I am astonishingly clumsy.
I know people often say things like that. They laugh and say “Ooh, I’m such a klutz!” and it’s endearing in a kooky kind of way. Often what they mean is that they dropped their pen a couple of days ago, or they spilled coffee on the table when they put their mug down a little too vigorously.
I am not the endearing, kooky kind of clumsy. I am the full-on, disaster-waiting-to-happen, miracle-I-haven’t-broken-bones-yet, guaranteed-public-humiliation kind of clumsy.
Last month, I was in town chatting with a friend when I tripped. I didn’t trip on the pavement, or on a broken cobblestone. I didn’t even trip on the sneaky leg of an English spy in a bowler hat, hiding behind a newspaper, trying to keep me from accidentally stumbling onto the scene of an international investigation.
I tripped on my own foot.
The toe of my left boot managed to catch the heel of my right foot and I stumbled forward at an angle no human is capable of holding for very long. In an excruciatingly protracted series of movements, I tried valiantly to regain my footing. My friend, startled by my sudden lunge forward, put out her arms to catch me. I caught myself for a fraction of a second – and my friend sighed and pulled back, relieved – before barrelling forward for the second act. Finally, my feet admitted defeat and I hit the tarmac in a hard but almost graceful gliding motion.
Note I said almost.
Once I regained the breath that had been knocked out of me, I rolled over onto my back, laughing. A woman who had been passing by was standing over me with a hand pressed to her chest, her mouth a silent O of horror. My friend, eyes wide, was laughing with a hand over her mouth, which is generally accepted to be the polite way to show you’re concerned but also highly entertained.
The strange woman stepped forward, her handbag swinging from her elbow, and said, “Oh my God, are you alright?”
The last time a stranger asked that of me it was a different woman, with a different handbag, bending over me as I got sick in the gutter at 4am after having had several too many. I briefly considered the fact that strangers only ever use this particular phrase when they are appalled by what they are witnessing.
I thanked her and brushed myself off and reassured everybody that I was fine. I was! I was fine. Only my thigh and my elbow and my ego were grazed in the fall.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago as I sat at the LUAS stop.
As is my habit, I tucked one Adidas Superstar up underneath me on the bench as I waited, listening to music on my phone. As the LUAS pulled up, I took a stride towards it and immediately faceplanted in a perfect arc. This time there was no protracted slow-motion experience. This time I was sitting one moment, and face to the concrete the next.
The aglet of my shoelace had caught in one of the drainage holes of the bench.
Every passenger on the LUAS stared at me through the windows. A girl who had been waiting with me stepped forward before I even knew what had happened. She deftly unhooked me from the bench, leaving me feeling like a salmon who had just had a lucky interaction with a catch-and-release fisherman.
“There you go!” She said cheerfully as she popped the aglet out through the hole. “These things happen!”
“Thanks,” I said. I didn’t bother to explain that these things happen to me with alarming frequency.
I limped onto the LUAS and walked past the many silently staring passengers with my shoelace dragging behind me. No bruises this time. My immunity is building.
These things are bound to keep happening to me. I know it. I accept it.
I can only hope that eventually, I will stop feeling shame.
I will have been innoculated by experience.