The price some of us pay for picturesque


Before I begin this shameless bid for sympathy, I want to make clear that I’m not advocating that every walking surface be covered with more-level-than-level concrete, just that in historic areas, you watch your step.

I hobbled back to the United States in July with a stress fracture to my foot, without a doubt brought on—or brought to fruition—by large amounts of walking on the cobblestone streets of old Lille. And now I am recovering from an encounter with Old Town Alexandria, where the charming brick sidewalks are uneven and the metal grates they place around trees (presumably to discourage dog poop) tend to shift out of place.

I took a friend, visiting from England, to lunch in Alexandria on Saturday. Coming back to the car after lunch, I tripped on one of the dog-deterrent metal grates and fell straight forward. It was one of those surreal experiences that happen very fast (too fast for me to even put my hands out to try and save myself) yet also happen in slow motion so that you can say to yourself on the way down, “This can only end badly.” As it did. My chin met either the sidewalk or the metal grate—I was too dazed afterwards to know which—with my full weight behind it. I bit my tongue on both sides, broke a tooth (a back one fortunately), cut my chin (dramatic amounts of blood but a small cut), got assorted bruises here and there, and pulled a muscle (I assume) near my ribs.

I was incredibly lucky. I don’t know how I didn’t break my jaw or my nose or my front teeth. I don’t know how I didn’t knock myself out. An older or a heavier person might not have escaped so comparatively lightly. I was also lucky that someone was with me to pick me up and mop up my bleeding chin—thank goodness there are still old-fashioned people like me who carry cloth handkerchiefs!

My jaw is not back to 100 percent functionality so right now I am living on mashed potato, mashed banana, applesauce, yogurt, ice cream (my excuse for the latter is it feels so good on my swollen tongue), and whatever else I can purée in the blender and slide into my mouth on a teaspoon. I feel as though I should be in a highchair being spoonfed.* I was three years old when my late mother fractured her jaw and had it wired shut for six weeks. I don’t know how she stood it. They knocked out a tooth so she could eat everything through a straw, which probably explains why she hated soup for the rest of her life. No blenders in those days, so it must have been a dreadful production to prepare food. At least I can eat thicker mush, but even so, after a mere 2.5 days, I crave crunch, especially celery and corn chips.

I will be interested in the response I get (if, indeed, I get one) from the person on the Alexandria City Council under whose wing sidewalks fall and whom I e-mailed yesterday.

I leave you with this thought from my sometimes eccentric (see footnote) but usually practical mother, “Pick up your feet and watch where you’re walking, for heaven’s sake. How many times do I have to tell you?”

* My mother had her weird moments and spoonfed me not with the boring “This spoonful’s for Daddy, and this one’s for Uncle Bob” or that thing about airplanes going into hangars, but by making each spoonful a stop on the Trans-Siberian railway. I was an extremely finicky and reluctant eater and so I got lots of practice and could (though not now) recite them all, in order, at the age of two.


8 Responses to The price some of us pay for picturesque

  1. Elisabeth says:

    Oh my God!!!! So sorry to hear about this accident. But, fortunately, it was not nearly as serious as it could have been. Hope you are back to solid food by this Thursday! The only serious accident I have ever had was when I was 8, and I have been lucky ever since not to have broken any bones or injured myself nastily.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  2. Dan Ward says:

    Wow – so sorry to hear that! I want to add my hopes for a speedy recovery and the rapid return of solid food!

    (Love the bit about the trans-siberian railroad, btw. That’s fantastic)

  3. Kirk says:

    When my mother was in her 80’s and living alone in a 4-story (yes, 4) house out in the country I was happy for her to live as she wished. In fact, one day I said to her, “You do exactly as you like. If you fall down the stairs you won’t die young.” She loved it. “Thank you!” A weight was off her mind.

    But I did worry about all those steps–until she said one day: “You know how I keep from falling? I never start down the stairs without saying to myself, ‘Think!'” She never fell.

    This doesn’t apply to your situation, Passante, but maybe some good will come of it because you inspired me to put this simple and effective piece of advice online. Please get well soon . . . and thanks for the warning.

  4. passante says:

    Thank you all for your good wishes. After everyone at work expressed incredulity that I hadn’t thought of going to the doctor, I began to think there might be something in it, so I made an appointment for tomorrow. Maybe I’ll find out how long it’s going to take before my back teeth meet again and I can start eating grown-up food. In the meantime, I wonder how stuffing and cranberry sauce will do in the blender!

  5. Transall says:

    Bonjour Passante,

    J’espère que cet incident de parcours n’aura pas de conséquences, et que vous pourrez retrouver très vite une excellente santé.



  6. ~tanty~ says:

    What an unexpected experience. I’m so sorry to hear this. I wish you will feel better very soon.

  7. Kate says:

    Terrible luck, and feeling sore is no fun. Hope you mend quickly, and smart of you to FINALLY go see an MD!! My grand-daughter and I use hangars and airports (her mouth) and all kinds and shapes of aircraft and animals deliver food to her! By the way, I DO like the photo despite what it represents!

  8. Gerald says:

    My best wishes for a speedy recovery. A bit like Kate I had an uncle who tried to get me to eat food by say it was a plane landing in a hangar (my mouth)!

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