The Backwards Pants Fire Drill Affair
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(Or: Just Don’t Make a Scene)

I’ve always been a low-key kind of girl. When it comes down to it, I’d rather not make a scene, if at all possible. I just don’t want to attract too much attention to myself—just in case I happen to be doing something stupid when I’ve got everyone’s attention. That fear of the slight possibility of looking stupid in front of my peers has often gotten me into rather uncomfortable situations—especially when I was a kid. Take, for instance, that one fateful day in elementary school, when my fear of making a scene forced me to panic and lock myself in a stall in the school bathroom.

When I was a kid, my mom frequently dressed me in plain cotton pants that had an elastic waist. In fact, I think she might have made them herself since I happen to remember having several pairs — in all kinds of colors. One morning, I guess I hadn’t been paying much attention as I put my elastic-waist cotton pants on because after I got to school and sat down at my desk, I realized that my pants were on backwards. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t want to have to get up and make a scene and explain my dilemma to my teacher, so I sat at my desk in my backwards pants and waited until it was convenient to sneak out — when everyone was getting their lunches and bringing them back to their desks.

Once in the girls’ room, I locked myself in one of the stalls and started taking my shoes off. Just as I’d finished removing my shoes — and had my pants around my ankles — a bell began to ring. It wasn’t the regular school bell, though. It was much louder — and it didn’t stop ringing.

The school was having a fire drill, and I was caught with my pants down.

I had to think fast and figure out what I was going to do. I heard the excited mob rushing past the bathroom door as I contemplated my options. I could hide out in the bathroom until it was over — assuming, of course, that it was, in fact, a fire drill and not a real fire — but that had to be breaking some kind of rule, which made me nervous since I was a very obedient little girl. But if I decided to join the rest of the school out on the playground, where they were probably already lining up in their orderly ranks, I’d have to quickly get my pants on the right way and get my shoes back on (which is no small thing when you’re just a kid, having to carefully make all those loops and bows and knots and stuff). And by that time, I’d be the only kid left running through the halls. When I finally got outside, I’d still have to find the rest of my class. Every single person in my whole elementary school would be standing there in their neat and organized lines staring at me. And then I’d definitely be making a scene.

So I decided to go with the easier (though probably slightly disobedient, in some way) solution. I hid. And I hoped and prayed that this was really just another fire drill — because it would be really embarrassing to die in a burning building just because I’d accidentally put my pants on backwards that morning.

I took a seat on the toilet and carefully tied my shoes while the fire drill bell continued to ring, sounding louder and louder with each passing second. But I wasn’t about to leave. So I stayed locked in my stall, hoping that none of the teachers would check the bathrooms to make sure no one was skipping out on the fire drill — and that no one would actually take roll and notice that I was missing. Fortunately, I had become so good at not making a scene that no one even realized that I was gone.

Finally, it was over. I waited until I heard the excited mob once again rushing back through the halls past the bathroom door, back to their classrooms. Then I came out of my hiding place and dashed back into the busy hall. I grabbed my lunch and went back to the classroom — just like nothing had ever happened.

Quietly settled back in my desk, nibbling on the lunch that my mom had packed in my Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox, I was relieved that I hadn’t been caught hiding in the bathroom during the fire drill. And I was relieved that it had just been a drill.

But, most of all, I was just relieved that I hadn’t made a scene.

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