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.