Monday, September 05, 2011

How to break a bone

N sixth grade, I hated P.E. with a fiery passion usually reserved for mathematics, bullies and bad fiction. P.E. class seemed to be a form of torture purpose-built to humiliate pupating geeks like myself. I was slightly overweight, pigeon-toed, bookish and uncoordinated, and I wore a biteplate to correct the space between my front teeth; the only things I lacked to round out the stereotype were horn-rimmed glasses and a pocket protector. I didn't play any school sport well -- I couldn't do a pull-up to save my life, in baseball I tended to cringe rather than swing at a pitch, and I gladly would have given myself a tracheotomy with a plastic cafeteria spork if I'd been given the choice between that and playing flag football. (Needless to say, I wasn't given the choice.)

Mrs. Wheeler, who grew sick of my constant whining and increasingly creative excuses not to participate, forced me to play German dodge ball along with the rest of the class. Linda Navé had the ball and, not surprisingly, was preparing to hit the clumsiest girl in the sixth grade (that would be me, for those not following closely). I backed away, stumbled over a rock or a piece of tanbark or maybe just a sudden gust of gravity, fell backward -- and my left wrist slammed hard into the blacktop.

At first it just felt numb. Then, after only a few seconds, it began to hurt a bit, then a bit more, then quite spectacularly bad. Mrs. Wheeler, assuming I was playing up the pain in order to get out of P.E. again, ordered me to get back in the game, but I cried so much and was so determined to call my parents that she finally let me go to the office. Presently the cavalry arrived (in the form of Dad, driving our family's orange VW microbus) and carted me off to Dr. Sapunour's office. Sure enough, I'd broken my wrist.

When I returned to class the next day with a cast on my arm, my teacher was so horrified her face actually turned pale green -- afraid, I suppose, that my parents were the typical sue-happy Californians and that she was about to lose her job. But she needn't have worried. My mother, who had been a teacher herself, didn't think for a moment that Mrs. Wheeler was at fault. Besides, my parents were even more sick of my whining than Mrs. Wheeler was, and they'd been enduring it for far longer than she had.

I hadn't been very popular that year, but it seemed like everyone wanted to sign my cast -- especially Linda. It still wasn't worth it. The pain, the insane itching under the cast, the inability to take showers, all my natural awkwardness hyper-intensified by having one arm immobilized, and the fact that I BROKE MY LEFT WRIST when I'm a righty, which meant that I wasn't even able to get out of doing homework -- feh.

So what have we learned, class?
  • If you are klutzy, DON'T PLAY GERMAN DODGE BALL.
  • If you can't get out of German dodge ball, at least learn how to tuck and roll.
  • Bend a wire coat hanger and stick it down your cast for itch relief. The doctor will tell you not to do this. The doctor has probably never broken a bone, either. Feel free to tell him where he can stick his coat hanger.
  • Don't despair, klutzes. There's some kind of physical activity out there that suits you. (Mine turned out to be swimming. I might have been awkward on land, but I was remarkably graceful in the water. Plus, you can't whine much when you're underwater.) It all works out.

No comments: