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500 Pens of Embarrassment

May 19, 2014

Well, it had to end at some point, y'all...

Not my blog! My blogging break! (Gotcha.)

Honestly, I didn't even mean to go on a hiatus. Work got busy and then I went home for 10 days (so many stories to tell you from that trip!), and I found myself not having any time to write. Three weeks was a little excessive though -- sorry about that.

To make it up to you, lovelies, I have a GREAT story for you. It's one of those that was so embarrassing, I actually wish someone I know had been there to witness it and vouch for me later on. Alas, I was all by myself, except for the couple thousand other people who were in the vicinity of THE INCIDENT.

From time to time I am called upon to man a table at an event. This time, the event was at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor, and I was working the last day, which, for anyone who has ever worked a trade show or convention knows, is the day you are desperate to get rid of your swag so you don't have to lug it back to the office. I wasn't too worried about it because we were giving away gun locks, a pretty heavy item, but also a hot item. By the end of the day, I'd given them all away, as well as a bunch of pens and pamphlets.

I made friends with the guy next to me, and when things slowed down I watched his table so he could get lunch, and he offered to watch my table for half an hour so I could take a look around the exhibit floor. That's when I met this sweet fella:

These guys are service dogs that are trained by wounded warriors. Needless to say, they were pretty popular, right next to my gun locks.

(I don't get it either.)

At the end of the day, I only had two boxes I needed to take back -- one box of fact sheets and pamphlets, and one box full of pens. Five hundred pens, to be exact. My neighbor friend offered to help me take the boxes to my car, but they weren't that heavy so I thanked him but declined his help.


I hadn't taken into account that I also had a bag with my laptop in it, my general giant work bag with who knows what in it, plus a swag bag of military junk for my nephews, plus I was in heels and a stiff pencil skirt. On top of that, my left ankle is still pretty weak from last year's surgery, and I'm generally uncoordinated, so...

Here's a view of the Gaylord main area. It's echoe-y.

On the other side is a similarly open area, without the restaurant, and a very steep, long escalator will take you down into it. That's the escalator I attempted to go on to get to the parking garage. I couldn't find an elevator. I thought it was just two boxes and I could handle it. But those two boxes plus all my bags added what I'm estimating was 200 pounds. 100? Okay maybe 40. Or 20. Whatever it was, it was about one pound more than I could balance on moving stairs.

This is why I chickened out as soon as I stepped onto the top stair. I laughed nervously at the dude behind me and said, "Think I'm gonna re-strategize how to do this...please go ahead!"

I dropped the boxes and regretted not taking the help when I had it. Men and women in military uniforms were all around, as well as exhibitors dressed like me with clever dolleys to transport their boxes. I had a moment of "I have no plan on how to do this" and then my brain stopped working. I could not envision how this was going to happen. I somehow decided to just take one box down then come up and get the other one. No one would steal a box of paper, right? I decided against leaving my bags because someone just might take those, and I was at a military convention and didn't want to look like I was planting a bomb in a knockoff Louis Vuitton computer bag. These are valid concerns, y'all. 

I picked up the box of 500 pens. If I can get these down, the paper will be a piece of cake, I thought. I again stepped on the top stair. As it moved forward, I knew I had to commit in that second or jump back again. I committed. My ankle wobbled. I shifted weight to my right foot to compensate. My knee buckled. My right foot was no longer on the stair of my left. I was falling.

I glanced down the mile-long escalator and imagined tumbling to the bottom and ruining my shoes. My brain stopped working again. Thankfully, my arms took over. They knew that the only option was to lose the pens. Five. Hundred. Pens.

To the left of the escalator is a stairwell. Many people were using the stairwell because it's a military convention and people in the military like to exercise wherever they can find an opportunity to do so. I watched my arms thrust the box of pens to the left. I watched as the box beautifully balanced on the moving handrail for a couple of seconds, and I watched as the handrail quite magnificently launched the box into the air and over the stairwell. And, to my galvanizing horror, I watched as the box flaps opened up, and five hundred pens took flight over the men and women of our Armed Forces.      

I don't know if you've ever thrown 500 pens onto stairs from the top of a stairwell in a giant hotel made of glass, but it sounds akin to firecrackers going off. You see, 500 pens don't hit the ground once. They bounce down the stairs and hit over and over and over again. Basic math tells us that 500 pens bouncing down a mile-long staircase will make a popping sound 8,000 times each, which equals me being unable to move for the duration of the escalator ride and realizing I should have risked the computer bag bomb scare.

Some people jumped, startled. Some froze just like me, watching the bouncing pens helplessly. But one woman began howling laughing. It was the best thing that could have happened. You know when you're in a restaurant and you're looking for the bathroom and you trip and laugh it off and make eye contact with the people around you hoping they'll laugh with you because somehow you'll feel less stupid then? Well it was like that, but way, way worse.

Three hours later I made it to the bottom of the escalator. The rotating stairs nudged me off and that's when I felt the pain in my right foot and noticed it was bleeding. Awareness came rushing back to my brain and I realized this could have been a lot worse. The woman was still howl-laughing, but she was also picking up the pens on the stairs. Then everyone was picking up the pens on the stairs. I dumped my bags, found the box and humbly took it around to each lovely person who put the pens into it with a smile. I was so embarrassed, but everyone was laughing with me, and 500 pens were back in the box in a couple of minutes.

"Can I help you?" a man asked when it was all cleaned up. I hesitated, but he gave me a look that said he wasn't really offering inasmuch as telling me I needed help. I nodded yes.

"I just need to get the other box," I said, pointing to the top of the escalator.

"Well why don't you take the elevator? Why didn't you take it in the first place?" he said, looking perplexed.

"I couldn't find it!" I protested.

Another man who overheard said, "I'm going there now, want me to show you?" Yes. Yes to all the help I can get.

Turns out it was just around the corner from the escalator.

I made it to the bottom safely and without incident, and the first man was waiting for me with my potential bomb bags in hand. After all that, I'd completely forgotten about them.

"Let's switch," he promptly said. "Now, where are we taking these?"

"To my car in the parking deck," I said.

"The parking deck? The parking deck is on the same floor as the one you were on. We have to go back up."

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why it's a surprise to us all that I have made it this far in life.

Till next time (I promise it won't be three weeks),


  1. this is my favorite everything. love it.

  2. Oh dear heart. Love you. Hope the ankle feels better ;)

  3. Yes, thanks! :) Just a flesh wound.

  4. Why thank you! You know my first thought, once I got in my car, was, "WOW this is going to make a great blog post!"

  5. That was ABSOLUTELY hysterical!!?!? Who could think this stuff up!? LOL!

  6. I sure couldn't!

  7. Mary El, I think you've invented a new sport. See, you could have teams of two, boxes of 500 (why not a thousand?) colored pens for each team, red pens for one team, blue for another, etc., a stopwatch, an unaware department store, get the idea. Add Noli to the mix, and you have got yourself a winner!
    Hope your ankle is much better.

  8. Just catching up on your posts. This was priceless and endearing on so many levels. I love that you faced the possibility of serious injury tumbling down the "mile-long" escalator and the thought in your head was, "ruining my shoes." Hehe.