to see that I was going to be later than planned. As I waited, and waited, and waited, I noticed that most of the vehicles had pulled off to the side of the road. That seemed strange. Then I noticed that several of the truck drivers were out walking around. I couldn't see what had stopped traffic up ahead, so I waited.
But then a white pick up truck came up behind me and went around. I watched him slowly drive by all the cars and trucks, then disappear around the next bend. After a while a few cars came through going the other way, and then another pickup went around me. Since all the cars ahead of me were pulled off the road, I began to think they were in line for something - and not to simply drive down the road. After another ten minutes or so, I convinced myself of this and the next time a pickup truck passed me, I pulled out and followed him.
And I followed him right up to the guy holding the 'STOP' sign at the edge of the construction site. The color drained from my face, then filled in again with a brilliant shade of red as I began to realize that I'd driven to the front of the line of cars waiting to be led through very normal road construction. About that time a big guy with an irritated scowl started quickly toward my car. There was no where to go. I couldn't turn around and get back in line. I couldn't go forward. Even worse, I couldn't melt into the seat and disappear, which was what I really wanted to do.
Slowly, I rolled my window down as he glared at me and began to yell over the loud machinery.
"What the h--- do you think you're doing?", he asked.
The real answer to that question clearly no longer made any sense whatsoever. He wouldn't have listened to my -now illogical - explanation anyway. I was so embarrassed by this point anyway, I could hardly speak. I got something out about being confused and following a truck. Then I nodded obediently as he ranted at me for what felt like the next ten minutes about construction zone safety and skipping lines. About how I wasn't any more important than any of the other people in line and how I needed to be patient. At some point I asked if I should turn around, but instead he waved me over to the side and sent me through first when our side opened up.
As I passed the line of cars heading the other way, I spotted one of those pickup trucks I had followed. It was waiting near the end of the line and attached to front grill was a sign that said, "LAST VEHICLE". I'd never seen the front - only the back. I had apparently followed a construction pickup that had turned around on my side of the site and was heading back to help with more cars.
Being as embarrassed as I was, I probably cried the rest of the way to school. I couldn't believe - and still can't, really - that I did that.
When I arrived I didn't tell a soul. I've tried to forget that it ever happened. But every time someone asks for my most embarrassing story....
It's all I can remember.