A long time ago my daughter, Tara, told me, “Mom, I love you, but you could trip over a dust bunny!” And I laughed and laughed because that was such a great and funny line but then I had to agree with her because that is the truth, unfortunately. I am an infamous klutz and have been for the longest time.
When I was about six years old, my mother enrolled me in beginners tap dancing and ballet classes. Once I was at the end of the line of about ten other little girls and we were supposed to do a plie’. And I tried, I really tried hard to do it well, but I lost my balance, leaned over hard onto the little girl next to me who then lost her balance and leaned over hard on the little girl next to her….and before I knew what had happened, the whole line of little girls, including me, went tumbling down like a line of dominoes. It was so humiliating! I got yelled at by our teacher, the other little girls glared at me, and I just wanted to go home and hide.
The tap dancing class was no better either. I still remember “step-ball-chain, step-ball-chain” and I could teach it to someone but I still cannot do it right myself. What finally convinced my mother that I would never be a ballerina or another Shirley Temple was my first recital for both of those classes. (My mother also took me to endless beauty parlors to make my baby-fine, straight as a ruler hair into a beautiful mass of ringlets like Shirley Temple’s, but instead those stinky, stinky perms turned my poor, fried hair into making me the very first little white girl who had an Afro…in 1964…and I have the school picture to prove it.)
Our ballet class did a dance called “Sleepy-Time Girl” and all of the mothers made their daughters little baby doll pajama sets, complete with a frilly, lacy bed-cap for the recital. I kept inching and inching over to the curtain off to the side because I was out of step, out of line, and I kept losing my balance and almost fell down a few times. It was sad.
The tap dancing number was something about cowgirls. My mom made me a skirt with fringe at the bottom and a vest with fringe and I had a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. She even prettily embroidered my name on my vest. I looked cute but I performed like a numb zombie. It was not pretty. That was the end of those classes for me!
I don’t know how and why I somehow manage to do the weirdest injuries to myself and sometimes I have had witnesses who still cannot figure out how in de hell I did what I did!
Well, there were no witnesses to my latest klutzy moment Friday, July 8, and I’m kind of glad about that because I am sure that that person would have been screaming bloody murder about all of the blood and I probably would have panicked myself because of their reaction to what I did to myself this time.
I was slicing up cucumbers to make a delicious dish out of them with a sweet and sour marinade of white vinegar, sugar, celery seed and a wee bit of salt. The cucumbers chill and marinate and the vinegar and the sugar pull out all of the yummy cucumber juices and the whole sauce then gets better and better after a few hours and into the next day.
When my mother had to be put into a nursing home for her heart problems and other health issues, I went through the cupboards of our kitchen in Flushing Township while I was packing up to move up to Bay City and I found a brand new mandoline that she had bought but never used. So I brought it up with me where it sat on the top shelf of a cupboard of stuff I rarely use.
I have a food processor that does everything great, including making slices of anything of different thicknesses but I thought, heck, I will get that mandoline down and try it out because I have seen other cooks and chefs use them all the time on the food shows I like to watch.
A mandoline is an adjustable slicer (and yes, there is also a musical instrument called a mandolin). Here is a picture of one but keep in mind that the one my mom bought did not have legs for better stability and it was made of thinner plastic. Those should have been clues right there that it was cheaply designed and cheaply made but like I said, I have never owned one or even seen one before except on TV.
Mine has a guard similar to this one and I assembled it correctly according to the instruction pamphlet because the blade looked very, very sharp and I wanted to make sure I had it put together just right.
Basically you attach the guard to whatever it is you want to slice up, in this case, my cucumbers which I had cut in half for better stability , and you rapidly move the guard holding the food up and down against that very sharp blade. The slices fall through underneath and I was very happy that I quickly whizzed through the first cucumber and the slices were perfectly round and evenly sliced the way I wanted them.
I did notice a bit of a problem trying to hold the mandoline up and perfectly steady with my left hand while I used the guard to slice up the cucumber halves with my right hand. It was a bit wobbly and that, again, should have been another clue that this thing was a piece of junk.
But I was so happy at how rapidly it had made the slices, and that washing the mandoline up after I was done would be so much easier than washing up all of the attachments and the blade and the work bowl to my food processor, so that I continued on with my second cucumber.
I was almost through with the second half of that cucumber when the mandoline wobbled and the guard slipped down but my right thumb did not stay with the guard and zip! I sliced a very deep gash into the cushiony pad on the inside of my thumb!
Blood gushed, and I mean gushed, everywhere while I stared in amazement at all of it and then the pain hit. Wow! I went through natural childbirth with Tara, no drugs, no epidural pain injections, nothing at all, but that paled in comparison to having my thumb deeply sliced by this cucumber guillotine!
I quickly grabbed my thumb with my left hand, and with blood dripping down my arm and all over the place, I ran into the bathroom to see if perhaps I could wrap a large bandage on it to make it stop bleeding.
I ran water over my thumb to see exactly how wide and how deep the cut was and I realized then that a mere bandage was just not going to work; I needed to go to the Emergency Room and get stitches. It was 6pm on a Friday evening and that was my only option at that point.
I took a comprehensive first-aid class, oh, about 25 years ago as a pre-requisite for the registered nursing degree I was then pursuing. and I knew that, first of all, I had to somehow control the bleeding and do it quickly.
I knew that a tourniquet would not work on a thumb and I was also pretty sure that trying to put one on my arm might not be the best thing to do. Meanwhile there is blood all over my bathroom sink, the floor, and somehow a bit on the walls, and I am trying not to panic but I was also trying to think my way into doing something good…and fast.
I grabbed a washcloth out of the bathtub and quickly wrapped it as tight as I could around my thumb and my hand, putting hard pressure on the cut with my left hand. Then I held my right hand up to allow gravity to help me as much as possible while I ran into my bedroom to grab my cell phone.
If I had called 911, yes, they would have quickly sent an ambulance to take me to the E.R. but how would I get home after my thumb was stitched up? Besides, I also didn’t want to get a bill for the health insurance co-pay, yikes! Besides, Tara lives only a mile away and she could get me to the E.R., which is only 2 miles away, probably much faster…if she were at home.
It turned out to be very difficult trying to call her with no hands available. I had to loosen my hold on my thumb while I used my left hand to push the buttons for her phone number and that dripped blood on my bed and on my phone and that also made trying to hold it and talk to her even more of a problem. I somehow managed to prop it up on my shoulder while it rang her number so that I could re-clamp my left hand tightly onto my right thumb and hand.
Tara was home but Justin had just left in their van to go grocery shopping. I squeaked out that I had badly sliced my right thumb and that I really needed for her to take me to the E.R. because I was bleeding all over the place and she said okay, just make your way down to the lobby of my apartment building and that she would call Justin and have him return with the van immediately.
I can’t walk that far and so I use my 3-wheeled Amigo scooter a lot and that has a handlebar and a toggle bar to make it go forward and in reverse. So I was trying to get it out of my closet, which normally isn’t a problem if I have both hands to work that toggle bar, but it was a lot harder to do with just one hand and I somehow managed to run over my right foot with the front Amigo wheel. That hurt a bit but my thumb hurt worse and it was still dripping blood down my held-up arm.
I finally got it out of the closet, got in the seat, and then there was the problem of trying to open up my apartment door, hold it open enough so that I could drive the scooter through and then close and lock my door behind me, all with one hand again.
So I once again had to release my hold on my thumb and free-up my left hand to maneuver the Amigo through the door opening while I held the door open wide enough with my right foot.
Once I got the door shut and locked, then I was able to somehow keep a death-grip on my now completely blood-soaked washcloth-covered thumb with most of my left hand while I used my last two fingers of my left hand to wiggle the toggle bar and drive down my scooter to the elevators.
I made it to the lobby, locked up my scooter to the handrail by the Community Room doors like I usually do and I sat in the central seating area where I could instantly see Tara drive up. I hurried out to the van, got in, and then I had the problem of trying to fasten my seat belt without loosening my grip on my still-bleeding thumb. I was quickly getting the idea that having workable thumbs was a really good thing and Tara reached over to help me click my seat belt tight.
She dropped me off at the E.R. entrance so that I could get registered while she parked the van. The desk clerk looked up, saw the blood everywhere, and she quickly put in my birth date into the computer and printed out forms for me to sign.
While she was doing that, I looked around the waiting area and I was appalled to see that it was completely full, not an empty seat could be had, and I inwardly groaned. I was thinking that me and Tara were going to be here until midnight but apparently a lot of blood gets you faster service because while I hilariously attempted to write my signature on the forms with my left hand, the desk clerk had grabbed the triage nurse and he hustled me right through the entrance to the E.R.
Tara was then allowed to come in with me and she sat in a spare chair behind me and as the triage nurse unwrapped my blood-soaked washcloth, he asked me how did I slice up my thumb. And for some reason, I looked back at Tara and we both giggled because I had, once again, managed to do something else klutzy. She told the triage nurse that she has spent more time in the hospital with me than she has with all three of her kids combined and we all laughed because he saw himself on his computer screen all of the many, many visits to the E.R. I had made…and those were just the ones here in Bay City since I moved up here, sigh!
So I explained about the mandoline and what all I had done to try to stop the bleeding and he told me that I could not have done anything better than what I had already tried, short of putting in stitches in my thumb myself.
I then asked him if I was indeed going to get stitches and he said, Oh, yeah, most definitely, probably at least four, if not more, because that was how deep the gash was. He cleaned my thumb and my arm up and put several compression bandages on it and wrapped it up in gauze to try to stop the bleeding until the doctor could sew my thumb up.
I knew that Tara was worried about Justin and the girls being so hungry because Justin had been on his way to the grocery store so I told Tara to just go ahead and go home and that I would call her when I was all stitched up. I was thinking that all of the people out there in the waiting area would now be ahead of me but the triage nurse said that I would be all stitched up and ready to go home in less than an hour so Tara decided she may as well stay with me.
They put us back into one of the E.R. rooms and Tara had brought a book with her, with her great foresight and plenty of past experience accompanying me to the E.R. on other occasions. I sat in this weird chair that looked like a dentist’s examination chair and I began to fidget. I am not a patient patient.
So she began to read her book and I began to look through my purse for something, anything, to do and I got out my cell phone and was trying to play Tetris. I usually play that with my right hand but I was quickly reminded that that hurts so I had to put my phone on the table that was placed in front of that weird chair and I tried to play with my left hand. That became very frustrating and so I soon put my cell phone back into my purse and then I got the bright idea of asking Tara to take a picture of me with my huge thumb because her cell phone’s camera takes great pictures.
She laughed and said it would be her pleasure to have photographic evidence of my latest klutzy moment and we both laughed over how the picture came out. She went back to her chair and then a few minutes later, with an evil grin on her face, Tara asked me if I minded if she posted that on her Facebook page and I told her that I didn’t care. Just then the door opened and another nurse came in to look at my thumb.
I didn’t know that Tara had labeled that photo of me “Mom Being a Klutz Again” and I kept wondering why she would suddenly break into giggles that she kept trying to stifle while the nurse, and then soon after, the doctor worked on my thumb. Apparently many mutual friends and family members began sending her comments like, “What did your Mom do THIS TIME???” (told you I was an infamous klutz) and “Hey, she could easily hitchhike with that gigantic thumb of hers!”, etc, etc, etc. This is Tara’s photographic evidence of my big thumb up for my thumbs up klutziness, lol:
So after five stitches were put into my thumb and instructions were given on how to clean and change the dressings everyday and that I needed to have the stitches removed in 7-10 days, I was finally released. Then I immediately hurt my thumb again by automatically trying to open up Tara’s van door. Tara giggled again at me while I stood there calling myself a dumb-ass in between my own giggles. The doctor numbed it up just enough to put the stitches in but apparently not enough to prevent me from trying to still do more harm to my poor thumb!
When I got back up into my apartment, the first thing I did was to gather up every last piece of that damned mandoline and I gleefully chucked it into my wastebasket, gathered up the trash bag, and heaved it down the garbage chute!
Since then I have found out in oh so many painful ways that yes, thumbs are very important things to have, and that I have been put on an immediate crash-course of learning what not to do and what to do when your poor thumb is just trying to do its best to heal up.
I’ve had to learn different ways of doing so many commonplace, everyday activities, like opening up a can of cat food for my kitty, Willow. That is a lot harder than you can imagine if your dominant hand’s thumb is saying to you, in no uncertain painful reminders, “DON’T USE ME AGAIN!” I’ve had to learn to hold the can in the crook of my right arm and then use my left hand to pop up the can ring and slowly pull the lid off. I still haven’t figured out though how to prevent the cat food juices from spilling all over me in the process.
My diet has been frozen dinners or delivered sandwiches because I can’t prep anything and I’ve had to learn how to hold utensils in between the bottom of my thumb and my index finger. I tried using my left hand to feed myself but that was a stain-producing nightmare and my food became cold with my very slow progress.
What is kind of funny about this sudden greater reliance on my left hand is that I was a natural-born lefty who was painfully taught by my mother and my kindergarten teacher to use my right hand. My left hand was literally tied behind my back at times. My mother fervently believed that lefties are spawns of the devil and by God, I was going to become right-handed.
To this day I cannot use my left hand to feed myself or to write my name but the very first time I picked up a guitar, I played it left-handed until someone asked me why was I playing it the wrong way. Same thing when I first played billiards, I used my left hand. I still keep my purse on my right shoulder so that I can use my left hand to open doors, etc., and I always kept my school books in my right arm for the same reason. I also drive better one-handed with just my left hand; if I use both hands, it’s almost like they are fighting for dominance over the steering wheel.
And I am typing all of this up primarily with my left hand. So in some things, I am ambidextrous and in some ways, nope, strictly a lefty or strictly a righty. I got asked an interesting question tonight while I was doing my laundry (which later proved to be another challenge trying to hang up and fold my clothes one-handed but I digress.)
Another resident came in to do her laundry after I had just finished putting my clothes in one of the washing machines. She, of course, asked what did I do to my thumb and I explained my latest klutzy moment. She then said she wanted to ask me a question, and she apologized beforehand for asking a very personal question and I was then intrigued by what her question was going to be. She asked me how did I go to the bathroom if I’m right-handed?
And I laughed so hard as I told her, well, I tried using my left hand to hold the toilet paper and, um, use the paper, but that didn’t work out too well. I looked like a dog chasing its tail! So I dug out an almost brand new bag of disposable plastic gloves, put one of them on my right hand to keep my big thumb bandage as clean as possible, and then gripped the toilet paper between the bottom part of my thumb and my index paper and um, cleaned myself off thoroughly. And then I washed my left hand by still using the plastic glove and I stripped it off afterwards to throw it away and that way everything is nice and fresh and cleansed.
I am eagerly anticipating getting the stitches removed later this week and even though I know my poor slashed thumb will still be tender for quite awhile, it will be nice to have it back without these bulky bandages. I never knew I could miss a digit as much as I have been!
I apologize if this tale of my latest klutzy moment grossed you out or made you squeamish but I hope you found some of the same humor I’ve been trying to find since I sliced my thumb up. When you have been a klutz as long as I have been, you quickly learn that dignity is frequently over-rated and that me being able to see the humor in the so many idiotic ways I can mess myself up is perhaps a dubious grace, but somehow it is a grace nonetheless. Sometimes you have a choice between laughing or crying and I will always try to find a way to laugh about things. Besides, I hate it when my ears fill up with tears!