How to Win (Even if You Haven’t Actually Showered)

A snowtrooper, on a coin-operated iron binocular, atop Mill Mountain in Roanoke, Va.

I sat, at a crossroads.

An uncomfortable, unshowered, unshaven, ball-cap-covered crossroads. In the middle of a conference room, at work, among the showered, shaven, and non-ball-cap covered. Smart, pretty people.

Important words, by important people, were being said about a project my team poured tons of work into.

Should I stand, and speak, risking the scrutiny of colleagues – some of whom I promised I’d even wear a dress shirt to this meeting – and possibly the question of “did Eli sleep on a park bench last night?”

Or should I say nothing to support my team, instead sulk back in my chair and contemplate when in the name of Chuck Noland would I feel clean and handsome (or at least clean) again?

I forget stuff, constantly.

No (RedBox, deodorant, underwear) left behind

If there’s a bag to pack, there’s also a guarantee one essential item will get left out.

It’s inevitable. I had to stop on my way to pick up Elise from college one night to return a RedBox movie I forgot to turn in the day before. (At least I had one day free rental. Silver lining status: Barely flickering.)

On any given trip, I’ll leave behind something, one of these items, maybe two*:

  • Body wash
  • Charger
  • Deodorant
  • Socks
  • Tooth brush
  • Toothpaste
  • Razor
  • Underwear
  • Wallet

*Maybe three.

So when I read Tamara’s post for Top 10 Thursday – Uncomfortable Situations, it wasn’t a matter of conjuring up something from my past to qualify as a story in an uncomfortable situation. It became a matter of narrowing down the field to just one.

Incidentally, I need an exercise routine.

To exercise is an exercise in futility

I’ve tried the gym memberships, the morning yoga with that dreamy green-and-white yogi on the Wii. I’ve tried CDs with yoga lessons taught by a limber Asian man – whom I cursed heartily as I fell short of the pretzel-like contortions he beckoned me into.

I’ve run on treadmills and run at the park. I’ve traversed the downward facing dog on a Wii board and in a class at work, flanked by fox-like 20-somethings who make me feel like an armadillo just out of a wrestling death match with rogue tumbleweeds.

Combined with regular meditation, could a return to daily rounds of disc golf be enough to get me back into my size 32s and take a swipe out of the Type II?

So I passed on a shower one morning so I could toss some plastic before work. I’m basically Ronda Rousey at this point, lousy with fitness. I had no idea what the morning would actually become.

Ever driven on Interstate 485 in Charlotte – during rush hour?

Try this:

  1. Eat something garlicky for breakfast (bonus points if it’s also bloaty)
  2. Wear a shirt two sizes too small
  3. Tighten your belt an extra two notches
  4. Poke yourself in one eye (your choice)
  5. Sit in place for 60 minutes. Don’t move.

Only, this day, the trek took up 120 minutes. There goes my ultra-fitness plan of conquering 18 holes of disc golf before the millennials at work could use their gym memberships and button up their plaid shirts to be ready for action.

When gym bags go AWOL

As the minutes ticked away Google Maps, the morning became a race to work in time to shower before this mondo meeting at 9 a.m.

I pulled in, heard Jenifer (with one N – the new name for my GPS princess) exclaim with no degree of disgust that a 30-mile drive just took nearly two hours. I’d better hit the shower, quick. Fix my hair, clean up the goatee situation, and snap on that promised dress shirt.

I just need my gym bag. I said, I just need my gym bag.

Where the hell? I searched under soccer pinnies and animal cracker boxes, amid soccer balls and Coke Zero empties. Nothing. I’d left without it.

The time: 8:55 a.m.

Fashion status: Refugee.

Sniff test: Moderately acceptable and unoffensive.

Here I go.

Stand and … deliver?

Luckily, the design lead on my team regularly shows to work in a long T-shirt and ball cap – but he’s a young guy.

I looked like a sick version of possibly his father, in that Justin Bieber and his dad kind of way. I did, for the record, stand and speak. No response. I sat back down. Earlier, I’d dropped my laptop with a considerable thud during another presentation.

So, the morning was a win, you see. Obviously.

Immediate regret. It was like, when a coach goes for it on fourth down instead of taking the easy field goal. Or an army general charges on to take a hill, only to find 37 squadrons waiting on the other side.

Or taking the cold pizza off the buffet just before they put out fresh ones.

Meetings and an early departure for soccer prevented me from hitting the dollar store for emergency shower stuff. I’d stay preserved in yesterday’s clothes and hygiene wholly appropriate for a camping trip but not so much a day at the office for the duration.

I have to say it was a good day

Only, it didn’t turn out so bad.

A boss told another boss I stood up and said something, and that it was good.

That design lead with the ball cap and beard said I did good by what I said. And then as I stuffed my lunch in the fridge, a co-worker, we’ll call her the answer to Winnie Cooper in my own daily sitcom, complimented me on my move in the meeting.

I won’t divulge the life-altering exchange (pretty sure I left the fridge door open), but she did use the phrase, “that was strong.”

Reasonably sure it wasn’t in reference to my low mark in sniffability. Isn’t Michael McConaughey famous for infrequent showering? Maybe it’s a thing. I’d have high-fived someone at that point. Even a Wilson volleyball.

Instead, I think I’ll double-check my everything before I leave for work today.

If this old guy wants to run with the cubs at work, it’s a better idea to do so with a clean dress shirt and mountain fresh scent.




  1. John Holton says:

    I used to have to wear a tie when I taught, and I was always forgetting them when I went out of town. One day I was at the airport and passed a shop there that sold ties. I thought to myself, “who buys ties at the airport?” Then I realized I hadn’t brought any…

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Ties are easy to forget, my man. When I worked as a concierge in a Hilton, a busy exec had to rush off to a client dinner, and forgot his tie.

      We didn’t sell them in the gift shop (but could have). I took mine off and told him to go kill it. The next day, the tie was at the front desk with a 20-dollar bill.

      1. John Holton says:

        I had a hotel clerk loan me his tie once. Of course, the hotel wasn’t anything like a Hilton, so you can imagine… Some hotels have collections of ties left behind when guys checked out and would loan them out if you asked nicely. I was tempted on more than one occasion to leave a couple behind myself to help with the cause…

  2. Great job! Writing and speaking up. Funny…murphy’s law kicked in yesterday and I wrote about it today too. Mine involved meeting a location scout for a movie. Sigh…

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Jenn! I’ll check out your bumpy day post, too.

  3. ksbeth says:

    i love all of this, especially when you dropped the laptop during the presentation. i can identify with this so well, and am always leaving at least one thing behind )

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I tried to play it off, but my friend giving the presentation paused. (Thanks dude).

      It’s like a day’s puzzle isn’t complete if don’t leave a part behind. (That makes sense, right Beth?)

  4. It sounds like all ended well, but I do have one question. Were you able to fit in disc golf after work?

    Winnie Cooper – many of your readers are probably too young to get the reference…

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I made it out with all my facilities, Deb. I didn’t get in any disc golf. I had soccer practice, at which it’s more acceptable to go without a bath.

      (The Winnie Cooper effect should be something that remains in pop culture and the American way of life.)

  5. stomperdad says:

    Ahhh Winnie Cooper. Loved that show. Those were the days. I WONDER where the YEARS went. We all need a Winnie Cooper (I’ve got one, though I don’t call her Winnie). Thank for the laugh. And good for you for speaking up. Even if you were a bit disheveled.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Shows like Wonder Years and books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid have a few spots in there I swear they snagged from my childhood. Winnie Coopers make the world go round, mate.

  6. Epic example of how the best laid plans lead to… an uncomfortable situation so say the least.
    I expected nothing else from you than to stand up and speak!
    Thanks for linking up!
    PS: what happened to Shelley?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      When there’s a lot of moving parts in your day, Tamara, it’s bound to happen. I wasn’t going to let a scruffy face and dirty hair hold me back.

      Shelley … i don’t think she felt any pain, and went peacefully. One day, I plugged her in, and she gave me crazy directions to who knows where.

      I sadly unplugged her, and she rests in my console now. #ForeverInMyHeart

  7. Kathy G says:

    After too many times of forgetting things, I came up with a system that works for me. I pile all the necessary items on top of my purse (which has my car keys in it), so I’m forced to carry all the crap to my car when I leave the house. Of course, men don’t carry purses, but maybe you could start a trend…..?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Systems are good, Kathy. I like that one. I’ve started unpacking my bag at night, and reloading purposefully in the morning.

      It’s a backpack, though, not a male saddle bag or boy purse like they carry in France. Because, ‘merica.

  8. amommasview says:

    Takes guts to get up and speak if you feel uncomfortable. So well done!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Hey, thanks. It turned out pretty okay – and ever since, I’ve not had another unshowered work day.

      1. amommasview says:

        We live, we learn…

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Sometimes – sometimes we miss the lesson.

      3. amommasview says:

        Us??? Never… 😉

  9. mocadeaux says:

    I forget to pack one (usually crucial) thing every single time I travel. There must be some psychological meaning behind that. Years ago my husband forgot to pack his dress shoes for a business trip to Memphis. Visiting the shoe store near his hotel early the next morning, he discovered it was a place that Elvis frequented. Fortunately, the store sold back wing-tips in addition to blue suede shoes.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Maybe it’s just part of the excitement of the journey, Mo. We embed some challenges before we even get started.

      I suspect maybe your husband left the shoes at home. I would, if I knew I could buy some from Elvis’ shoe spot. You should blog about that!

  10. Rorybore says:

    Ahhh, to be someone’s Winnie Cooper > goals. Good for you standing up and speaking your mind. I think in general people will remember good words, over good, or not good, attire. It’s the wisdom (not the suit actually) that makes the man Coach! 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Lofty status, isn’t it Rore? I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? Even on my best-groomed days, I lead with my words.

      Here’s to clean shirts when you don’t have a chance to shower, at least.

  11. dadult says:

    Well one positive… you’ll probably never have a day like that again.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      If it does, though – I’ll be ready!

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