The One in Which I'm Mistaken for a Homeless Mental PatientDawn Meehan
This week kicked off the start of Red Ribbon week at my school. Red Ribbon week is the time of year when we celebrate being drug-free. Each day there’s a different theme. For example, there’s Red Ribbon Day when students, staff and faculty wear red. There’s Friends Don’t Let Friends Do Drugs Day when students, staff and faculty dress like twins with another friend. And then there’s Drugs and I Don’t Mix Day when we wear mismatched clothes that don’t mix (aka Wacky Tacky Day). Today was Wacky Tacky Day. Being a fun staffulty member, I of course, participated. The only problem? I forgot I had a doctor’s appointment before school.
I got ready for work, headed to my car, then had a Marge Simpson moment as my hair smacked into the roof of my van. (I got my hair that tall by placing a small Gatorade bottle on my head, then wrapping my hair around it, and rubber banding it at the top.) I had to drive to the office with my head tilted back a bit. Still, every time I moved, my hair scraped against the top of my van, jamming the bottle into my scalp. I stopped at a red light and without thinking, glanced over at the car next to me. The guy in the car looked at me, then turned away, only to whip his back around in a classic double-take. I debated whether I should laugh, pull out my camera to capture his expression, or open my window to explain my appearance to him. I opted to turn away and pretend to be invisible. I’m pretty sure the whole ‘willing myself to be invisible’ thing would’ve worked, but the light changed to green and I
floored it gently accelerated toward the doctor’s office.
Could my appointment be located in a small office off the beaten path? Oh heck no. Nope, this doctor’s office is located inside the hospital. Through the lobby. Down the hall. Up the elevator. On the fourth floor. I found a parking space, took a deep breath, and started walking. ‘Maybe people won’t notice me’, I
foolishly optimistically thought to myself.
A mom and her daughter were walking down the aisle toward me. I quickly put my phone to my ear and pretended to have a conversation. I have no idea why I did that. I guess I thought it would make me look more normal if I was talking on the phone. You know, like I had actual friends to talk to. I suppose it doesn’t make you more normal if you’re only pretend-talking to imaginary people on the phone though. I didn’t hear what the little girl said, but I heard the mom clearly. She leaned toward her daughter and explained, “I don’t know, honey. Some people just don’t know how to dress.”
I considered turning around, chasing them down, and explaining Wacky Tacky Day to them, but if someone who looked like I did today ran after me while having fake conversations on a phone, I’d probably get out the pepper spray. I entered the hospital lobby.
I get my blood drawn at this hospital every two weeks. The lobby is usually fairly empty. There are a couple volunteers at a desk, a person at registration, a person at the Starbucks counter, and less than half a dozen people sitting in chairs on any given day. Except today. Tables were set up in every spare inch of the lobby. Upon them were jewelry, bags, and other craft show type items. Apparently they were having a shopping/fundraising kind of event and everyone in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama was there.
Have you ever seen a movie wherein a character enters a room and everyone stops and stares? The music comes to a screeching halt, people drop things, jaws fall open. Crickets can be heard chirping in the background. Incredulous looks on speechless faces surrounded me. I imagined calling out to everyone within earshot, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m from the Central Florida Theater and I’m inviting you all to our production of (Oh crap, think fast! What plays are popular? Jersey Boys? Chicago? Wicked?) um, The Lion King! (Stupid! You don’t look like a lion or a wilderbeest!) I mean, Hair! Come see our new production of Hair! Tickets go on sale today!” (I wonder if there really is a Central Florida Theater. They’re going to wonder what’s going on when people start calling, asking them for Lion King tickets.)
Thankfully, I quickly headed toward the information desk before those thoughts in my head could translate to words that would spill out of my mouth and make me look even more deranged than I already did.
I got in the elevator and pushed the button for the fourth floor, but before the door closed, two other people got on. The one man politely turned away. The woman with the walker, however, openly stared. I explained, “It’s Wacky Tacky Day at my school.” She continued staring. “We’re supposed to dress all tacky.” She looked at me blankly. “I work at a school and this is just a fun day for the kids to dress silly,” I further explained. Blank stare. I took a breath. “I’m a clown and I’m going to visit a sick child.”
“Ohhhhh,” the woman nodded in understanding.
When I got to the office, I loudly explained to the receptionist so that everyone in the
southeast United States waiting room could hear. “It’s Wacky Tacky Day at my school. I don’t always dress this way.” The nurse complimented me on my eyeshadow. “It’s a very pretty color on you,” she said. “Are you blind?! I look like Mimi from Drew Carey!” I screamed “Thank you,” I mumbled.
After seeing the doctor (which is a whole other blog post because he’s a serious wackadoo), I headed toward the elevator again. There were two people in there already. To their credit, they didn’t run out. Or direct me to the mental health unit. The one asked, “Is it Dress Weird at Work Day?”
“Yes!” I replied, relieved. “It’s Wacky Tacky Day at the school where I work!” The other woman admitted, “I didn’t want to ask because I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe that’s just the way you dress.” Fabulous. I look like the sort of person who dresses like a mentally unstable hobo on purpose. I hastily made my way out of the hospital and to my car, staring down at my shoes, refusing to make eye contact with anyone the whole time.
The kids at school thought it was great though and by the time school was over and I had to pick up my own kiddos from day care, I was feeling like I belonged on a Paris runway and not in a special room with padded walls. I walked into my kids’ school, head held high, and smiled at everyone.
“Oh cute! Was it Wacky Tacky Day at your school today?” another parent asked.
I looked at her blankly. “No,” I said innocently. “People have been asking me that all day though. I have no idea why.” Her eyes got as big as saucers and she struggled to find the right words as she tried to ascertain if I was being sarcastic or not. I smiled and winked. Then I grabbed my kids and headed home, not caring who saw me or what they thought.
I highly recommend you dress up in your own wackiest, tackiest outfit and go out in public. It’s a great lesson in self-esteem! If you feel good about who you are (who you really are inside and not just how you look on the outside), it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You know who you are and even if you look like a homeless, color-blind, mental patient, you can go about your day with a smile on your face!
If you liked this, here are some more favorites from Dawn.