Chasing Buses (on risking embarrassment)

We've all seen (or lived) the moment. We round a corner, 100m away from our bus stop, only to see that their bus is already there. We notice that people are still lining up, and there's a steady stream of traffic that should slow the buses pull out from the curb... we can make it... or maybe we can't. At this moment a clash occurs within our person, as two of our most loathed events appear on the horizon... will we have to wait, or will we have to be seen to be trying.

People, generally, when trying to catch the bus, do this weird half run… where they keep stopping to walk for a bit: burst sprint - power walk - burst sprint - power walk - weird skip thing - burst sprint. Alternatively, people employ a type of run which minimises upper body/arm movement. Perhaps believing that they can fool people in the cars they pass who only see the top half of their body, who, I guess, are to assume that they are just walking really fast (this is actually the opposite of what I used to do at football training, when we were running as a pack I'd walk toward the back and just bob my shoulders as if I was running). As this person half-runs for the bus (horrified to think that their tardiness and subsequent effort is a spectator sport) even their waving down of the bus becomes affected. Rather than waving like that person on the phone at the football trying to prove to the person on the other side of the stadium that they are, in fact, present, the bus chaser does a weird arm shoot, quickly out and then back in, like a person trying to ask for the cheque in a restaurant without arising the attention of her fellow diners.

The bus chaser wants to chase down the bus, they just don't want anyone to know they want to, they don't want to be seen to try, especially if they fail... for what kind of unbearable embarrassment would that be!?!

I think this aversion to be seen ‘trying’, finds its root in our aversion to being embarrassed (which, due the juvenile popularity of the term ‘try hard’, it is forever linked). It’s not solely running for the bus where this comes out (getting left hanging when going for a high five, struggling to open a chip packet in public, or how we often run five metres after tripping are all further examples… the latter comes from a great Ellen DeGeneres bit). The reason I'm drawing out the particular example of running for the bus is because of its clash with our despising of waiting. Because, sometimes, through that clash, for a moment, our fear of embarrassment is trumped and we RUN!

What I want to advocate for here is more than running, it’s for embarrassment… or rather, that it is ok to risk, and occasionally be, embarrassed. It’s ok to try. It’s ok to lay aside composure and coolness and actually go after something. It’s ok to chase more than buses.

I have a really embarrassing 'asking out' story - I'm not going to tell it here, because I only have so many stories and I need that one for another post down the line - but the entire asking out/dating/relationship game is a risky one, with an ever-lurking potential for embarrassment. But we have to risk embarrassment. We have to risk trying in order to progress in any way. Had I allowed that first (not really first) embarrassment to stop me then I wouldn't have asked out Heather (although I did that over Facebook, so I guess, I shied a little away from risk there) and I would have missed so much. I know this is a somewhat flippant and overplayed analogy, but still, remember the bus thing? that was inspired.

And, do not forget, that it was an act that could have certainly caused embarrassment, and act that went beyond the normal, beyond the accepted, beyond composure, which caused Christ to say: "Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her" (Mark 14:9).   

So perhaps what I am advocating is asking people out, perhaps it's anointing the coming of grace, or perhaps it's breaking up one of those stupid dance circles where everyone's just shuffling from side to side looking in the vacant middle of the circle waiting for someone to do something...

The moments that are remembered (in the grand scheme), the moments we remember (in our scheme), the moments that stand out as formative, as lasting, which capture something of the depths of life and the overcoming of grace, are the moments where we allow our concerns of superficial suaveness to slip away and reach for something, long for something, try for something, risk for something. 

This isn’t about whether you're an extrovert or shy – those might be factors some of the time, but this runs deeper. This becomes about being able to let go of certainty and surety. Being able to lay aside composure and control. Being willing to be a little less cool, calm and collected for the sake of experiencing something, for going beyond the routine, for life!

Forgetting the poetics and the emphatics, what I am trying to say, and I'm really trying to avoid a platitude or something they'd put on a motivational poster... is, if we live our lives in a constant fear of being embarrassed, if we live too concerned about composure to risk looking like we've tried (at least once in a while) then we are going to miss much more than the bus.

For God chose the embarrassing things of the world to shame the wise.