A word of warning to the wise

Michael Johansen
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Everybody wants to shake my hand. It’s nice of them, but I wish they wouldn’t, since there’s no way for me to refuse without looking rude.

When someone wants to give me a firm shake (I’ve been meeting new people, seeing old acquaintances and, as it’s January, I’m still getting wishes for the new year), I have to snatch my hand away before he or she can take it. There’s always a look of hurt surprise before I have the chance to explain that even a limp shake would make my appendage feel like its bones were being crushed and rattled.

I could say I hurt my hand in a fight — an attractive lie, since due to the absence of facial wounds, I could claim I won it. The injured muscles are consistent with what might have happened with a punch, and the gash across my middle finger could have been made by a sharp tooth. There’s even a large bruise on my forearm that I might have got while blocking a blow before returning my own.

However, I couldn’t pull that story off for long, because anyone who really knows me would say that while I’ve been seen to talk myself into a fight, I’ve never been known to actually fight my way out of one.

 I could blame it on ice. Winter has finally come to central Labrador. It’s nowhere near as frigid as it should be, but it’s cold enough to freeze water. I could say I’d grown careless in the long mild autumn and was caught insufficiently tractioned by the sudden frost — a costly oversight for my heroic right hand.

I could, but I won’t.

It might be embarrassing, but as a journalist my first duty is to the truth and the truth is I slipped in the tub while trying to shower. I overreached and lost my balance.

I needed the soap, but I’d left it beside the sink. To get it, I had to put one foot outside the wet bathtub and lean across the bathroom floor. I took hold of the plastic soap box.

I’m not exactly sure what happened next. So much occurred in so little time that split seconds felt like minutes. I remember flying, but only briefly. I think I bounced two or three times. I recall hitting my head at one point — no vital organs in there, as I used to say about my dog’s head.

I don’t recall hitting my arm or smashing my hand. I have an impression of spinning around in the tub several times, but I was most likely just flopping like a big fish hauled into a small boat. When I finally stopped moving, I was splayed out on my side with soap bars and shampoo bottles scattered all around me and hot water spraying my body. All I could do for a moment was groan and curse.

By great good fortune, I happen to live in Canada, so my visit to the local hospital’s emergency ward, an examination by a doctor, and the X-rays she ordered to confirm that my hand was not broken, but only sprained, cost me nothing but a little time. I learned that it should heal by itself, although it won’t heal quickly.

No doubt it would go much faster if I didn’t happen to use the very muscles I hurt for just about everything I need and want to do. I can’t pick anything up, turn a doorknob, start my truck, zip up my pants, buckle my belt, tie my shoelaces, write with a pen, or type on a keyboard without a sharp and gnawing reminder that I should be more careful when I take a shower.

So, while I’m forced to think about it, I can at least pass on some advice that was kindly given to me by a helpful friend after my spill: when showering in a slippery tub, always keep three points anchored for maximum stability.

Or, better yet, take a bath.


Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Geographic location: Labrador, Canada

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