What do you call someone who:
- Has fallen off a tall ladder putting up Christmas tree lights on his house?
- Drops things, stumbles over invisible objects, and knocks over all manner of stuff?
- Slices and pounds fingers with tools and blades?
- Smacks the living daylights out of toes, especially the little guy?
- Hasn’t quite grasped the concept of measure twice and cut once?
- Takes an occasional tumble up the stairs?
- Has walked into a closed sliding glass door at what we’ll refer to as a painful pace?
- More often than not, at some point during the week, has a new stain on his shirt or tie?
Nah. I’m going with klutz.
I’m a klutz.
And I don’t get that. Back in the day (see old-man blog), I fancied myself an athlete. Not a particularly renowned jock, but one whose efforts shined far brighter than results. Even sans all-star nominations, I had an athlete’s coordination. For the most part, all of my synapses properly fired. The old equilibrium and balance mix swiftly processed problems and opportunities and allowed me the ability to instantly create a plan for what was about to happen next.
Like paying attention to that parking meter that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Or the curb right in front of it.
While I once had reflexes and agility and a certain amount of poise, these motor proficiencies appear to be just minorly intact these days. My body or my brain (or both) seem to be taking a few too many breaks. The result? My skill set now includes choking on air, tripping over nothing at all, bumping into furniture, and dropping things. I’m officially a klutz.
What Exactly is a Klutz?
Before we get into some specifics of my all-thumbs gene, let’s look at the actual definition of the word.
Merriam-Webster defines klutz as a clumsy and awkward person. Further, “Klutz is a recent addition to our language, only appearing in print in the mid-20th century. However, in this short period of time, the word has managed to capture our hearts and become one of our primary means of describing the sort of person who has trouble walking and chewing gum without tripping over a kitten.”
Though I have never tripped over a kitten and I don’t chew gum, I have toppled over a crack in the sidewalk. I unquestionably have the gene.
My Earliest Recollection of the Gene
As a kid, I don’t recall ever stumbling over first base, missing that last step on the stairs, giving the sidewalk a dirty look after tripping over it, or dodging stationary objects. The earliest incident I recall is having just opened the fridge and sneezing really hard at the same time and hitting my face on the door. Hurt like a sonuvagun! How embarrassing! Of course, I explained away the resulting shiner by telling my folks that I caught an elbow in wrestling practice. “That’s my boy!” said my proud dad.
I suspect that jarring incident unleashed not only words that I had never previously uttered, but also my bumbling self on the world.
There are several byproducts of my klutziness. Often, there’s pain. Similarly, there’s laughter from those who profess to love me. Then there are the nicknames (e.g., Grace, Bull [as in China Shop], Clod [as in hopper]), each perplexingly preceded by the Rocky-like, attention-getting “Yo!” Another fallout (pun intended) — the ensuing family stories that annually grow the legend of Uncle Lee’s clumsiness. Remember when Uncle Lee … is a conversation starter that always gets a hoot out of my family.
If there were Dropsies Olympics, I’d earn a spot on the podium. The only conclusion that I can come to is that there is a disconnect from my brain to my hands. Plates, glasses, coffee pot, utensils, my phone, pens, tools — you name it, and I’ve either bounced it off the floor or misjudged the distance to and the hardness of the surface to which the object is being transferred. Crash Bam Boom. I’m a cleanup on aisle five waiting to happen.
There’s also apparently a disconnect between my fork and my mouth. This results in exasperating food spillage and many a shirt and tie being slated for the washer or cleaners upon returning home. My wife just shakes her cute head and subtly points to the splotch of food or the dab of condiment or sauce that has redecorated my attire.
One last thing about the dropsies — you say “oh shit,” “sorry,” “ouch” and “you’ve got to be kidding me” more often than the average person.
Klutziness Leaves Marks
Members of The Klutzy Nation nearly always sport a bruise (or two). Somewhere. Often, we awaken to find a new bruise and have no idea how it occurred. That’s my life. I bump into furniture, walls, cabinets, and most everything else (including the aforementioned parking meter). Around the house, my monthly uncoordinated checklist generally includes some combination of stubbing my toe, bumping my funny bone (it’s not that funny), and accumulating these mystery bruises. Less frequently, fortunately, graceless experiences involving sharp objects or tools draw blood, and I end up with battlefield scratches or scars. Just going through life and doing my job, ma’am.
Good Thing I Have Pockets
Knowing that I do all my own stunts (but never intentionally), I still get the kid warning from my better-half before I walk into shops that feature tchotchkes, jewelry, glassware and the like. You know the command. “Please don’t touch anything.” She knows me and my tendencies too well. At that point, it’s either hands into pockets or find a bench outside. I’m okay with both, actually.
Liquids Are Not My Friends
Klutzes (Klutzii?) like me generally don’t do well with paint or glue. Fortunately, I haven’t dropped containers of either (I probably shouldn’t have written that … ), but working with paint or glue virtually guarantees that the liquids will be dispensed onto surfaces and skin that were not the original targets of the application and in quantities that far exceed what is required. This all falls under the topic of klutzes making messes.
These stumblebum traits seemingly always surface when I’m called on to fix something around the home. At this point, I am more or less the only one even remotely confident in my abilities, so, out of fear that I’ll hurt myself or make the project worse than it already is, my wife usually suggests (using my brother-in-law’s terminology) that I “call the man” instead of diving into the work.
It doesn’t have to be a big repair job for me to wreak havoc with my klutziness. I could simply be hanging a picture on the wall, and bookies will give out odds on me getting injured and the results of my efforts being not quite as imagined at the start of the project.
I have painfully learned that clumsiness combined with a tendency to get flustered combined with a lack of tool knowledge does not a carpenter or handyman make.
As a related sidebar, the subject of my collection of tools also evokes great jollies from my beloved friends and family. You see, I pride myself on my organizational skills — there is a place for everything, and everything has its place — which has translated in my basement to an impressively presented, long pegboard wall of dozens of tools and nails and screws and accoutrements of the working man. A Manly Man’s Wall, indeed, very handsomely organized.
Along with a handful of my closest loved ones (none of whom are any longer in my will), my wife enjoys pointing out to visitors entering my sanctuary that I know not what 85 percent of the wall’s hanging doohickeys are or what they do. Sadly, she’s right. But my collection of thingamajigs and whatchamacallits and its presentation is darned impressive. Since even a simple screwdriver has punctured walls and hands, it’s probably best that drills, saws, blades and the like remain mysteries to me and stay impressively displayed on that wall. At least they’re at ready when relatives and friends come to “help” me tackle a home project.
In addition to lack of know-how, when a tool comes down off the wall — from power tools to a simple wrench — too often so does the first-aid kit. Sure, I’ve made it through household repairs involving tools without getting hurt, but
not always. Interestingly enough, I still have all 10 fingers and toes.
Danger Will Robinson!
That subhead references a bit of dialogue spoken by the robot in the 1960’s TV series, “Lost in Space.” The robot often served as young Will Robinson’s companion and guardian. The phrase made it into our culture and still serves (at least to us old guys) as a warning that someone is probably about to make a mistake.
On multiple occasions, such a companion would have come in handy for me. It could have warned me about that recently mopped floor (I did learn to spell and say coccygodynia, a terrific Scrabble word.), that corner of the kitchen cabinet door just at my noggin’s height, that hidden rake in the yard, that closed glass door slider, anytime I approached a ladder, my pitiful efforts on the dance floor (again, coccygodynia), random forgetfulness, losing stuff … and more. The resulting real-life klutz episodes only added to my legend.
Why Am I a Klutz?
I have wondered why I am a member of this club, but until penning this blog, I never researched it. Apparently, there are reasons why you or I might be a klutz.
According to WebMD.com, you might be a klutz due to poor vision, head injuries, arthritis, inactivity, fatigue, stress, alcohol or drug use, muscle weakness, or even an illness. I don’t believe any of these hypotheses explain my particular clumsy behaviors.
Can I Stop Being a Klutz?
While I doubt I will ever be anything but a klutz, Health.com seems to think there are ways to cut back on these traits. As I roll my eyes, let’s look at a few of the ways they think they can cure me.
- Taking Breaks — Sure, this will solve my entire problem with being a klutz. I get it; they think that I am clumsy because I have been working too hard or there is a unique stress I am dealing with during the project. This could be the problem, sometimes. More likely, taking breaks isn’t going to solve my issue. However, I get where they are coming from. Taking a break can help you regain focus and concentration, which might help you finish the task without being so clumsy.
- Having a Stronger Core — This tip is probably the one I need to pay attention to; my six-pack has long been well protected and hidden. Core strength can apparently help prevent injuries by making it easier to keep your balance. Methinks that this is a very worthy albeit long-term goal.
- Stop Multitasking — Yes, I admit it. I am guilty of multitasking. This could well be a reason I am clumsy. I don’t do well with the monotask option. I like to work on and think about multiple things simultaneously, and it’s difficult
to stop this approach.
- Be Patient — This tip from Health.com also makes sense. I admit I have run out of patience with tasks around the house more than once. Sometimes, when I am doing something new or something I haven’t done in a long time, I expect to do it faster and better than I do. Perhaps I should lower my expectations and be a bit more patient.
- Sleep More — That sounds nice and I could generally always use a nap, but that’s not going to happen with my schedule of life and its to-do lists.
I’ll try to work on some of these suggestions, but after all these years in the club, I believe that my occasional gracelessness and random gravity checks are more likely attributed to DNA. It takes a particular skill to choke on air and fall up stairs. And what about all of those times that having two left feet and butterfingers has not caused injury or broken anything and the framed picture ends up perfectly centered and level? Ah HA! I’ve still got it!
I would like to think that I will die a laudable death, but it’s more likely that I’ll trip over one of my dogs while carrying a beverage and choke on a wayward peanut M&M. That’s not a bad way to go, eh? I’m thinking posthumous enshrinement into the Klutz Hall of Fame.