Monday, April 7, 2014

How I Broke My Glasses

I have a remarkable ability. In any other day and age it would be called a superpower. It is called being a klutz, the state of having too much range of motion.

I have for a long time advocated for an occupational name to be given to persons like myself. You might call it klutzery. Whatever the word might be, it can be said that I am the master of it, and few tales illustrate this so well as the tale of how I broke my glasses.

I have told it many times; because for the longest time I had my right lens slipping out every few minutes, and a plastic wire hanging down to my cheek like a thick strand of a spiderweb or an enormously thick piece of white hair. The plastic wire is what originally kept the lens in, and with that gone it fell out quite frequently. (Now I see through a maze of scratches on my lens, and sometimes I think it is a miracle that I can see anything at all.)

Alas, now my lens is fixed, and I no longer have an anecdote ready every time a new person noticed my broken glasses (or happened to see the lens fall to the ground). For fear that my absent mind will eventually forget this tale, I will relate it to you now exactly as it happened.

The first time I told this story, I started out in this way. They asked, “How did you break your glasses?”

My eloquent and deeply moving reply was, “Well, I put too much soap on my leg.” They laughed at this; and it took me a moment to realize that the logical connection, which was clear in my mind, was not quite as clear in theirs.

The truth of the matter is, it was because I had too much soap on my leg; or at least too much soap in the bathtub. I was taking a shower, you see. (For some reason, I always have to clarify at this point that I was NOT wearing my glasses in the shower. They were folded innocently on the left side of the bathroom sink, where they sit every time I take a shower.)

While I was taking a shower, I shifted my weight in some way or another, and ended up slipping. It was a fantastic fall; it was about as close to an art as accidents can come. My feet flew out from under me as if they had on the winged shoes of Hermes; my arms danced wildly from side to side, and I landed badly on my lower back with a terrific thump.

My right foot, propelled by this fall, slipped upwards and smashed into the bath faucet. The shower hose broke under this pressure, and flipped back towards the bathroom sink. It knocked against my glasses; my glasses trembled at this onslaught, and fell to the floor where the string broke asunder.

It took me some time to wash off the soap and blood (it looked quite alarming, but the gash in my toe was minor and healed up after several days), and afterward I picked up the pieces of my glasses and went on to be the comic relief of the missionary community for the next three weeks.

Although this makes an excellent story, there are nevertheless some deep lessons to be learned from this. The most obvious is that squinting like a pirate when only half your vision is corrected is an acceptable exchange for being the source of laughter.

However, the deepest lesson is more subtle. It is that, as a klutz, I have a greater appreciation for normal motion than a normal person does. The normal person takes for granted that they will not fall in the shower and break their glasses; the klutz takes for granted that they will probably stub their toe today on an object that has been sitting in the hallway for three weeks. Both find the experiences of the other alien.

This means that it is a continual source of surprise to me when things manage to go right. Several weeks ago I was playing volleyball, for instance. The several times I got a mouthful of dirt were not surprising; and being elbowed in the face hurt, but that was not surprising either. What was surprising was that I was actually able to hit the ball over the net. And so every score was a desperate score; every win was by the skin of my teeth, regardless of the actual number of points we won by.

A team of normal people might have fun when they play volleyball, and they might have joy when they win the game. But I will have the most fun, and every win for me is an exhilarating and improbable win.

Walking without hitting anything is everyday for the normal person; walking without hitting anything is a fantastic adventure for the klutz. I will therefore cheer the upright person for not submitting to the tyrant rule of the ground—every bicycle that does not fall and every runner that does not trip is a miracle from God.

The life of a klutz may bring more bruises, but on the rare occasion that we do not stub our toes, we will have more joy than the most optimistic athlete.


  1. Once again, I am in awe of your ability to make me see something in a way I've never thought of before.

  2. That was beautiful.
    From a klutz-on-every-other-days, I am somewhere between appreciating this and marveling at it. But a not-quite five foot klutz is a different sort than an over-six-foot klutz, I am sure.

  3. Great post! I can't say I'm a legal klutz, but there are times when I feel just like that...especially doing things I never knew I could :b

  4. I've got to admit, that story of how you broke your glasses made me flinch a little bit. A lot of things can damage our glasses – even unlikely ones – so we should be very mindful of our surroundings. Anyway, I'm glad that you have had those fixed – hopefully for good.

    Doris Gibbs @ Moody Eyes