By Bev Schellenberg
Do you ever find yourself longing for the kind of attention that stars receive? Do you sometimes feel like an invisible drop in the sea of humanity?
Follow these simple three steps and you’ll be irresistible to those people who currently pass you by:
1) Break your left foot and/or otherwise damage your leg.
I suggest you only pretend to be in pain, as an actual fracture and a ripped ligament can take months to heal. (At least, that’s my doctor’s prognosis.)
Note: Do not break your right foot or leg as you will be unable to drive. However, if you prefer to use others’ gasoline and have them taxi you about, then break the right one.
2) Get crutches.
Borrow crutches whenever possible. Summer camps are prime locations to ask about the use of crutches as the staff appear to have several on hand during camp season, but you may have to actually appear damaged to remove the crutches legally from the premises.
Note: It’s considered in bad form to be seen running from a camp with crutches clutched under your arm.
3) Leave your home and enter the world of the mobile.
Wherever you go, people will approach you, so be prepared. Wear your deodorant, carry breath mints, and be ready for the hordes to find you.
Note: Consider having a variety of stories on hand for what happened to your foot/ankle/leg, dependent on how quickly you wish to prolong the conversation. For instance, for a quick limp-away, consider the “I broke it while walking” response. For a longer tete-a-tete, use such responses as “I broke it as I lunged into the street to push a dog from an oncoming car” or “it happened in the plane crash.”
I discovered this method of stranger magnetism when I broke my foot this past summer. My two children and I had just spent five relaxing days at a family camp (think summer camp but for families), basking in the glory of swimming, walks, woodcarving classes, and prepared meals and snacks. The day before departure, it happened. As my son happily sank arrows into a target in archery class, my daughter and I headed for the slip-n-slide. Not the usual, tiny, no-more-than-100 lbs. slip-n-slide, mind you. This was the gigantic sea of plastic down the side of a hillside slip-n-slide, complete with buckets of soap, teens sitting with a hose spraying the plastic, and giggling kids. This was to be the culmination of our camp experience, the pinnacle of campdom. My daughter careened down without incident. It was my turn. No problem, but a little slow. The next time my daughter sped faster. I propelled my body forward as I headed down, down, and stopped. Actually, my left foot stopped while the rest of me continued its downward descent. There was a hole in the plastic and my foot stayed in it awhile before joining the rest of me. The walk back to the camp dining hall was excruciating.
Suddenly the kids and I went from just another family to the family of the “mom from the slip-n-slide.” “They’re gossiping about you,” was my daughter’s slightly giddy observation. “Everyone knows about it.” People who had never noticed me at their dinner table suddenly approached. “I hurt my finger one summer on that thing,” said one mom. “My fingers didn’t heal for months.” Children pointed and stared. Ice packs appeared along with Tylenol 3 and Ibuprofen. A woman kindly adjusted a pair of the camp crutches several centimeters less than I actually am (I suppose I look shorter when doubled over in pain), while a man sat by my side for hours and we chatted about illnesses and injuries. I chatted after the painkillers kicked in.
Once a staff member and the camp directors’ son drove us home the next day, I thought things would settle down. I was about to re-enter the world of the unnoticed.
I was changed. Suddenly I existed in a sea of people on scooters, people adorned in casts and tensor bandages, people limping. I’d never noticed before. As we wounded ones passed one another, we’d nod and sometimes smile a sad, knowing smile. It reminded me of motorcycle riding days and the wave or sign I’d share as I passed another motorcyclist.
Thanks to crutches and my damaged appendage, I was suddenly the focal point of public attention. I acquired nicknames. I became “Hop-Along” to the receptionist at my doctor’s office, where I discovered I had suffered an ablution, a torn ligament, and a bone fragment that now was floating around in my foot, hopefully not to settle in a joint. My first broken bone and it was a doozy, apparently.
“Dear,” said many an old-aged pensioner, “Whatever did you do to your foot?” One older fellow hurried across the road, bee-lining for me. After I tried to explain a slip-n-slide to him, he nodded sagely, then exclaimed proudly, “I’ve never broken a bone and I’m 84,” and then continued on his way, leaving me in his dust.
As my children and I entered a store in a mall, the door slammed before I could get fully through with my crutches. I was pinned. Two middle-aged ladies were behind us, and one kindly opened the door and held it. As I puffed my thanks, she said, “Those two aren’t yours, are they?” referring to my two children who had forgotten me in their wake.
“Not any more,” I replied, grinning evilly. We shared a chuckle and then I rushed to catch up to my spawn.
My hospital visit for a second set of x-rays was tiring. I decided to park on the street rather than pay the parking price, but was thinking how foolish that was as I finally reached the hospital doors. To my left a man in a wheelchair was puffing on a smoke, and he smiled. “Your foot looks awful,” he said, nodding at my still-blue and puffy foot protruding from the tensure bandage. “That must really hurt.” I simply nodded. I didn’t have enough breath left to say anything about the “dragon-colours” (my daughter’s apt description) that I was exhibiting.
Strangers felt they could say anything. One person stopped me in a mall and after hearing what had happened, said, “Trying to act like a kid, are ya?” Another, greeting me on a sidewalk, quipped, “It’s not called a ‘slip-n-break’, you know. You’re supposed to slide.” This was accompanied by an exaggerated hand-sliding motion. A teller at a bank actually started laughing so hard he almost had to dry tears as I told him I’d injured my foot on a slip-n-slide. I was tempted to hit him with one of the crutches but I would’ve fallen. A cashier at Chapters and I talked at great length about her own disastrous foot injury from last summer, and how it took months for her to heal. Eventually the store closed and they locked me in, so joyous was she to commiserate with a fellow sufferer.
After summer holidays were over, I took my children to their first shortened day of school and balanced awhile outside their classrooms to wait for them. A parent in the hallway asked what I’d done to my foot and listened as I told my sad tale. Then, nodding conspiratorially, she whispered, “You know you shouldn’t mix alcohol and a slip-n-slide.” Ha ha.
Happily, my foot has returned to its normal size and colour, I now take joy in wearing actual shoes, and I’ve hung up the camp’s crutches, hopefully for good. But if I ever feel invisible as I limp slightly down the sidewalk, I may just take out those crutches for another spin. That is, if my kids aren’t playing with them.