I’m a Klutz, Mr. Spock, Not a Bricklayer

And the Weirdest Accident Goes to…

I sprained my ankle two nights ago. Now I remove the ace bandage at the end of the day, hoping for miracles.

Pain…terrible pain!

I’m a klutz. I have been for as long as I can remember—certainly since I walked smack into a “No Parking” sign when I was ten years old.

I’ve sprained my ankle several times before and more spectacularly. A year ago, I pulled out ligaments in my knee while dancing with my young son toof all things—”Disco Inferno.”

The kindest interpretation is that I’m an active, fun-loving, gonzo risk-taker. The truth is more nuanced and mysterious. Because of my latest sprain, and because I also banged up the other leg while slipping on ice last week—I feel driven to pose the following questions:

  1. Are some people more accident-prone than others?
  2. Once you’ve had a silly accident, does whining about it help?
  3. Does it provide a secret release from the duties of normal life?
  4. What’s the weirdest accident you can think of?

Pain…terrible pain is from one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, “The Devil in the Dark,”* which involves creatures called the Horta. These lava monsters make tunnels in the rock on a mining planet, working in tandem with the humans running the operation. All is well, until they start attacking people. Kirk and Spock and the red shirts come down to the planet to figure out what’s going on.

Mr. Spock mind-melds with a horta. He lays his hands on this pulsing hunk of magma and goes into a trance, wincing, grimacing.

“Pain…terrible pain!” he shouts, channeling the horta’s feelings.

Oh, Horta, I know.

Two nights ago, I stood up in my office, after falling asleep while watching The Colbert Report—yes, that’s already sad—took a step towards the computer, tripped, and came down on the side of my foot.

Pain…terrible pain!

My husband rushed in. I limped over to him, crying, “I’m OK!”

I should have put ice on the ankle instantly. Instead I walked around, trying to prove it was nothing.

“Pain…terrible pain! That’s all I got, Captain…waves and waves of searing pain—it’s in agony!

The thing is, I’ve had a lot of accidents. Nothing major (knock wood), but I’m known for being clumsy and “only vaguely connected to this planet” (direct quote from husband). Once I tried to convince a friend when we were hiking down a long Cape Cod beach that I kept tripping in the sand because my feet were too small. She almost believed me.

This same friend, who recently was hospitalized for a truly strange turn of events that she’s only now recovering from, told me, “You know, Martha, I never have weird accidents like you always do.”

“Always” is strong, but one college boyfriend did like to make a point of walking on the outside when we were on a busy street, shepherding me along as if I were in constant danger of stumbling into traffic.

I’ve had countless running and biking accidents in which I end up picking gravel out of my palms. Those aren’t weird.

The only weird thing about the time I sliced open my finger while cutting up carrots at a dinner party was how unflappable I was. I just put down the knife, picked up my purse, and told the assembled, “It’s no big deal. I have to go to the Emergency Room, but I’m fine.”

Later I heard the guests hadn’t stayed. They’d said I had to be in shock; how else could I be so preternaturally calm? (Practice makes perfect.) Our horrified friends insisted my husband and son join me in the ER. I was glad to see my guys there, but we laughed about it, too, because visits like this had become so routine.

Besides, I only needed two stitches. That’s a non-accident for me.

The weirdest one in my recent history involved the little toe of my left foot. (Warning: The following story causes people to flinch involuntarily.) I was sitting on that same couch in my office, heard the phone ring, leapt up, and managed to catch my little toe on the wooden couch leg as I lurched forward and…

Pain…terrible pain!

The webbing between my toes tore. I’m pretty sure my husband could see way too much when he looked at it.

“Yep.” He blanched. “You’re going to the ER.”

That time, he took me. Our son was asleep upstairs when the accident happened, but the boy still claims he heard me yelling an “oops” word at the decibel level of a wounded buffalo.

Maybe he did. But the story has become something of a family tall tale. A good friend came over to stay with him while we were at the hospital, and in her telling, the little guy padded down to find her cleaning up a few drops of blood on the carpet. As he tells it, she was swabbing up gory pools of red.

Here’s the strangest connection: Because of the toe mishap, I now wear lavender Crocs around the house to protect my feet. Yet I stumbled on one of those Crocs two nights ago when I sprained my ankle.

What that proves, I don’t know, except that people like me must be accident-prone—and that, yes, there is a luscious thrill to be had in whining, in shucking one’s usual grin-and-bear-it attitude.

As for Question #3: I’ve been released today from a family outing with small children, all of whom were supposed to be getting ski lessons on an icy mountain in temperatures way below zero.

And maybe every action we take in this world is linked to another, for all time, and I am on a wheel that will somehow provide enlightenment, coming with the authority of a lightning strike.

Knock wood.

Night Storm 2
© Yanik Chauvin | Dreamstime.com

* “The Devil in the Dark” also includes the famous line from Dr. McCoy: “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!

7 thoughts on “I’m a Klutz, Mr. Spock, Not a Bricklayer

  1. You are too funny, Martha! Yes, there are born klutzes. My middle son, who is 6'5" and 235 pounds, is without doubt a klutz. I've seen him grab a door handle, rip it off the door, and then almost burst into tears, "Why does this always happen to me?"

    My theory, such as it is, is that some of us just don't have the bumper guards of consciousness surrounding our bodies…sort of a "dumbness of personal space."

    Not to say they're dumb. Far from it. Just seemingly unable to conceive of the way their bodies interface with the universe.

    Take care of yourself.

  2. Martha, I can't tell you how many weird, klutzy accidents I've had! I once won second place in a contest for "strangest accident." It was about the time I was hit by not one but TWO cars when I was riding a horse on a deserted country road. Here's the story of the person who won first place:

    My friend Gayle spent her junior year in Germany. One cold night, hurrying along the street with her hands in her pockets, she slipped on ice, was unable to catch herself, and smashed out her front teeth on the pavement. She was taken to a hospital where a doctor began to prod at her empty tooth sockets with a sharp little instrument, asking all the while "Schmerzen? Schmerzen?" ("It hurts?")

    Pain…terrible pain!!!

  3. David–The "dumbness of personal space"–yes! That does convey some of what I feel.

    Elizabeth–It's terrible that you and your friend had these accidents, but I have to say it does me a world of good hearing about it(!) We should form the International Klutz Society (unless it already exists). Another friend sent me an e-card today signed "The Other Klutz." Solidarity is a beautiful thing.

  4. Hi Martha, I just wanted to leave a quick note about your article in Salon (since apparently only paying members can comment?). Thank you SO much for such a wonderful article – I can completely relate to your feelings on the casting, having two four-year-old siblings adopted from China who love the show. So thanks for bringing awareness to this issue!

  5. I would proudly become an inaugural member of the International Klutz Society! I have many more stories of klutziness to tell…

  6. hehe ok so this is exactly how brainless I am, halfway through reading through your post I accidentally dropped my mouse and shut down the firefox in error and I could not find your article once again until 5 days afterwards to finish reading through where I left off because I did not remember how I linked to your site to begin with ahaha anyhow it was worth the hold out..kudos 🙂

  7. Taylor: There’s something about this article that inspires klutziness. It’s catching!

    For those interested in quoting from this site: Yes, as long as the text is attributed to my name and it links back here.

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