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We Thought You Would Be Prettier: True Tales of the Dorkiest Girl Aliveby Laurie Notaro
"Are you stupid?" the man behind the counter at the garage yelled at me. "Just how stupid are you? How could you be so stupid?"
Honestly, I just stood there, too shocked to say anything.
"Are you an idiot?" he asked, shaking his hand at me.
"Funny you should ask that," I said, trying to make a joke as I reached into my purse. "As a matter of fact..."
I slid the book across the counter toward him.
"What's this?" he asked, looking over the rim of his grimy circa-1970s glasses. "Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure...what? Club? Is that Club? You one of these idiots?"
"Yeah," I said and tried to laugh. "Pretty much. Guess you could say I wrote the book."
And to tell the truth, that was no lie.
In fact, I was only a matter of days into my book tour and I had already been called an idiot numerous times.
"I think if you get on a plane right now you're an idiot," my mother warmly informed me a week before my plane left for New York. "It's an ORANGE ALERT, you know. ORANGE. Orange isn't something to fool around with! Fool around with yellow, green, or purple, but don't mess with orange! Because I'll tell you right now, if the orange terrorist gets on a plane, it's going to be the one you're on."
"I know," I said, trying to reassure her. "At least if it was the purple terrorist, he'd be easy to spot. He can sing 'I Love You' all he wants, but when that giant eggplant marches down the aisle, no one loves Barney if he's gonna be sitting in your row."
"You shouldn't be kidding around, you should be scared," my mother said, simply because she was.
"Scared?" I questioned bravely. "Listen, I've got a freckle on my arm that's changing colors more frequently than a Rainbow Brite, I have a tooth in the back of my mouth that's thumping louder than a stereo in a '79 Monte Carlo with a chain steering wheel, and either the zipper on the back of my sweater got bent at the dry cleaner's or I now have a neck hump the size of a bagel. I ran out of fear before I even left the house this morning."
But honestly, even I didn't believe myself.
Although I was determined not to let a silly old orange alert keep me from my long-awaited book tour, my mother had planted a seed. In fact, I had caught my imagination wandering about such an event. I had even choreographed scenarios in my head of lunging at the terrorist with a Vulcan grip and a swift kick where it counts. Then I would throw the weeping, bruised evildoer to the ground and shout, "You tell Osama Yo Mama to bring it on with the chicks who simultaneously have acne, gray hair, and suspicious moles, buddy! Because THAT is anger, Captain Cave, THAT IS ANGER!"
Suddenly, I look down and am dressed in a denim jumpsuit unzipped to my sternum, and behind me, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith (please, don?t talk Drew Barrymore to me — I was a teenager in the seventies and eighties, and as a result spent nearly a decade of my life with curling-iron burns on my ears, neck, and forehead, some of which matured into scars. Let me have my Farrah Fawcett dream — I have earned it) are ready to hand out free samples of Kickbutt Pie. Oh yeah, and my frosted, immaculately feathered hair ROCKS, making a majority of the other passengers visibly jealous. Now, despite the bravado of my Nick at Nite mind, I was days away from the date of my trip and I was trying very hard not to let my mother?s words sink into my brain and nest there. Typically before a big trip I am so excited that I head to the airport days in advance, eating Cinnabons like a bear heading into hibernation. This time, however, I hadn?t even started packing for the three-week-long trip.
I have to go, I told myself, it will be fun. This is your book tour! A trip around the country! Nice hotels, room service — that's right, room service! Cheesecake and wine at your command! You're going to great cities, I reminded myself — New York, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor. It's like being a rock star, well, without the rock, or the star, but still, you get to do America on your publisher's dime! And right now, it's not 117 degrees in any of those places.
But it is where you live.
And honestly, that alone was my inspiration to toss twenty-one pairs of underwear into the washing machine and then throw them into my suitcase. Once I realized that I could remove myself from a Phoenix summer — a place where a coin or safety pin left in the sun on a car seat for seven seconds becomes a glowing — red branding iron — for almost a month, I couldn't pack fast enough. I even packed a sweater in case I encountered a cold trend and hit temperatures under eighty-five degrees.
Now completely invigorated for my trip, I anticipated more security at the airport than usual due to the alert, and I was right. The security at the airport was heavier than the security at either of Madonna's weddings, but I was prepared and had arrived almost three hours before my scheduled departure.
What I was not prepared for, however, was my conflict with the metal detector, but I really don?t believe that was my fault. See, the thing that was running through my head when I was getting dressed that morning was "comfort," not "Don't wear the pants that need a belt to keep them held up, because you just might have to take that belt off when you go through security. And when your wedding ring sets off the metal detector, the National Guard guy with the machine gun isn't really going to care that when you hold both your arms out to your sides — including the one that's clutching at your waistband — your pants will slide down to your fanny faster than a Kennedy getting off a bar stool after happy hour. He won't care, even if the hysterical, uncontrolled laughter from all two hundred people in line behind you drowns out any beep the little wand might make as it goes over your bra hook and the guilty wedding ring. He won't care. He's too busy being mesmerized by the old-grandma panties you?re wearing, particularly the part where the white cotton separates from the elastic for about eight inches and forms what looks like a kangaroo pouch over the girth of your belly."
"What an idiot," I heard a man behind me say, and when I turned around I saw that he was shaking his head at me.
"Hey," I whispered to the National Guard guy as he patted my paunch. "See this guy behind me with no belt? I heard him say he used to golf with Jose Padilla!!"
As if that wasn?t enough of a self-esteem buzzkill to last me for my whole tour, in a matter of hours I would find myself in a greasy, grimy New York City garage being called an idiot again by a guy with glasses so dirty they had turned green, a chip on his shoulder, and, directly underneath, armpit stains bigger than his head.
At least then, however, I was wearing a good percentage of my clothes.
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