My pastor is beginning a new series, God on Film. When I walked in to worship Sunday, I was encouraged to walk the “red carpet,” a plastic runner which extended from the front door into the sanctuary. I smiled as I did so because it reminded me of The Most Embarrassing Moment of My Entire Life.
Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to win a trip to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. I’ve actually had that good fortune twice, but that’s for another day.
I ended up taking my mom. She’d never been to California and couldn’t name a single Grammy nominee that year but she can hang with the best of ‘em so off we went.
When we landed in LA, we were met by a long line of chauffeurs, one of whom was holding a sign with my name on it. Squeeee! To this day, I regret not going all Super Tourist and taking his picture. And yeah, I wish I’d taken the sign, too.
Wanting to explore, we rented a car and went to Santa Monica, my mom wandering the boardwalk at Venice beach, me muttering Do not say a word! as a woman sauntered past us wearing only a bikini bottom. We bounced to as many other places as we could fit in. Hollywood & Vine, Grauman’s Chinese, House of Blues, The Hollywood Bowl.
The next day we went to breakfast and—with poor planning—decided that we should get our hair done. So off we went, clueless as can be, looking for someone to do our hair at the very last minute. We had to be back at the hotel by 3 and one salon after another said they were booked. We ended up at a funky little shop that featured pictures of women with braids, weaves, and afros. We went inside, my mom saying Uhmmm I’m not sure this is – as we went in and started talking to the owner. She offered a warm smile and instantly started playing with my hair. Not exactly the ice breaker that usually works with me, but I liked her so we sat down.
Each and every person who came into the salon did double-takes from my mom and me, up to the owner. And each and every time, she smiled and said, These girls are goin’ to the Grammys! We started talking and it turned out she, too, was from Michigan. Even from our city. By that time, I was off the charts with goosebumps and I knew we were in the exact right spot.
We left feeling pampered and beautiful and glad for having pushed past feeling like we didn’t belong. But we were more than a little bit late. We raced back to the hotel, flew past people in the lobby who were all ready to go, and up to our rooms to shower and change.
We somehow pulled it off in under half an hour and were ready on time. Stepping out of the hotel, we saw a line of limos as long as the eye could see. We were ushered into one of them, and off we went.
We were on our way to the Staples Center, and as we got closer, the limos seemed to multiply. There were hundreds of them everywhere and at one point, we were stopped by a traffic cop who asked where we were going. When the driver told him, the officer directed him to a gate.
A few turns later, we were within a few yards of the building. I was aware of it being very crowded and again, limos were everywhere. When our car came to a stop, a man dressed in topcoat and tails opened my door and I grinned from ear to ear.
My mom, soaking it all in, waited for someone to open her door, as well. The man offered me his hand, I took it, and stepped out of the car. I walked around the back of the car, still grinning, and I literally froze. Picture a deer in the headlights.
I was standing on the red carpet.
There were a hundred thousand million people standing around me, all holding cameras and – I’m telling you – they looked at me, put their cameras down and I could just see it on their faces. Awww geez, that’s no one and they went back to chattering.
Meanwhile, a woman along the ropeline was asking me a question. This all took maybe 60 seconds but I assure you it was the longest 60 seconds of my life. She was still asking me something and so I focused and heard her say,
Are you a presenter or a nominee?
This got the photographers’ attention again and they continued to stare at me as I was rendered mute. So the Boss of The Red Carpet repeated her question, this time with a little more insistence.
Are you a presenter or a nominee?
Seconds went by in slow motion, and this time I was able to make a sound. I believe it was something along the lines of
She hit me with it again, this time a little more slowly. You know. For the idiot mute girl taking up space on her red carpet.
Are. You. A. Presenter. Or. A. Nominee? This time, I got out twice as many syllables.
My mind was racing and blank all in the same moment. All I could think was, Holy crap, get it together, Patricia!!! I swallowed cotton balls and croaked out
It was the best I could come up with. What with all my focus and mental acuity currently being used to carry out functions such as standing and breathing and not peeing myself.
By then, she’d had just about enough of me and she put her hand up and spoke into her headset microphone like a very perturbed Madonna. She paused her conversation and shooed me off with a flicking motion of her hand. But not before she said, just as loud as she wanted to be, that we needed to go around to the entrance.
The entrance. Wow! What a grand idea! I never would’ve thought of that!
Somehow I was able to skulk back around the end of that ginormous limo and Mr. Topcoat & Tails opened my door again. I avoided all eye contact and got back inside. I looked at my mom with both horror and exasperation and shrieked,
Where were you??!!
She didn’t respond. I looked at her and could see that she was absolutely shaking. That silent, please-let-me-stop-laughing shaking that we do at church or funerals when we know that laughing is just really very inappropriate. But there she was, shaking away, until I thought she was going to have a spell from holding in all that force. She finally let it out in a high-pitched scream, followed by whoops of laughter.
By the time we got to the entrance we were literally begging for mercy, holding our stomachs that ached from laughter. Wiping tears and makeup and embarrassment off our faces, we went into the commoner’s door, found our seats, and had a wonderful evening.
Now I know what you’re thinking.
Endless people have supplied the answers I should’ve given at the time. I should’ve feigned indignation and marched in with authority. I should’ve rattled off Best Spoken Word Album or cited Best Instrumental Arrangement with Accompanying Vocals. Blah blah blah, I’ve heard them all. Trust me. It wasn’t gonna happen.
After the show, we made our way through a sea of people, out to find the needle limo in the haystack parking lot. It was wall-to-wall people, each trying to go in a different direction, most trying to keep track of the person they were with. I turned around to make eye contact with my mom, and as I turned back, I walked right smack dab into someone. Instantly having my face planted in the middle of her chest, I knew she was clearly taller than me.
I took a step backwards and looked up to apologize. As I was saying, Oh I’m so sorrrrry, Natalie Cole smiled down at me, said, That’s okay, and disappeared into the crowd.
A moment later, I was being moved along in a sea of humanity but I could still see her over the crowd, heading to an exit. I smiled to see that she was going in the right direction. I’d recognize that red carpet anywhere.