From Staff Reports

The campus at East Tennessee State University was majestic in the beauty of a winter’s snow. Students could easily get caught up in the setting and not pay attention to the slippery walks which were struggling to thaw.

As I walked to class on that day, several years ago, I saw her approaching me. She had her arms full of books, a purse and items in a bag. And, then it happened. Her feet flew high into the air as her body plummeted to the ground with a hard landing. Books  were lost mid flight, with many coming back down on top of her.

Uncontrollably, I began to laugh out loud. I couldn’t stop. I had watched the entire episode and it was stuck on “repeat” in my brain. Each time the memory got to the slipping segment, I broke out in laughter as if seeing it for the very first time.

Instinct should have been to run over and see if she needed help but I was too afraid I had deeply offended her or that I might  be in danger of her wrath. But, quickly she rolled over to her knees to proceed and get up.

It is that strange impulse we all have of trying to recover and then look around quickly to see if anyone saw us. She knew at least one person had seen her.

I would like to say that is the only time I have laughed at someone’s expense, but that’s not so. There is just something in me that doesn’t send a message to my brain before it does my mouth.

I also have trouble with serious situations and am not a good comforter or caretaker. It is not that I don’t care. In fact, I have deep love for friends, family and mankind.

I can tolerate taking care of someone for the first day, maybe two. After that my mind starts wondering how much longer, because this is getting old.

I really have trouble at funerals. I begin to panic over how I am going to be able to show my condolences and seem sincere. From that, I get a big grin on my face – a nervous grin.

I take a deep breathe before entering the funeral home and start thinking of those animal abuse commercials they show on TV. Those commercials are so horrible that I often shut my eyes, turn away or change the station. However, I have seen enough glimpses that I can use the images for my “grin erasing” needs.

Most of the time I am near tears from my depressing images before I even get close to the family. There is always someone holding up the line by spending 10 to 15 minutes telling those at the casket some lengthy tale.

To the side I hear an elderly lady telling someone about how she has “lost” three family members in a year. I want to ask her where she last saw them and if I can help her find them since they are “lost.” Now I’ve got the grins again.

For some reason, it is just how my brain functions. I am always looking for the witty comeback or punchline.

It’s not always at the expense of someone else, I have had my embarrassing moments, too. I was in great need of a haircut so I dropped by a hair salon in the mall. I put my coat on the coat rack, asked if anyone was available for a walk-in client and was directed back to a cutting station.

The salon was completely visible to passerbys by the wall of glass and door which covered the entire front of the store. After my cut, I payed and proceeded to walk out. I had forgotten about the clear glass wall and went full force into it. The impact made a loud thud which vibrated the entire area. Luckily it didn’t break but I got out of there as fast as I could, without looking back.

After walking a bit and gaining my composure, I realized I forgot to get my coat. I really liked that coat and, besides, it was cold out. I turned, went back, collected my coat and never went back to that salon again.

Employee Keeli Parkey and I are like identical twins when it comes to personalities and in understanding each other. That is very rare, considering our true, inner personalities. It is comforting to have someone reassure you that your anxiety over something or stupidity is “normal.”

The only problem is that Keeli and I both have our bodies set on “High Stress” mode and we keep contributing to each other’s anxiety. It is common for us to send each other on a panic roller coaster ride when we enter the other’s office.

Keeli quickly enters my office calling my name and I jump high and the same goes for her. Several times she has been startled by coming out of her office as I was ready to pass by. The last time she screamed, jumped, slammed into the wall and ended up in the floor. Of course I laughed.