So I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole a couple of days ago. You guys know what that is, right? It’s when you happen upon some random video and click it. And then, you click on a similar one after that. And another and another and another and … Well, you get the idea, right?
There is some scary, yucky, and downright disturbing stuff on YouTube. For the most part, I do a good job of avoiding all of these things. You can also find some unexpectedly interesting stuff on there, and that’s how I usually end up falling down one YouTube rabbit hole or another. One time, I ended up watching about a dozen videos by a person who is an artisan costumer and jewelry designer. She makes these amazingly elaborate wire wrapped designs and jewelry pieces. I still watch her videos from time to time, because I find her work incredible and fascinating.
Most recently, I stumbled upon the “Inked” channel. So, of course, it was all about tattoos: tattoo artists talking about their careers, their “crazy” customers, their art, their experiences, and so on. It was fascinating to me. I fell down that rabbit hole hard, to the point that I was sitting in front of my computer around 1 AM, telling myself, “Okay, Self. Just one more. And then we are DEFINITELY going to bed!”
I love tattoos. I think they are beautiful, and I’ve always wanted one. I’m not creative or original. If I were to get a tattoo, I would probably get some type of dragon. I know it’s terribly unoriginal, but I love dragons! I would want one that looked fierce and a little scary, but also graceful. I think I would have to research different artists and look at a lot of portfolios before finding the artist who was “just right” for me. Unless, maybe, all tattoo artists are totally “over” dragons and consider them too boring now. Hmmm. I tend to be out of step with the world around me, so that could be the case. Who knows?
But let’s face it … I’m almost 50 years old. And I’m kind of a wimp. So no matter how much I want one, the likelihood is that I will never get a tattoo. I’m nervous about and a little afraid of the whole experience. And listening to some of the stories in these videos didn’t make me feel any more courageous or confident. I told myself these are extreme stories; otherwise, they wouldn’t be in the videos. But still, the kernel of doubt is there, now, swirling around and mixing with all of my previous doubts.
And, of course, this rabbit hole of tattoo wisdom and thought made me think about the scariest tattoo I ever saw. This was several years ago, when my daughter was small. I think she might have been around 4 or 5 years old, so this was around 10 or 11 years ago. And I can still picture this tattoo clearly in my mind. That is how much impact it had.
We were visiting family in Austin (TX), and we had decided to eat at an old favorite haunt from our college days. If you’ve never been to Austin … Well, you should go! It’s a great city. It’s a place where, for the most part, anything goes. You can see all forms of dress and undress, all types of hair style and coloring, any kind of piercing you can imagine (and, probably, some you can’t!), and any type of tattoo. Beautiful ink is on display at every turn. I think it’s great. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve told someone how much I admire his/her tattoo, leading to an incredible and interesting conversation about artists and different styles.
On this particular day, there was a server in the restaurant who had a full face tattoo. He was a very light skinned person with very light-colored eyes. He was bald, either naturally or intentionally. And the tattoo was a puzzle done in bright, almost electric, blue ink. It was all over his face and his entire head, except for one eye, where the design had a piece missing for his eye to “peek” through. It was striking and beautiful. I couldn’t help but admire the dedication this person must have had to his artistic vision and the determination he must have had to sit for such a large piece. It must have taken a long time, and I imagine it must have been incredibly painful, too.
I feel horrible for saying this, but … It was also Scary as Hell. I first saw him from across the room, and his back was to us. Even with only seeing the back of his head, the tattoo took me by surprise. But then, he turned around so that I got the full impact of it, and I felt a little thrill of fear slide down my spine. It was an involuntary reaction, and I hid it, reminding myself I was sitting in a full restaurant under bright lights and that this server was a normal, ordinary person who, I was sure, was perfectly nice.
At the same time, I was sitting there with a small child. Small children aren’t good at hiding their reactions to unexpected things. And my daughter hadn’t seen him … yet. I kept thinking, “Please don’t let him be our waiter. Please don’t let him be our waiter.” This had nothing to do with HIM. It had everything to do with me being afraid of how my daughter would react in the moment. In hindsight, I realize I should have pointed him out to my daughter right away and quietly explained that a person having a puzzle tattooed on his or her face is no big deal. Because that’s exactly what it is: No Big Deal. But, in that moment, I had a “deer in the headlights” experience. I was frozen in place.
So, of course, he was our waiter. He made his way to our table. I watched him the whole way. My daughter was busy coloring, and she didn’t notice his approach. For a moment, I thought we would be lucky. Perhaps she wouldn’t look up at all until after we had ordered. She had already told us what she wanted, after all.
Nope. My daughter looked up just as he stopped next to our table. As he was trying to tell us, “Hi. My name is ___. I’ll be your server tonight,” my daughter looked up at him and screamed. She screamed like her life depended on it, and the sound cut through all of the background noise in the restaurant. For a few moments, silence descended around us, and it seemed that EVERYONE was looking at our table. I’m sure most people really didn’t notice or care at all, but I was mortified.
As the background hum of rattling dishes and conversation started up again, I apologized. I was so embarrassed that I stumbled over my words and sounded like a complete doofus. Our server was, as expected, a nice person, and he was great about the whole thing. He shrugged and took it completely in stride.
“It happens,” he said. “I have a puzzle on my face.”
I laughed a little, trying to overcome my own embarrassment. But, to this day, I wish I had told him, “Yes, you do, Kind Sir. And it is pretty freaking magnificent.”