Friday, January 16, 2009

The Girl with One Red Flip Flop

This is the story of the red flip flop. This is the story of the girl who risked everything for the red flip flop. This is the story of the girl who for one single moment in March of 2003, lost her damn mind.

I thought I knew myself. I thought I knew what my life was truly worth. I mean I was 27, in a great, loving relationship, and having an awesome time vacationing in Cancun with my very best girlfriends. But in the midst of this vacation, in the whirlwood of tequila shots, snorkeling, frolicking in a bikini in crystal blue waters, I did something truly embarrassing. Something so embarrassing that I rarely speak of it. It hurts my heart to think of it. Something happened and to this day I really can't fully explain my actions. But I think it's an important story in the canon of my life. Indeed, I think it's a revelation. So I'm willing to record it here for posterity, for the eyes of the masses. Plus a lot of people have been bugging me to tell the story of the red flip flop...you asked, you shall receive.

It was mid-week in Cancun. We had made the decision to do something adventurous that day, as opposed to lazing around on the beach drinking Dos Equis. Our little group made its way down to some touristy snorkeling place and after shelling out the pesos we boarded these tiny, 100 year old, motorized dinghys. Now after my wave-runner accident the previous summer, I was having a bit of a time about this whole watercraft venture. And I think what stressed me out the most was the fact that we were sitting two to a boat, and one of each party was responsible for operating the vehicle. I was panicking, thinking to myself, "Why are they letting just anyone operate a motorboat on the open ocean?" It's not that I didn't trust the driving skills of my girlfriends, but they weren't the only people in the group. There were about 10 boats in all, and the people I didn't know were young and sort of a rowdy bunch. I don't know. They made me nervous.

I ended up in a passenger in the boat with Jackie, who, bless her heart, was sweetly trying to talk me down from my panic the entire time we were speeding to our destination. I'm sure she was secretly praying for a sea monster to fly out of the sea and bite my stupid head right off my body. I wouldn't blame her. I mean, I was getting on my own damn nerves. I remember just constantly making that noise a person makes when they think they're about to get in an accident. You know the one...it's like a deep breath but it's combined with a high pitched squeal best kept reserved for use by pigs and hyenas. Yeah that's the one.

After an awesome snorkel dive where we saw many colorful fishies, I mustered up the courage for the boat ride home. Well the ride home was even more frightening. My anxiety levels hit a new high. Poor Jackie was trying so hard not to go too fast because I was acting like a pussy. But then we would get too behind the other boats and I was terrified that we'd get lost on the open sea and nobody would find us for days and we'd have to draw straws over who got to eat the last tic-tac. Folks, I behaved badly. It had a lot to do with the dumb ass frat boys zooming around with their boats scaring the shit out of me. And we were going so slow that these guys were like circling around us instead of going in a straight line forward. I think I even yelled obscenities at them.

When we finally docked, my relief was palpable. I know what the Titanic survivors must have felt like when they finally reached New York. And I guess my point to all of this back story is to highlight just how terrified of death I was that day, even when the possibility of death was quite slim. It's like during these moments I was so in love with being alive that the vaguest inkling of danger was enough to throw me into a tizzy. Which is exactly why what happened next is so bizarre and unexplainable.

After disembarking our "ships", we washed off the salt water, put our dry clothes on and starting to make our way back to the hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk from the snorkel place. The spirit of the main Cancun roadway is just ridiculous in terms of traffic, driving speeds, and general lawlessness. Seriously, the philosophy of the swarms of busdrivers zooming down the main Cancun strip seems to be "Get the fuck out my way". So it's obviously exceedingly important to observe Walk/Don't Walk signs, and considering that the roadway is very wide, even when the sign says "Walk", you'd better hustle your ass to make it across before the Don't Walk sign flickers or risk getting reamed by a bus.

I don't know if you ever attempted to run in flip flops while your feet were wet, but let me tell you - a more daunting task you will never find. That is just the deed I was faced with doing on the side of a high traffic, lawless Cancun highway. So we were running, all of us girls, to make it across before the Don't Walk sign flickered, but I'm more slipping and sliding than running. Then, I make it halfway across the road when my flip flop goes flying off my foot.

It was one of those moments that takes forever even though it's only a moment. It's like when you get in a car accident. And in that second between the realization that something bad is happening and that actual moment of impact, you feel like time has stood still. You feel like that moment is eternal. Well, there I stood in the middle of the road with one flip flop on and the other about 10 feet behind me. I had a big decision to make in that little moment in time. Do I keep on running and leave the Red Flip Flop to it's fate? Or do I risk getting smashed into a million tiny little pieces by a bus in the middle of a Cancun highway to save it?

Most sane people wouldn't even have to ask the question in the first place. But for some reason I made the irrational decision that my Red Flip Flop was somehow, someway intrinsically more valuable than my own life. Going back for that Flip Flop, I almost felt like I was looking down on myself from some perch in the sky, and by the time I reached it I could sense that the traffic light was very, very green. I could also sense that there were many, many pairs of eyes staring at the crazy person holding a red flip flop in the middle of a highway blocking shitloads of buses and cars full of tourists and Mexican citizens. For a while, the world got very quiet. I don't know if it was a stunned silence as in "What the hell is happening right now?" or if it was just the hush of my brain having one of those types of seizures that you have but you don't know you're having it. I really wish I could explain what happened next on a seizure.

Suddenly, Noise. Horns blaring, people in cars and buses screaming at me to GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE ROAD, my girlfriends yelling my name in absolute horror and disbelief. So I put my flip flop back on my feet and start to run in the direction of the friendly voices, in my head I'm just telling myself, "make it to the friendly voices", but my feet are still wet and running in flip flops in wet feet is still not a good idea. And I fucking FALL. Like, I fell down in the middle of the highway where everyone is staring at me and beeping at me and angry at me for blocking traffic. This is the situation. I lost my damn mind.

So finally, I get up, my face flushed with embarrassment and start running again but I keep slipping and sliding awkwardly because my feet are wet and I'm still running in flip flops. I think the abject humiliation was also effecting my brain function and perhaps the blood loss from my gaping knee wound. When I finally made it to the side, my girlfriends are at one moment staring at me in disbelief and the next howling in cruel peals of laughter. You have no idea how it feels. You never will.

So that's the story. That's the story of The Red Flip Flop. That's the story of the day I decided my life was less valuable than a piece of plastic footwear I bought at Old Navy for $6.99. As I said, I have no justification or explanation for my actions. They're undefendable. And if you ever wondered if it was possible to die of embarrassment, now you have your answer. Because if that were at all possible, I'm pretty sure I'd be dead now.

I still have those red flip flops. I keep them in a special place in my closet. I keep them as a reminder to myself that I'm as susceptible as anyone to a momentary lapse in sanity and quite capable of humiliating myself in unimaginable ways. And whenever I start thinking too highly of myself, I remember what happened that day. And I laugh my fucking ass off.



*********************Me and the flips worth dying for*********************

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