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I don’t understand my mind at the best of times but there’s still the odd occasion when it manages to surprise me.
Last weekend I went to a car show with my other half. We got there early so we managed to walk around and look at all the stalls before it got too busy, which was definitely a good idea because as the time crept up to midday it started to get crowded. There were people everywhere; you had to swerve in and out of on-comers at the same time as avoiding those who were trying to elbow their way through and overtake you to get away from the mass of bodies. Strangers were way too close in my personal-space-o’meter but there was no way to avoid the squash. You couldn’t even see any of the car stands or stalls in the show at this point because you had to concentrate so much on where you were walking to ensure that you wouldn’t end up bumping into small children or treading on some poor person’s feet. At one point I actually walked into a camera that was hanging around a man’s neck. He didn’t seem very impressed with my apology but in my defence the camera was sticking out because it was way too big; the big camera man should invest in a phone camera which is more compact and more practical for squashed-people-ness…
I’m going off-topic. Basically, the car show was crowded and busy and noisy. Which I normally hate, or at least worry about, but I felt fine (or at least I thought I did). Anyhow, we decided to go and find somewhere to get lunch because it was only going to get busier. If you’re going to be treading on people’s feet you might as well be doing it on a full stomach.
So we headed off out of the show, getting the back of our hands stamped with a little smiley face on the way out so that we could get back in again later, and found a bar that served food nearby which was a lot quieter. After finding a table and deciding what we both wanted to eat I asked who was going up to the bar to place the order. Unfortunately I had our joint account card so it seemed it was down to me to go and order the food.
I don’t mind ordering. Honestly I don’t. But if I had the choice I’d avoid it – I’m not quite over the whole speaking to people thing. I still panic a little bit when I’m in an unknown environment and have to speak to someone; it’s just an automatic reaction now but one which (most of the time) I can ignore. I don’t know why I panicked at that bar more than I normally would but my first thought was that I’d forget what to order. It wasn’t that difficult because there were only five things to remember; Texas burger, Eggs Benedict, two drinks and the table number. But when I’m anxious my brain has a habit of disposing of any kind of useful information that I might need. So I made it as easy as possible for myself; I decided to have the same drink as Richard (two teas) and I even wrote the table number on my hand. So all I had to ask for was two teas, Eggs Benedict and a Texas burger. Pretty simple, I could do that…
I went up to the bar and stood in what seemed to be the queue (it’s difficult to tell where the queue is in bars because people don’t actually queue, they just stand around the bar in a position where they’re most likely to be noticed). There were a couple of guys at the bar drinking beer and I felt a bit silly asking for cups of tea so I’ll order the food first, I thought. So when my turn in the ‘queue’ came I asked for a Texas burger (one thing at a time).
“Sorry, we only serve breakfast until 12” was the reply I got from the lady behind the counter. My first thought was that she meant it’s gone 12 o’clock so I couldn’t order any breakfast, but I wasn’t ordering breakfast. I thought maybe she’d misheard me so I asked again (a bit louder) for a burger, because I was pretty sure it didn’t come under ‘breakfast food’. Again, she said that they only serve breakfast until 12.
“…So could I order a burger?” This time she actually laughed at me and repeated again what she’d already told me for a third time. Unfortunately, it seems that my brain was concentrating so much on trying to remember what to order that it wasn’t prepared to do any actual thinking. That’s when the panic started. I hate people judging me but she must have thought I was a right idiot. I finally understood that the waitress was trying to tell me that only breakfast was served until 12, and no other food until then. I checked my watch and it was 10 minutes to 12. I felt embarrassed and I just wanted to run away, or to become invisible and crawl under a table and for no one to see me. But I was an adult and I couldn’t do that.
So, with a slightly shaky voice, I asked for two teas instead. While the amused and slightly perplexed waitress was getting the teas I thought through what to do about the food. Maybe I’d order myself a breakfast, then when I go back to the table I can tell Richard and he can order his own if he wanted anything. He was too far away to run back to check with anyway. The waitress came back with the teas and I asked for Eggs Benedict. To which her reply was “Sorry, we haven’t got any eggs left. Is there anything else you’d like?”
At that point my nervousness turned into annoyance. Why refuse to serve anything non-breakfast, only 10 minutes away from the cut-off point, when you haven’t even got any eggs left? Surely most breakfast food on the menu includes eggs? I felt like sarcastically asking if they could manage a bowl of coco-pops, or were they were out of milk too? But I didn’t, I just weakly shook my head and told her that just the teas would do.
I managed to pay for the teas but then came the next conundrum; they didn’t come with milk. I had a quick glance around at the bar but I couldn’t see where I was supposed to get the milk from. I couldn’t ask the waitress because I already felt overly idiotic so I just gave up and took the two un-milked teas back to our table, where I mumbled to Richard about what had happened and that I couldn’t find the milk. He set off and brought back some milk in a glass for our teas (how do normal people do this stuff so easily?).
I sat there with my now milky tea getting more and more worked up about it all. Why do I find things so difficult? I can’t even manage something as simple as two cups of tea and it’s really not that hard. My heart was beating too quickly and I realised that my hands were shaking; I felt like I used to when I was back at school and that hasn’t happened in a very long time. It scared me even thinking about how I used to feel most days at school. There would be something little that would set me off and I’d feel so pathetic that I’d want to run away and hide and not have to face anyone ever again. When that panicky feeling returns now, over ten years later, it reminds me of how horrible it used to be. It also reminds me of how far I’ve come, but most importantly it reminds me of how much I don’t want to go back to feeling that way every single day.
It’s difficult to explain the intensity of it. It wasn’t just because I didn’t have any milk in my tea (although that was pretty upsetting because I hate strong tea). It’s just that I felt so out of control of my own feelings. I tried to carry on as normal as possible but if anyone had looked at me and asked me how I was feeling at that moment I wouldn’t have been able to reply without bursting into tears. Is that classed as a panic attack? Or am I just delusional? I don’t know. Unless you can somehow transport your feelings onto someone else to confirm, how can you really tell? All I know is that when it happens, I want to escape. As soon as possible.
Back at the table with my cup of tea I turned my chair around so that I was facing the window with my back to everyone, and tried not to cry in public. I breathed in and out and I talked and I carried on. And then I looked down at my hand and saw that the little stamped smiley face had somehow been rubbed out. How ironic.
To be honest, I don’t really know why I’m posting this. I almost deleted it. But it’s here now, so oh well.