Freak Accidents Often Happen to Clumsy People
How I managed to fall backward over my ironing board one morning
A Klutz is Born
I’ve been a clumsy person—a major klutz—all of my life. I’m the only person I know who (as far back in time as I remember) can walk across the middle of a room and manage to bump into a wall, a piece of furniture, or a door frame before reaching the other side. I have never had a strong sense of balance or equilibrium.
Klutzy children may realize their limitations, but that doesn’t stop them from wishing they were graceful. As a young girl, I was obsessed with ballet. I sketched ballerinas en pointe and performing arabesques all over my school notebooks. I read every book I could find in the library concerning ballet and ballerinas. Oh, how I longed to be a famous ballerina!
Even Clumsy Children Have Dreams
But my enthusiasm was not going to change three major obstacles to my dream.
1. During my early years at elementary school, I lived 18 miles from the nearest town and attended a small rural school. Needless to say, the faculty did not include a dancing teacher, nor was it practical in those days for my mother to drive me to town for private lessons. Actually, I was lucky our little school had a teacher for the public school music class, where I got to sing with the entire group and play one note on a simple chime.
2. My clumsiness was a hindrance to any type of graceful or athletic activity. When I tried to mimic the ballet positions and movements illustrated in books, I suffered such a lack of equilibrium that I often fell. That same poor balance made me terrible at all games in physical ed classes, and I was always the last one chosen for any team. This state of affairs did not increase my popularity.
Access to a simple barre on which to practice the ballet positions I saw in pictures might have improved both my stability and grace of movement. Too late now. I grew up maladroit and stayed that way.
3. Did I mention I was a bit chubby? My body wasn't really fat, but had the slight padding known in my youth as “baby fat.” I look at photos of myself during those years, and the word that comes to mind is “solid.”
You may have trouble believing this part, but it’s true. I was the only pre-pubescent female of my knowledge to retain fluid. I loved salty foods and learned later in life that I’m salt-sensitive. Back then, I only knew that in the morning my clothes fit loosely. By afternoon—especially if I’d been eating dill pickles or green olives, which I loved—they were too tight.
My mother was frustrated by this phenomenon she didn't understand and which caused problems. She often had my clothing custom-made by a seamstress. If I had one fitting in the morning and the next in the afternoon, guess what? Nothing fit. My fluid retention was driving the seamstress crazy. She finally solved it by making every garment a bit too large for me. That really helped my popularity problem!
Klutziness and the State of being Accident-prone
Okay...I’ve gotten way off course. I began this little excursion to tell you what happened the morning I managed to break—yes, break--my ironing board by falling over it. I had the ironing board set up in the same room where I planned to photograph a few items to sell on eBay. I was inching my way backward to get the best shot, forgetting how close I was to the ironing board. when . . . Boom! Bang! Crash! Ouch!
Suddenly, the ironing board was on the floor, and I was lying on my back atop it. When I tried to get up, I fell over on one side and—oh,no! I fell onto my “bionic” knee (the replacement for an injured natural joint that's never felt exactly like it belongs there). Hitting it with all my weight (don't ask) is not recommended for the optimum care of an artificial knee, and I began limping a lot after I managed to pull myself to a standing position.
As the day wore on, every muscle, bone, and joint in my body seemed to be screeching in protest. However, that’s nothing compared to the ironing board's condition. Although I tried to push or pull its bent and twisted legs back into the correct position, one was bowed too badly for me to straighten it. When standing, the ironing board wobbled. This meant it was simply another accident waiting to happen, so out it went to the curb for garbage pickup.
Of all the things on which I’d prefer to spend my all-too-few discretionary dollars, a new ironing board is not on the list. My bank balance became another casualty of my klutziness, but I reminded myself that the purchase of an ironing board cost less than an emergency room visit.
Scattered throughout my life's memories are multiple freak accidents around the house. When my youngest child was still a babe-in-arms, one of my backless sandals flew off my foot as I stepped onto the top tread of a staircase. Instead of falling forward on the baby, I bumped all the way to the bottom. The good news? I didn't drop my little one or injure him. The not-so-good news? A trip to the emergency room and an x-ray later, I had to sit on an air-filled doughnut cushion for a month.
I once slipped on a bar of soap in the shower, grabbed the plastic curtain hanging from a tension rod, and pulled both down on top of me as I fell into the very small bathroom across the closed lid of the toilet. As a finale to that swan dive, I hit my forehead on the sharp corner of the door frame.
I’d previously thought the expression “seeing stars” was an exaggeration, something on the order of poetic license, but it does happen. I literally saw stars of the shooting variety, blacked out briefly, and then I grabbed a towel to staunch the bleeding before crawling to my bed. People suffering from concussion don’t always react appropriately. I didn’t phone for help, but fell asleep with my blood-encrusted towel clasped to my head. The next day I had a painful goose-egg bump just below my hairline. It lasted for weeks. Then it grew smaller, and that size lasted for months. Many years later, there is still a tiny hard spot on my forehead to remind me of that incident.
I might run short of fingers on both hands if I tried to total my falls. There's always a reason, of course: stepping in an indentation on the lawn, tripping over an object lying on the floor, getting the back of my shoe caught in the automatic-closure storm door as I walked back indoors, etc. That last one certainly slammed me onto the floor!
My most recent freak accident happened when I sat on a small bench in my foyer to change shoes. The bench top has an overhang of seven inches on each side of the legs, which isn't a problem if I sit in the middle of the bench. Unfortunately, I had my mind on something else and didn't pay attention to what I was doing (probably a major reason for many accidents in the home) and sat off-center. When I lifted my left foot--farthest from the edge--my center of gravity shifted. The bench tipped over to the side, and I fell off, arms thrown out in alarm. The bruises and aches associated with a fall would be bad enough, but the side of my right hand made contact with the edge of a metal pin in the coat closet door's lower hinge. The resulting gash required four stitches.
After the blood flow decreased, I wrapped my hand in gauze and a stretch bandage and drove myself to the doctor's office. While preparing to suture my wound, she asked about a plastic bandage on one of the knuckles of that hand. Was that finger damaged in the accident? When I told her I cut it on a can lid while making lunch earlier that day, I thought she would fall off her stool laughing. The nurse and I laughed right along with her. After all, how many people injure the same hand in two separate accidents only a few hours apart?
After one of these mini-disasters, I feel a bit nervous about movement for a few days. After all, I've reached the age when breaking a bone can cause serious repercussions. I'm quite fortunate that I haven't broken one since 1978 (when I slipped while running on wet grass). Note to self: Be more mindful.
While it’s a folk saying that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot, that is inaccurate. There are documented instances of people who seem to attract lightning and have been victims of it more than once. Now, that would be scary! I should count my blessings. I’m klutzy, which is sometimes a hurtful and embarrassing condition, but not too bad when compared with being struck by lightning multiple times.
Another good thing: It's been quite a while since I fell out of bed, so sleeping is still pretty safe . . . I hope.
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© 2010 Jaye Denman