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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Am I Such a Klutz?

While working on yesterday's blog, I dropped a cup of coffee into the bag Nancy keeps her Mandarin study materials in.  Mind you, I did not spill coffee into the bag, I dropped an entire cup of coffee into the bag.

As quickly as I could, I took everything out, separating out notebooks, sheets of homework and classwork, and flash cards with pictures of cats and ducks on one side and ideograms for cat and duck on the other, all the while cursing myself for my clumsiness and carelessness.

After emptying the bag and carrying it to the sink to wash separately, I informed Nancy of this disaster.  "I know you're going to kill me, but..."  Nancy, sitting as she was on the porcelain throne, was unable to come at once, but was nonchalant and gracious.  When I told her I was spreading everything out to dry, she even said thank you.

I went back to the office, and as I continued peeling apart various pages of notes and stacks of note-cards, I realized the tremendous amount of work Nancy's Mandarin class represented, work that I'd magnificently ruined in one careless instant.  It would not matter so much, it would not matter at all, really, if I were the only victim of my klutziness; my friends Jamie and Chris like to tell the story when we were eating carry-out one time, and they briefly looked away from me and back again, and in that whisper-thin interval of time I had so doused myself with sweet-and-sour sauce, it looked as if my little white cardboard box of Chinese food had exploded.  The way Mishap and Mayhem have dogged my personal life have shaped the way I write; they are a big part of the fact I'm a humorist.  If that's as far as the damage wreaked by Wrecking-Ball-Martin went, it would be a harmless source of laughter for others and mild chagrin for myself; what stings is the harm I do to all the people at the epicenter, people I love also bear the brunt because, lord love them, they live with me.

If you saw all the work she'd done!  The little hand-made flashcards she'd produced!  The rows of carefully imitated ideograms, practiced over and over!

I feel so guilty after something like this happens.  Nancy was as kind as could be; she did not hurry to the office where I was trying to mitigate the damage, but came back leisurely, helped me peel and separate, and assured me everything was fine.  Goddamn it, though, what is wrong with me?  Am I stupid, thoughtless, just lazy?  Am I not trying?

A brief internet search told me that "hurry, worry, and stress" are the trifecta for having accidents, and this fits the bill as far as yesterday's mishap was concerned.  I was about to scan in a drawing of planaria for a blog I'd just written and needed to post before 6:45 AM when my carpool ride shows up.  (This accident occurred around 6:15.)  Another factor is my own brain.  One person in twenty-nine has a fifty percent or greater chance of having accidents than the rest of you; studies show - this can hardly come as a surprise - these people have slower reaction times, slower processing speeds, and poorer visual/spatial skills.

Okay, so maybe I should let myself off the hook a little.  But if I have these things - slower reaction time, poor spatial skills - shouldn't I compensate?  Can't I just be more careful?  Doesn't it ultimately come down to personal responsibility? I should just try to slow down in the morning, only do one thing at a time, be aware of where I'm setting down my coffee cup?  I'll try,  Except I know it won't be enough.  It's no good telling the San Andreas Fault to be more careful; it can try, but sooner or later, "Oops!" and there goes California.

And the other frightening part is that I'm only fifty-three.  From here my reaction time, my coordination, and my spatial/visual skills will only decline.  In another ten years they'll need to sheathe me head to toe in bubble wrap each morning to prevent my leaving a wasteland of wreckage in my wake.

After Nancy and I did what triage we could, spreading damp papers over every available surface in the office, I began taking pictures for this blog.  Nancy laughed.  I love her.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, if I were a shrink, I'd ask you if perhaps your sabotaging Nancy's Mandarin work was your way of punishing her for going away for five days. Unconsciously, of course. But I'm not, so I won't.

    That kind of thing—subterranean connections and veiled motivation (and provocative insight)—makes good fodder for fiction.

    Which brings me to how I came across your blog. I was looking at the Kenyon Novel Workshop page and thinking about attending. I noticed, as well, you live in the ATL—as do I. So I clicked the link. I'd like to hear more about it.

    Jim H.