The Curse of the Clumsy

Even stars get clumsy.

"Move, move, move!" I shouted out. Yes, it was an over-reaction, but it got through to Barb. She quickly slid out of of the deli booth at which we were just settling into our soup. She was  just swift enough to escape being deluged by the drink sluicing from the glass I had knocked over. Tea and ice cubes now covered the banquette Barb had been sitting on, but she was still immaculate. The wait staff quickly hustled us over to another table, refilled my glass, and our dinner continued unhampered. My quick alert had prevented the damage that my clumsy hands had almost caused.

But there is no denying it, I am a klutz. I am a butteringers, a stumbler,  a clod. It is a fact of my life, one that my loved ones and colleagues have to accept and deal with. That fancy microscope I bought last year? At least monthly a turn of my head has sent it crashing to the ground, my glasses landing right between the eyepieces. Those bruises on my elbows? A trip over the pavement at the end of my run. Was it because the pavement was  crumbling or uneven? No, I was just gliding along until my toe got tangled in a non-existent crack. I have catapulted into duck ponds and crashed into walls of tennis courts. But I don't want to believe this curse is all my fault. And when looking for something to blame, turn to scientific research!

So I asked Google Search to tell me what causes clumsiness.  The only widely circulated study into the topic tested college students and found that "clumsy" people have depressed reaction time. But that doesn't feel quite right to me. That makes it sound like us klutzes move in slow motion.  In fact it is just the opposite. My hands, my head, my feet--they all seem to be moving at hyperspeed when those little crashes happen. The study does say that focusing on a task can reduce clumsiness, but it takes a lot of conscious effort to slow all those moving parts down, and at the end of the day, who wants to think that hard?

Barb, in her therapy lingo, says I have a "figure-ground" problem, a perception issue which makes it hard to separate objects from the background. Her theory also explains why I can never find the spatula in the kitchen gadget drawer. Hmm, an inability to separate objects from their background.  Just what you want your pathologist to be plagued with when he's looking through his microscope, mentally trying to separate the good cells from the bad. How did I wind up making a pretty successful career out of this?

So I stumble along, never knowing when I will take the next tumble or send the next glass of wine crashing to the floor. But at least my family knows. When I yell "Move," they get moving!

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