Thursday, July 5, 2007


Ok, I just had a major tragedy in my teaching life.

I am such a klutz. My wife knows it. I am constantly bumping into things, dropping things, and inadvertently destroying things. I go through life like the proverbial bull in a china shop. A lot of times it is really embarrassing, and believe me, I don't do these things on purpose. One time my brother said that I should seriously consider a career as a torture tester, putting new products through their paces to see how well built they are. If they can survive me, they can survive anything.

In a way, I can't help it. When I was four years old, I had an accident. I was hit by a boy riding a ten speed bike without any brakes. He was going downhill in front of my house. He smashed into me head on at full speed, and knocked me unconscious. When I came to, I was lying in the middle of the road, choking on exhaust fumes, and there was a searingly hot object barely an inch from my face. It was a red car, driving over me, very slowly and very carefully. Let me ask you this: If you saw a four year old boy lying unconscious in the road, would you stop to help, or would you drive over the top of him? I thought so.

So I got up, puked, and went home. The force of the impact was such that when I hit the ground, it pushed the little pebbles from our neighbors driveway into my knees, like buckshot. My Mom's reaction? She put me in the tub to soak, and gave me a butter knife to pick the stones out of my knees. Then she went off and did whatever it was she was doing, and waited for my father to get home. When he did, he thought it might be a good idea to take me to the doctor, since my right arm was paralyzed. Years later, people wondered why I always wore long pants during the summer. It's because when I wore shorts, my legs would tan, and the "buckshot" scars became clearly visible.

A couple weeks after the accident, my parents took me to a doctor, to have him look at my arm. His verdict? The nerves would repair themselves, and I would regain use, but, "Don't expect him to become a concert pianist." I remember that, because a couple weeks after taking me to the doctor, my My Dad left home for the first time. Not that it was his fault, he was the victim in that situation. He wasn't there for my fifth birthday. My right arm remained paralyzed for six months or so, then the movement started coming back.

Now, I have about 80% use of my right arm, and about 65%-70% use of my right hand. I am right handed, and it gets very frustrating when it seem like my right hand has a mind of its own, or simply won't obey me. It's like having two left hands.

As a boy, I used to get straight A's for all my marks. All my marks, that is, except for penmanship. That I used to get a 'D' in. Try as I might, I could only come up with some barely readable scrawl, especially since my hand could never come close to keeping up with my brain. Up until the fifth grade, I had to use one of those thick kindergarten pencils with clay around it to make it wider and easier to handle, to do my assignments. Even then, I still had problems. My mother's second husband would sometimes look at my homework, and rip it up because it wasn't neat enough. Then, I would have to sit there like a medieval monk illuminating a manuscript, and take hours to recopy it, but even then the results were just passable. If he was in a cruel mood, or just drunker than usual, sometimes he would rip that up, too.

The after effects of the paralysis wasn't the only problem. A direct effect of the accident was I had grand mal seizures. The parts of my brain dealing with speech, and movement and coordination were damaged. The grand mal seizures stopped when I was eight. The other effects linger on.

I am still very self conscious about how I sound when I speak. Basically, after the accident I could still speak, but I had to relearn how to speak properly, and to change the way I spoke. I had sort of a slur to my speech, making me sound a bit drunk. That meant I was constantly being teased, imitated, and made fun of when I spoke, so I didn't speak. At least I didn't speak much, because kids said I sounded retarded. It took nine years of speech therapy in school, usually twice a week, sometimes more, before I was able to make all the phonetic sounds properly. Still, the general tone of my voice is not pleasing, at least not to me. That comes from years of having to listen to it's ugly sound on a tape recorder, and thinking the other kids were right.

Later on, my acting teachers all agreed my voice was a weakness. Yet in some ways, it was an advantage. One advantage of all that speech therapy is that I speak in a standard English accent, like a radio or TV announcer. Unlike others in my acting classes, I didn't have to get rid of an accent. Also, I became very good at doing accents, like a male Meryl Streep, because I had an ear trained for pronunciation, and had already learned how to alter my way of speaking.

Also, Like Mel Tillis, who stuttered when he spoke, it seems that when I sing, I have a very nice and pleasing voice.

It is because of the damage to the area of the brain dealing with movement and coordination that I am so clumsy. Despite that,I have been able to do things that my Mom always said I never would be able to do, like drive a stick shift, and so many other things, that I forget what they are. I just don't see how a doctor can look at you when you are 4 or 8, and say this is the way your life is going to be. Well. I proved them all wrong. I can play sports, and though I might not be the smoothest and most graceful guy around, I am very quick, and fast.

And strong. My body is unbalanced. My left side is a lot stronger than my right side. You can see that when I lift weights.

When I taught in Korea, I used to lift weights for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. My right side always lagged behind. My left was very strong. The Gym owner suggested physical therapy. I tried all my life to develop my right side, doing extra exercise, but to no avail. If my right side was as strong as my left, I'd be a monster. Maybe that's why the accident happened- to keep me humble.

Well, the other day, because of my clumsiness, I destroyed my portable hard drive, the one I bought with Mr. Wong at the PIKOM PC Fair in Penang. The one that had four months worth of work stored on it, along with the all the recent pictures from my digital camera, music I downloaded for the baby, lots of other songs, and a bunch of neat stuff. All gone in a moment, because I am clumsy, and careless.

I had the hard drive plugged into the back usb port of one of the computers at school. I was fooling around with the Audacity software, because I want to use it to start podcasting with my 2K class. I wanted to get a couple of songs of the hard drive to play around with and see what the software could do, before I show my class how to use it.

The hard drive was sitting on top of the desk.

I yanked the computer forward to plug in the cheap microphone I was going to use to record my voice, when by doing so WHAMMO!!! the hard drive smashed to the floor.

RIP. All that work down the drain. I want to cry. Like I said, I am such a klutz. Stuff like this always happens to me.