Small Humiliations: Part III / by Courtney Mehlhaff

When I was a kid, this magical event occurred about every four weeks.  A man would pull up to our house in a big truck marked "Schwan's" and proceed to deliver boxes of various frozen meats and the occasional ice cream treat. This was just a small supplement to my mom's usual grocery trips, which was what made it so special.

Now, the Schwan's man would stop by on the appointed day, but not necessarily at a pre-determined hour. Kind of like the cable guy, but he could get away with it, because you can't really stay mad at someone when you have an orange sherbet "pushup" in your mouth.

One day, when I was about 14, the doorbell rang. Because it was immediately after school, I naturally expected my friend Nathan to have moseyed the block between our houses, in order that we might lounge about listening to hardcore gangsta rap that was banned by our mothers. And, because we were typically goofy and juvenile together ... like I said, 14 ... I decided to greet him appropriately at the door.

Our front door was wooden, with a window at the top covered by a sheer yellow curtain. Can you picture it? So, after hearing the doorbell, I crept (crept, mind you, stealthy as your average rhinoceros no doubt, for a surprise attack) up to the door, whipped the curtain open, and pressed my face violently against the glass.

It was mid-monster-mug, eyes crossed, nose smashed, that I noticed the man standing in our garage was not, as I expected, my friend Nathan, but Bob, our friendly neighborhood Schwan's man.

I can't say for certain what types of things a frozen food deliveryman sees on his rounds, but they must have been more shocking than a teenage girl drooling at the window, because Bob merely looked perplexed.

Realizing my mistake, I carefully peeled my lips off the glass, opened the door, and said, "Uh, we don't need anything today, thanks," and shut it again.

And here's a reason to love small towns. Because Bob had serviced our area for years before this incident, he continued to periodically show up at our door for years afterward. So I got to relive the embarrassment many, many times over. But I did learn the precautionary measure of checking the calendar in the kitchen for a tiny little swan-shaped sticker before greeting any future guests with a gruesome slobber face.