“The Pain in Sprain Is Mainly on the Plane”
I know for a fact that the pain in sprain is mainly on the plane, even without ever even personally knowing actors Audrey Hepburn or Rex Harrison. I don’t believe that Professor Henry Higgins and the uneducated Eliza Doolittle ever had severe ankle sprains to match several of mine. One such minor calamity occurred just before Christmas in 1974.
This writer observed that one of my three sons had accidentally tossed a small Frisbee onto my home’s side porch roof and the object had been left resting halfway between the pinnacle of the A-frame and the back rain gutter. Motivated with determination I dauntlessly ambled to the garage, removed my trusty aluminum ladder and then intrepidly ascended up onto the side porch’s roof. ‘I hope I don’t get a bad case of shingles,’ I haughtily laughed to myself. ‘If this house didn’t have shingles, I’d be more roofless than I really am,’ I mused. Reaching the errant Frisbee, I adroitly flung the red plastic saucer back down to the ground, quite proud of my achievement and competency.
When I returned to where I had placed the aluminum ladder near my home’s backyard, I soon realized that the wind had blown the object over onto the ground. ‘Hard to climb that thing from way up here,’ I brilliantly thought. ‘My oldest son never locks his window. I’ll get into the house by climbing through it,’ I concluded.
Much to my aggravation Joe’s bedroom window above the side porch roof was (perhaps for the first time) locked. Then I assessed the true nature of my mounting dilemma. The external temperature was fifteen degrees, a gusty wind was blowing and the wind-chill factor was about minus five. My mind reviewed my embarrassing predicament. I was stuck on the porch’s roof, no-one else was home, the aluminum ladder was laying horizontal on the hard lawn, I was wearing an autumn-lightweight jacket, had no gloves on my almost numb hands, and felt rather foolish standing alone up there with the atmosphere cold enough to freeze an obese Eskimo’s bellybutton.
I soon spotted my wife driving by on the White Horse Pike (also known as Route 30) heading west toward her mother’s place. I desperately and frantically waved my arms as if I was a stranded Robinson Crusoe trying to get Friday’s attention. Joanne whizzed by while focused on changing lanes and was completely unaware of my wild gesticulations. I motioned at other motorists traveling “the Pike” but they either ignored my plight or thought that I was over-zealously trying to be friendly. Several passing drivers’, thinking that I was being friendly, honked their horns in recognition of my zany hand signaling. The frigid air was becoming unbearable, even for a thick-furred grizzly.
‘Now I know how Gilligan must’ve felt every time he and the Skipper had been almost rescued from that isolated Pacific island,’ I lamented. ‘I gotta’ get off this roof before I either turn into an icicle or an igloo.’
I glanced at the security light telephone pole situated five feet from the roof’s back rain gutter and actually considered leaping onto it. ‘If only I had worn gloves,’ I woefully regretted. ‘I don’t need fifty splinters in each of my cold hands if my open palms make contact with the pole and then accidentally are compelled by gravity to slide down the vertical wooden object.’ Being under great mental duress, I panicked, and without yelling “Geronimo” or some other inane nondescript parachutist jargon, I leaped ten feet from the roof down onto the Tundra-like frozen turf. I had severely injured my left ankle, and after examining x-rays that afternoon a local doctor diagnosed my impulsive self-inflicted new-found condition as a “double-sprain.”
“What made you do such a stupid thing like climbing up on the roof when nobody else was home?” my Sicilian wife later criticized my unilateral decision.
“Sometimes I just really enjoy being stupid,” I argumentatively snapped back. “Rene Descartes said he could prove he existed by saying, ‘I think; therefore I am.’ To me, intense physical pain is the true proof of existence,” I stubbornly answered my spouse. “I have to live with the pain and you don’t, so stop harassing me with your non-constructive remarks.”
Two days later Joanne and I were scheduled for a Caribbean cruise on the Cunard Adventurer. My left ankle had puffed up to the size of a plump cantaloupe and I remember the excruciating pain my ankle endured as I dragged several pieces of luggage through New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, and then later through Kennedy International Airport. But the biggest agony was sitting on the jet plane for the four-hour flight from the Big Apple to tropical San Juan. I put my set of earphones on, switched to the plane’s Oldies audio-channel and then had to suffer through Chubby Checker’s lively rendition of “The Twist” and ironically next the ‘50s classic tune, “The Bunny Hop.”
Several decades after “the porch roof fiasco” I was showing an eighth grade class the movie Bye, Bye Birdie as a basis for a writing lesson where the students had to analyze the film’s characters, settings and plots. In one humorous movie scene, the Russian ballet was formally dancing on stage as a segment of the Ed Sullivan Show, and the conductor had been given a special formula called “Speed-up.” The maestro drank the powerful potion and then wildly swung his baton, which instantly made the stage dancers speed up to the now rapid-paced music.
I had always enjoyed spicing up video lessons to entertain my students so in the dark, I dashed to the back of the classroom and started dancing and wildly hopping around in front of the elevated television and VCR, acting like a demented nutcase to briefly amuse the class. A female student had neglected to place a thick textbook under her desk and when my left foot landed on the uneven surface, I immediately re-double-sprained my left ankle. The pain was excruciating.
This victimized English teacher hopped about the back of the classroom holding my raised left foot and the students all roared, obviously thinking that I was idiotically enacting some pre-planned theatrical exaggeration. I finally reached the Central Avenue side thigh-high’ bookshelf where I immediately parked my body. In quest of relief I winced with pain as the class laughed hysterically, still believing that I was dramatically acting-out false agony.
After the forty-five-minute class period finally ended I had one of my more-trustworthy Hammonton Middle School students go to the intercom and buzz the nurse’s office. Mrs. Marie DeLaurentis eventually appeared inside the classroom three minutes later and had to cut off my newly purchased shoe with hand shears to examine my inflated left foot. Bill Amedio, the middle school custodian, was assigned by the Principal to drive me to the school physician’s office. Dr. Nurkiewicz evaluated my foot and recommended that I be put on disability. So, I was the first Hammonton’ teacher to ever get injured on the job and collect disability.
Several weeks later over the Thanksgiving holidays My Fair Lady and I went on vacation to the Bahamas with several other teacher couples. On the ordinary flight from Philly’ down to Nassau, I again became quite aware that “the pain in sprain is mainly on the plane.”
Jay Dubya (author of 41 books)