Last week I received an award, and I don't think I could have botched accepting it anymore than I did. Now I've received awards before, and I've embarrassed myself in some of those situations, too - but last week takes the cake. It's like I stood up and belly rolled to the stage.
For instance, at one award ceremony in college, my parents were invited. Upon my parents telling me they were coming, I told them "absolutely do not come. No one else's parents will be there."
Well, I debuted as an orphan that day. Everyone else's parents were there. Several times friends and other parents asked me where mine were.
Me: "Have you see Jumanji?"
(Sorry, I re-watched Jumanji recently. I highly recommend you do, too. Great movie.)
That same year I received another award. They called my name, and I began to walk up to the stage. Now I actually get really uncomfortable standing in front of crowds - which don't most people? - and I also am very much about efficiency. The awards stage was an awkward height off the ground - easy enough to lift my leg onto it like a box squat, but there were stairs on either end to ascend. Like, two stairs.
I approached the stage. I recognized I was equidistant from both stairs. The award presenters were much closer. People would gawk at me longer if I walked to the stairs. I gazelle-loped up onto the stage. I didn't think it was that awkward to do, but my friends reflected later I resembled a giraffe climbing a fence to reach some new leaves.
Which brings us to last week. Dinner was served during the award ceremony. I knew I was getting an award, but not which award. My friend quickly whispered to me to stop eating, but I insisted I wasn't getting this award. I wondered if I had time to fetch a meatball.
(Don't worry, that's not the embarrassing part. I didn't get a meatball.)
The presenter begins describing a new award. Now this sounded like one I could be in the running for. I put my fork down.
"Remember to wear your jacket on stage," my friend whispered.
"Did you take the tags off?" she asked.
I blinked. I had taken the tag off before I left home, but how did she know there were tags? How did she know the suit was new?
"What tags?" I said.
She grabbed my jacket and quickly found two tags I had neglected to remove.
"Shoot," I said
Thankfully, she managed to tear them off my sleeve before the presenter announced, "The first winner goes to a PhD," oh my god it's me, "in mathematics." It's definitely me.
"Don't forget your jacket," my friend said.
"This individual has served as president of the student government," the presenter continued, "a member of the University Council..."
When do I stand? Should I stand now? Okay, I'm going to stand.
"...a member of the library advisory council..."
I'm putting on my jacket. My arm won't enter the sleeve. There, I made it.
"He also had the opportunity to go to Qatar in the fall as part..."
Why is he still talking? Why is the rest of the room so silent? I have this half-hearted realization I've stood too soon, people are watching me and the presenter, and maybe I should sit. I begin to sit. I realize it's too late. I resume standing. Gosh, I can't just stand here. I'll go to the stage.
As I go to the stage, the presenter is still talking, which is great resume-wise, but I feel like I'm impeding and maybe look impatient or maybe just an oblivious buffoon? And now I'm at the stage, AND HE'S STILL LISTING MY ACCOLADES.
I hear the audience laugh. Something is wrong. I don't know what is wrong. I feel disheveled. I am disheveled.
"I am proud to give this award to," (finally!!!), "Cazey Williams," the presenter looks at me, and I beam back from two feet away because, hey, I made it to the stage in record time. At least I didn't climb the stage; I took the stairs.
"Do you want me to fix your jacket?" he says next, and that is when I discover my lapels are sticking up.
A flashbulb goes off as someone snaps a photo.
Oh my gawd. Talk about looking suave.
"Sure," I say.
"I can do this because I know him," the presenter laughs.
Guillotine me now.
Flashbulb goes off again.
We shake hands. I accept award. I think of how this misery will end in five seconds when I'm seated again at my table. I begin to beeline to the table, award in hand. But I spot my friend waving at me to stay, and I remember the instructions at the beginning - award winners should wait at the front until all winners are presented and then we take a group photo.
Why am I first?! Where is justice?
I nod knowingly, the audience does too, and they chuckle as I take up my place in line for the gallows. I stare at the carpet as the next winner is announced, his achievements narrated, and he stays seated for the duration until his name, at last, is said. And then he calmly, deliberately, walks to the stage. I resume staring at the carpet reliving my nightmarish stroll minutes before. I'm confident my red face matches my red tie.
At long last, the last photo is snapped, a final handshake is had, and I reclaim my seat - but I'm not sure what resonates loudest: pride at my award or mortification at my acceptance.