I just put one innocuous line on Facebook yesterday, and now, apparently, I have to explain to the world how I broke my ribs. All I wrote is “I broke most of my ribs on the right side. Hiccuping hurts. That’s all. Eleven words! (By the way, “Webster’s” says you can spell that with one or two Ps. “Word” only wants two Ps, and “Mac” only wants one. It’s hard to win with spelling.)

So here’s the story: I was getting take-out from a sushi place. Picture this now as I explain, because you need to see it in your head. I had a plastic grocery bag of sushi. It was all in separate Styrofoam containers that never stay closed, and since the bag was plastic and not paper, the containers were lying sideways no matter how I arranged it. So, I was trying to be careful not to spill anything. I had a liter bottle of Sake in a paper bag. Victor wanted me to put it in the plastic bag also, but I knew that would make all the sushi fall out of the Styrofoam for sure, so I carried the bottle against my chest held by my crooked arm, with the plastic bag of sushi over my right wrist.

Are you following?

I ALSO had a large letter that I was mailing my son for the second time because my address book keeps morphing to an earlier version for some reason. (It was a larger envelope, because I had to fit in it the old envelope with the wrong address inside. I have re-mailed letters and packages continually since Thanksgiving, but that is off-topic.)  ALSO, I was checking my phone to see if I got any messages, since phones have to be turned off in the sushi place and I’m compulsive. I’m sure that comes as a complete surprise to all of you.

Here’s where my clumsiness enters the picture. The sidewalk was uneven. I tripped on the lip of a higher-than-usual block of sidewalk and fell flat. It all happened super fast. I don’t seem to have the reflexes of a normal person who would have put out an arm to break her fall. I just came down hard on my bent arm holding the extremely hard glass bottle. Luckily, although my arm and elbow were really bruised and swollen, nothing was broken there. Unfortunately the bottle was just about the right length to cover most of my ribcage on the right side. Boy. That hurt. It really did.

Victor, who was, you may be interested, carrying nothing, was heading in the other direction to the car. I was heading to the mailbox. He was about a block away when he heard me making sort of whooping noises on the sidewalk. He was embarrassed.

“Get up!” he yelled.

“My ribs!” I answered.

“Get up!” he yelled.

Victor gets embarrassed by human failings, but only in his own family. He’s totally sympathetic to any one else on earth. (Okay, maybe not Hugo Chavez or Kim Jung Il, but everyone else.) He tromped over to me and told me that I was fine and to get up and mail the letter. I asked him to hold all the stuff, but he had already pivoted and stormed off in the other direction and left me there trying to whoop as quietly as I could on the sidewalk. I got up and hobbled to the mailbox and mailed Tim’s letter again. I walked slowly making these little whooping noises so as not to attract attention. Were I in an empty field or something, they would have been really loud whooping noises.

By the time we got home, my right knee was getting blue and was about double the size of the left knee. I had a weird random bleeding spot on the side of my right foot. My elbow was bruised and bleeding and below the elbow was getting bluer and bluer and swelling up. I thought I broke the arm too, but it was better in the morning. Just bruised. Naturally, all this happened after the doctors’ offices all are closed and I have to be dying to go to an ER. I think you can all understand that.

Okay, the end of this story is that really not much is all that bad. When ribs are broken, they don’t do anything but wait for them to heal. My arm wasn’t broken, just sore. My knee was just sore. Everything is fine except for the fact that I make annoying whooping noises whenever I laugh, hiccup, breathe anything but shallowly, try to get into or out of a chair or bed, reach for anything or try to bend over to say, fill the dishwasher. Everything is a new experience now. Taking a shower entails raising your arms to undress and to wash your hair. Drying off entails getting the towels off a high hook and bending over and putting your arm back to dry your back. Drying your hair is an adventure. Then you have to get dressed again, and you haven’t even begun your day yet.

I’m a really clumsy person, always have been. Ask anyone; I’m always covered in bruises. Just this past trip to Africa, my legs were so bruised from the crazy jeep driving over the savannah chasing exotic wild animals, that I was actually taken aside and asked to confess to abuse. I was wearing shorts! If I wanted to hide abuse, I certainly would’ve worn long pants, even in the heat of Africa. Victor is incapable of hurting anything. He even uses 3 X 5 cards and paper cups to relocate the nasty insects and spiders we find in the house, rather than see them get hurt.

When I’ve had physicals, my doctors have routinely asked me quiet but probing questions. I’m all bruised up because I’m clumsy. I have no proprioception. I bang into everything because I really don’t have a good idea where my body is in space. It’s a thing. Really. Ask my trainer, Amy. She just shakes her head every time she sees me and asks me how I got the latest bruise. She’d be surprised if I didn’t have a new bruise each workout. Just ask her!

So none of you should worry. I’m fine. Time heals all wounds, as they say. Thank you all for your concern. (I should also learn to keep my mouth shut and appreciate the breadth of reach that Facebook has. That right there was what you’d call an eye-opener!)

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IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

120 responses to “There Is a Very Simple Reason Why I Broke My Ribs”

  1. Elizabeth Collins says:

    I feel for you, Irene, but you’re a trooper.

    If it makes you laugh (don’t laugh, it would hurt), I almost choked to death in the faculty dining room on Friday and I was mortified because other people were embarrassed that I was choking. We’re all too damn polite, I think.

    Be well!


    • Irene Zion says:

      Holy Moly, Elizabeth!

      Did someone do the Heimlich maneuver on you? You could DIE if you need that!

      What is it with people getting embarrassed over choking or falling, etc.?

      One time we were eating with another couple in a restaurant when a man began choking. Our friend, Ira, who is a thoracic surgeon ran over to look at him and ran back to the table demanding Victor’s knife. I hand him my butter knife, because I’m a bit too literal. Agitated, he looks at Victor who immediately gets out his pocket knife and hands it to Ira. Ira sprints across the restaurant ready to to a tracheotomy and put in a makeshift endotrachial tube, to get the guy some oxygen before he died. Just as he sprinted back the Heimlich maneuver finally worked and a piece of meat flew out the guy’s mouth.

      Ira really impressed me. He could have easily been sued if the guy had died or had been without air too long before he got there, but he is an honorable man and a doctor dedicated to saving life. When I see him now, I always remember that. Always.

      • Elizabeth Collins says:

        I think people (and you yourself) know when you’re not going to die, but you’re still suffering. No one came near me; no one was even looking at me. Probably because I knew I must be turning purple and I turned away so people wouldn’t see my face. Someone made me laugh while I was taking a sip of water and I just had to cough a lot and couldn’t breathe–nothing a Heimlich could cure. But wow–wouldn’t THAT be embarrassing? Having someone do the Heimlich on you? The person doing it looks all gracious and capable, but the person getting it looks like an idiot. Am I right?

        • Irene Zion says:

          I hate it when I breathe in what I’m supposed to be drinking. It takes forever to cough it out and you should like an idiot.
          As far as the Heimlich goes, I don’t care HOW stupid I look, I’d rather look stupid and not die! I can deal with looking stupid afterwards. (Lord knows I have experience in that already!)

      • Carol Novack says:

        I very very nearly choked to death in a restaurant in Tribeca, NY in 1997. There was a dinner at a Mexican restaurant after a poetry reading. I didn’t want to go to that restaurant, but the dinner was a social event. Suddenly, I was choking on some tough meat. I remember people around me asking if I was okay, and one of the featured poets, Bill Z., asking if I was choking and when I nodded, I recall his cries to “call 911.” Perhaps he did so himself. Anyway, I passed out. Was told that the restaurant owner tried the H maneuver, which didn’t work. The medics from the Fire Dept. Emergency had to get the meat out with a suction machine. After I came to, one or more of them told me that if 911 hadn’t been called at the precise moment when it had been called (by the poet, I believe), they would’ve responded to another call and I would’ve died. There’s more to the story, but one thing is that I invited Bill over for dinner to thank him for saving my life. A few years ago, a new friend invited me to hear him read on the upper west side. I reminded him of the incident.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Oh Carol!

          You were so close to death! Thank Heaven that Bill Z. had the sense to get 911 called! If the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t work, and there is no one there to do a tracheotomy, you’d have been toast! The Fire Department is the best. They are the ones you need to come when you dial 911. I didn’t even know there was a machine that would suck out the blockage. You were passed out! You mightn’t have ever awakened. This is something to think about.
          Owing a man your life is also something to mull over.
          I’ll bet he is a different man today from that experience. It must have made him grow inside.
          Amazing story, Carol.
          I’m glad it had a happy ending!

  2. keiko says:

    I can’t stop laughing at the “get up” part. I can picture it in my head very, very clearly. I hope you can laugh, cough, hiccup, and sneeze again soon, pain free that is. I have this application on my iphone that turns the camera on so I can text and walk around and not smack into people, cars, dogs, strollers, small children, and other nyc obstacles. It really works!

    • Irene Zion says:


      He was SO embarrassed! I have never understood how something that happened to ME could embarrass HIM. He’s just weird. As soon as I got in the car, he gruffly told me that I had to put neosporin on my knee so it didn’t get infected. No one could see or hear him there.

      In fairness to him, he didn’t understand I was really hurt. In any case, when he gets hurt, he never even mentions it unless I notice that he’s walking all bent over or something. I imagine he’d like me to emulate that template.

  3. Sara Zion says:

    Oh, Mom. It’s too late to call you, but loads of sympathy are coming your way.

    Tylenol. Lots of Tylenol.
    I would give you an ice pack if I could (I could even chill it on our front patio first, like we did with the wine!) but you’re too far away.

    Just be glad you’re not here– no way to keep S & O from climbing all over you. Also, the fur coat might be too heavy for you!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh Sara,

      There is NO way an ice pack is going near me. Any touch to my chest or side is excruciating. Now I have an understanding of how this feels and I will be even more solicitous of anyone else who breaks ribs.

      You are totally right that S and O climbing all over me would have elicited some much louder whooping noises from me. I also could NOT have picked up that bear at all, let alone put it on!

      I tried Tylenol. Might as well drink lots of water, or have a shaman ceremony.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    Those bruises are quite painful. I bruised my tailbone sledding down the hill in front of our house — something I’d resisted doing for years, because I knew I’d get hurt; but I never suspected a bruised tailbone. Hurt like hell every time I got up. And ribs are worse.

    Feel better — and as for Facebook, what’s nice about people writing to make sure you’re OK is that you find out quickly that a lot of people really do care if you are. If that makes sense. It’s a good thing.

    • Irene Zion says:

      You are right, of course, Greg,

      It’s just that I got into SERIOUS trouble with my kids. Apparently they expect to be updated on every little thing that happens to us because we’re old codgers and might pop off at any time. They want warning of it so that they can rearrange their schedules and all, should things go downhill fast.

  5. Melissa (Irene's Friend) says:

    I once fell on my butt right outside of Starbucks. I did not spill one once of that liquid gold. NO one came out to help me. The coffee did not make the pain go away.
    I am sure if you drink the sacred sake, your pain will be greatly relieved.


    PS I will make up the cart on Tuesday, no counting little candyland men for you.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I am very proud of you, Melissa, for falling on your butt without spilling any of your caffè latte. Now can you explain why, in that split second that it took you fall, your lizard brain chose the caffè latte over the safety of your butt? My lizard brain did the same thing and I just don’t understand why it wouldn’t be first watching out for MY health and not the welfare of the things I was carrying.

      Of course no one came out to help you. You live in Miami. In Asheville, NC the whole store would have been out there helping you. I think it’s regional. In NYC you can be lying on the street bleeding but still alive and the taxis will still run over you. In Miami the same thing would happen, but not taxis since we have the only taxis in the country that drive really slowly and would probably avoid trouble. In Champaign, IL, where we used to live, neighbors would have heard about it and driven in before you could even pull yourself up.

      That part is regional.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Oh, and Melissa?

        Thanks for the cart thing. I won’t be doing any bending and stuff, but I can certainly play with the kids standing, or sitting in a chair, if there is one.
        You can disinfect stuff too. I’m milking this from you cause you’re the only one who will fall for it.

  6. Frank says:

    So Sally’s on Facebook and says there’s something on some wall about Irene. Then she says ‘Irene’, ‘broken ribs’, and ‘sake’ in one sentence. I’m thinking something like “Oh, what an amusing bit will THIS be from Irene?” We’ve been out to sushi with Irene and Victor. We’ve seen the howitzer shell that Victor marched around with resting on his shoulder, tipping it over to repeatedly into our sake cups.

    And that was the 2nd howitzer shell he’d lugged around our group… I think. Remember, I was at the active end of that howitzer shell just like the rest of us there…

    So I had visions of a happily wobbly Irene…. Well, what else was I supposed to think when ‘Irene’, ‘sake’, and ‘broken ribs’ are combined?

    Needless to say, I was disappointed when it turned out the sake was still on Irene’s exterior, not interior, and that it had, in bottle form, in heinous consultation with mother earth (well, her sidewalk) and gravity, conspired to break Irene’s ribs.

    So both Sally and I let her know we’re sorry, and send condolences, and I remark (probably along with the cast of thousands here on TNB) that this needs to be her next contribution.

    And lo & behold, we’re notified that there is indeed an Irene Zion contribution to be read at TNB, and Sally shouts out to me in the living room that Irene’s story is published. And then I hear these whoops of hilarity (obviously a bit different from the current variety emanating from whatever room Irene is sitting, standing, lying, or just being active in) booming out of our back room. So I’m asking just Irene antic it is -and she says it’s not Irene, it’s Victor, and what Victor’s said…

    Seems to be a theme here, judging from a prior posting…

    Irene, you GOTTA get that proprioception thing fixed before you do something SERIOUS, like actually finding a Rent-A-Husband store… and signing a lease…

    Maybe time heals all wounds (if it doesn’t result in death, but that’s kind of a final sort of healing, I suppose) but I don’t know how MUCH time it takes for what you’ve got to heal. I hope for you, time flies.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Frank and Sally,

      I have been trying to help the proprioception thing by doing loads of balance exercises. Ask Amy! I think that it’s hard-wired into my brain though. Nothing I can do about it but TRY to slow down and pay attention to what I’m doing.

      (Is there really a rent-a-husband store nearby?)

  7. Matt says:

    That’s quite a fall, Irene. Recover soon!

    You know, as rough-and-tumble as my life has been, I’ve never broken a bone. I have no idea what that pain feels like.

    • Irene Zion says:

      You know, Matt,

      I’ve broken quite a few bones, although never anything serious like a compound fracture where your broken bone is sticking out of your body at odd angles. THAT has to be really, really painful.
      The normal breaks I’ve had really have been fine as soon as they are immobilized in a cast. The thing with ribs is that they can’t cast your chest, so all your broken, bruised and otherwise injured parts just keep moving around with you. The good thing is that they are supposed to heal pretty quickly. More quickly than other bones.

  8. Obviously, I need to pay closer attention to Facebook! Ouch, Irene! I sympathized with you when your husband saw you on the ground and insisted you get up. My husband seems to have the same intolerance for the injuries of others (read=me). I once tore ligaments in my foot during a fall on a snowy ice covered walk and my husband told me I was fine. I believed him. Until I could no longer walk and my foot turned puffy and purple. 😉 Heal fast…..

    • Irene Zion says:


      I’ll bet your husband is kind and sympathetic to total strangers if this happened to them. It’s only family they deny injury to. The weird thing is, WHY do we keep believing them when they say we’re fine? the last time I broke my ankle I was walking my dogs and I heard the damn thing snap. I called Victor and asked him to pick me and the dogs up but he asked where I was and I was only a block and a half away from home. He said I was fine and to walk home. And I DID! Surely we should believe our own bodies at this point, what with their sad records in this regard, right?

  9. Kimberly says:

    I’m with Robin. I missed your FB notification. I’m also with your friend Melissa. Sake should cure all ills. And I’m with everyone else who wishes you a speedy recovery!!

    Clearly, I have no thoughts of my own right now. 🙂

    • Irene Zion says:


      I adore you! You always make me laugh. (But now I only laugh inside and smile outside, if I can help it.)

  10. Christine W. says:

    You know, Allison is exactly like you in regard to the clumsiness. I get the dirty looks from doctors and hospital staff when Allison comes in with some new injury. That girl cannot walk three feet without hitting something against a hard object. I told her that I was going to bubble wrap her entire body with only her face showing a few weeks ago. Perhaps you can be the pinnacle of fashion down there for the winter with your new bubble wrap outfit!

    I broke my tailbone once and that was the most horrid three weeks of my life. I’ll never forget the pain: worse than any child birth experience or evil paper cut. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to have all your current injuries!

    I hope you heal quickly and that Victor gives you lots of TLC. I wish I lived closer so I could come help.

    Much love to you mama! ★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆

    • Irene Zion says:

      OOOOOHHHH! Nice Stars, Christine!

      Melissa has been threatening forever to bubble-wrap me too. I just don’t think the hot, humid weather here is conducive to wearing plastic all over your body. I’m thinking heat rash.

      Tell Allison she has a proprioception thing going which necessitates her to move more slowly and consciously through life. Maybe she’ll listen. Sometimes kids do.

  11. Eileen Tobin says:

    Take care. I fell doown my back yard steps last summer carrying a puppy. Did not want her to pee in the house. So I slipped fell and broke my neck instead. Puppy was fine. However I spent (2) months in a neck brace.

    Get better soon. I will be thinking about you. I think these things are more serious as we get older. We just don’t bounce back like we did when we were younger. I know no one wants to hear that but it is so true.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Eileen, I’m pretty sure that we can all agree that a BROKEN NECK is three kaquillion times worse than stupid broken ribs! I’m glad the puppy is fine, but sheesh, YOUR NECK GOT BROKEN!
      I’m just curious. Did YOUR husband give you any sympathy? I will be SO jealous if he did, but go ahead and tell me. I can take it.

      You are so right about the bouncing back part. More and more slowly, here on the Zion front.

  12. Zara Potts says:

    I know what you mean about the weird noise you make when you fall. I, like Greg, bruised my tailbone really badly when I fell on it right on the sharp bit of a concrete step. I remember it hurting so bad, that the only noise I could make was a kind of gasping whimper.
    Get better Irene! I’m sorry you are so sore! xxx

    • Irene Zion says:


      I’m so glad you make that noise too. It annoys the hell out of Victor, but it is absolutely out of my control. I try to do it more quietly, but when I sneeze or something, the whooping noise gets powerfully loud.

  13. This would appear to be the week for busted ribs – my dad took a header off a ladder a few nights back and broke seven of his, some in two places (along with his collarbone and some nasty damage to his lung). He would appear to be healing up OK (knock on wood) if not painlessly – I can only wish the same to you, Irene!

    • Irene Zion says:


      Simon, your dad got a way worse dose there! The collarbone is rough and you are really not supposed to be poking holes in your lungs with your own bones. Is he in the Hospital? I hope so. Men don’t seem to think it’s manly to take care of themselves. In the hospital they can’t do anything about it.

      What was he doing on a ladder? Victor gets on these high ladders all the time and scares the bejesus out of me. The kids bought him a super-safe ladder, but he doesn’t always use it because he doesn’t want to muck it up. It’s special, you see.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        He sure is in the hospital – he even made the radio with the phrase ‘a local man’.

        He was cleaning out the guttering – why he didn’t ask for help or hire someone is beyond me. Especially as this is the second time he’s fallen, the last time was a couple of years ago and he punctured the other lung.

        Is the super-safe ladder only for Sunday Best?

        • Irene Zion says:

          Oh Simon!

          I’m so sorry!
          You have to get your dad the supersafe ladder my kids got Victor. maybe he’ll be smart enough not to save it for occasions where it won’t “get dirty because it’s good.”
          We can always hope.
          How is he doing?

          I think you have to make sure this “local man” gets his gutters cleaned BEFORE he thinks that his gutters may need cleaning, thereby keeping the “local man” off the roof!

  14. Uche Ogbuji says:

    I’m not laughing. Not even close. I’m fucking upset. I’m going to chase down the causality imp behind that sordid chain of events, and beat him to within an inch of his demon existence. The bitch.

    You just relax and get better.


    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Hmm. It occurs to me that it’s possible to misconstrue my comment. For anyone unclear on the concept of a causality imp, your best bet is the Thomas Hardy poem, Hap:

      If but some vengeful god would call to me
      From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
      Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
      That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!”

      Hardy’s intuition fails him. He gets so close, then he bungs it and attributes misery to “Crass Casualty”. Nonsense. The vengeful god he has in mind is a Causality Imp (not RLS’s Bottle Imp, who is actually a captured vassal of a Causality Imp) In Igbo, an agbara (Erika, that will be familiar to you), associate of Loki, Pan, Pazuzu and many more.

      Just so it’s entirely clear exactly whose demonic arse I’m about to pwn. As a matta fact, who’s got my muthafuckin’ scrying glass right now?…

      • Irene Zion says:


        It is a bit unsettling to think that there is a vengeful god who enjoys making people suffer.
        If there is, I’m with you on whooping his ass.
        I’m right there.

    • Irene Zion says:


      That is so gallant of you! I fear that the causality imp is my proprioception, though. I don’t even think you can beat that up. But I really appreciate the thought!

  15. Marni Grossman says:

    I feel like Victor owes you something. His lack of help and sympathy entitle you to at least a backrub. I’d keep bringing this up over and over again at opportune times to guilt him into doing stuff for you. You have broken ribs, Irene, milk it!

    Feel better!

  16. Irene Zion says:

    It won’t work, Marni,

    He gets angry and annoyed if I’m sick or injured. It’s as though I let him down by not being sturdy and healthy enough to not be touched by harm. In reality, I think it frightens him that I can be hurt and so he rejects the notion entirely.

    There are things I can milk, but this is not going to be one of them.

    (Anyway, if anyone even came near my back I would scream for fear they might rub close to my right side which cannot be touched even by a feather.)

    • Christine W. says:

      As a person who gets annoyed with the sick and injured, I can understand Victor on that. I don’t panic in extreme cases of injury with myself or others and I only have sympathy to a point. My sympathetic level of tolerance is set at 3.8 seconds. Anything beyond that is whining: that includes myself. I will deny deny deny until I’m bleeding or having a serious complication. I am often called a very good patient because I will sit there and take whatever it is without flinching or making moaning sounds. I find it a sign of weakness in myself if I make any noise or if I move at all. Nick says I’m insensitive.

      I’m not sure if that is what Victor is like but I do often become annoyed with the kids when they get hurt and will often tell them to suck it up and “get over it.”

      • Irene Zion says:

        Sheesh, Christine,

        You’re like the female version of Victor.

        (I’m glad this is the only way you are similar though.)
        (I hope.)

  17. ksw says:

    was the saki ok?

  18. Ducky Wilson says:

    Be well. Broken bones suck.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thanks, Ducky,

      Really I’m fine. I’m just so glad I didn’t break my right arm since I’m right-handed. That would have been a real downer. It’s amazing how ribs just heal themselves.

  19. Ben says:

    I don’t think Kim Jung Il has ever fallen down. Keep in mind he is the best golfer in the world and he doesn’t even really golf. He is, to make an educated guess, probably a very prolific walker.

    (Even with sake. And letters.)

    Sorry you fell. Make sure to sue someone. It is very therapeutic.

  20. Irene Zion says:

    Well, Ben, I’d have to sue my mother for the genetic trait of poor proprioception. I think THAT ship’s left port already.
    The sidewalk was uneven, but so are most sidewalks. If you aren’t doing twelve things while walking, you’d see it and pick up your stupid foot.
    Maybe I’ll sue myself. Is that therapeutic?

  21. Yeah, the whole ribs-broken thing is one of those tough ones; not like you can splint them.

    Speedy and full recovery!

  22. Irene Zion says:

    Thanks, Will!

    I’m glad I broke something that doesn’t require a cast and a bread baggie around my arm or foot to take a shower!

  23. jmblaine says:

    It’s because the way you come across
    in print
    people deeply care about you
    this is a good thing
    you care
    so people care about you
    you are self-effacing and not uptight
    so we care really
    and seems I remember that’s the number one thing
    in any kind of writing –
    create characters people care about.
    Now I realize you are not a character but a real person
    but you know what I mean, right?

  24. Irene Zion says:

    I’d rather be a
    people care about
    than a real person
    no one

    • Ben Loory says:

      wow. did you just make that up?

      • Irene Zion says:


        That I broke my ribs or that I wrote the response above you?

        • Ben Loory says:

          that response!

          it really boils things down.

          (i’m sorry about your ribs. my advice is: twilight zone marathon!)

        • Irene Zion says:

          Well, Ben,

          That response was just that, a response to eleven.
          It’s totally true though in every way.

          And I DID break a bunch of ribs.
          I go back to the doctor tomorrow so he can tell me again that there’s nothing he can do for me.
          Can you get it on cable?
          Or do you have to buy it?
          I saw them all back in the stone age when they came out, but I’m sure only a few are memorized, or maybe a dozen.

        • Erika Rae says:

          I love that each and every one of us is a character to everyone else.

          OUCH, Irene! I’m so sorry. And don’t worry about Victor. He falls asleep at 90 degree angles on things like a Salvador Dali painting. What’s more embarrassing? On the ground with broken ribs or asleep at 90 degrees? Just sayin’. (Ah, I’m just playing with you, Victor.)

          So…did you eat the sushi afterwards? Drink the sake?

          Also, time wounds all heels.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Erika Rae,

          He doesn’t EVER get embarrassed by anything he does. EVER. Just by what his family does.
          Mind you, WE get embarrassed by him all the time, but we don’t get all nasty on his ass.
          We, the rest of us, were made from different cloth.

          Sure, drank the sake for sure, although we only had about half of it. It’s still in the fridge.
          We ate, but I didn’t have much appetite anymore.
          (Funny how drinking is so much easier….)

  25. Ruthie says:

    I was hoping that when I got to the end that this would be another “fake” true story like the frog one. So sorry it’s true and you are hurting. Remember, Sim walked off a step and fell and bashed his ankle at your house so you are not the only clumsy one. Though in his case there was a bit of alcohol involved and not just in a paper bag. Hope you heal soon. We’ll be there in 2 weeks.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Now that right there cheered me up a ton, Ruthie!
      It will be so wonderful to have you here again!
      I’m only worried about the fact that I can’t stop laughing when Simeon is around.
      Maybe I can have my ribs wrapped for your visit!

      (Damn! His ankle got REALLY big, REALLY fast, and then turned REALLY BLUE!!!!
      It’s amazing that nothing was broken!)

  26. Amanda says:

    Whether or not you double up the letter before a suffix like “ing” depends on which syllable in the word gets the emphasis when you pronounce it. For instance, HI-ccup, or hicc-UP. You can use the more outmoded and stuffy-sounding “hiccough”, but since you’re already in enough pain with the *cup* noise, you may not want to get more vigourous about things by switching to the *cough*. Easier on the grammar but tougher on the ribs for sure.

    Also, I think it’s super-intriguing that in America, sake is sold in metric-measured bottles (litres) but spelled using the US-spelling style (liters).

    (In case you are concerned, no, I am not the sort of wacko who reads a story like this and picks up only those silly details–I was just trying to distract you from the busted rib pain…and of course, I wish you a speedy mend!)

    • Irene Zion says:


      Since it’s still in the fridge, I just went to look and I was wrong. It wasn’t a liter bottle. It was 720ML.
      I could probably look that up to see how close to a liter it is, but I’m way too lazy today. It looks like a quart bottle, but I knew it didn’t come in quarts all the way from Japan.

      Okay, now I feel guilty. For Americans: 720 milliliter = 0.760 815 510 79 quart [US, liquid]
      For Europeans and NZ and Aussies it’s easy:720 milliliter = 0.72 liter (Duh.)

      I say HICCuping. So I guess I did it right according to your formula.

      Thanks, Amanda, You DID take my mind off my ribs for awhile!

      • Amanda says:

        My pleasure! I’m full of that sort of ridiculous junk, so anytime you need something to take your mind off something else…

        Plus, your essay helped take my mind of the essay I am supposed to writing today, so there was a little something for each of us here. (of course, in my case, it’s called “procrastination”, but that’s another story…which is *also* not the story I am supposed to be writing…)

  27. Richard Cox says:

    I’m really sorry about your ribs! That’s terrible. I hope you make a speedy recovery.

    BTW, is this what happens when you’ve been married for forty years? One spouse falls and breaks bones and the other one says “Get up”??

    Oh, what happened to the sushi?

    And they make you turn off your phone? Is the restaurant on an aircraft?

  28. Tim says:

    Just bring your own bags from now on. I think sushiman’ll get the picture.
    So annoying when easily-avoidable badthings happen. Rate the pain, 1-10?

    • Irene Zion says:

      I’m just sore if I don’t move or anything. When I sneeze, for instance, it’s an immediate 10.

      (But I’m a total baby. If it happened to dad he’d say 1.)

  29. Irene Zion says:

    HA! Richard,

    It’s a little Japanese Grocery store, but in the corner is the best sushi chef and bar in Miami. In fact, Michelle Bernstein, who eats there all the time with her husband, just wrote an article about how he’s the best sushi chef in all of Miami for Conde Nast Traveller. It just came out. It’s a special edition. Michio Kushi takes his craft very seriously and you just do NOT have a cell phone on at the sushi bar, even if you are waiting for take-out. It’s rude.

    Unfortunately, some of the Styrofoam containers opened up and spilled out in the bag. It was all right though. It may not have looked as it should have, but it sure tasted right.

    No, it’s not how long the marriage is. It’s just Victor. He gets embarrassed by family easily. He also does not accept injury or disease as an excuse for anything. He never missed a day in all his years of work until he broke his shoulder and couldn’t operate. He thinks everyone should be like that. I’m just not made out of the same material that he is. He’s really, really sweet most of the time, but no one is perfect, eh?

    Oh, and we’ve been together for 42 years! Doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true.

  30. Lenore says:

    you’re always fucking complaining.

  31. Irene Zion says:

    Well my sweetcakes,

    that’s where you get it from….

  32. Irene, glad you’re only slightly the worse for wear. But you know, sushi and sake are worth just about anything. If I had to break my ribs, that’s what I’d want when I got home from making my muffled little noises of agony to my husband’s embarrassment.
    Feel better, lady. Can’t wait to see you this May if we make it out to Miami!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Last night I was making my whooping noises getting in and out of the recliner and Victor tried to cancel our trip to Houston Wednesday, because “No one wants to sit around listening to THAT!”
      I was in my HOUSE, Gina!
      Where can I just let loose if not there?
      I really wish I were good at immediate come-backs.
      He really thinks that friends of decades would not want to see us if I make whooping noises when I hiccup or sneeze or something.
      He thinks I embarrass EVERYONE.
      (Except for my kids, which I do on purpose, I don’t think that’s true.)

  33. Don Mitchell says:

    Next time, carry some thick rubber bands with you. Put them around the styrofoam containers before you put them in the bag. Then, they won’t open and spill, and you won’t have to worry. How hard is that?

    If you’d done that, then the silly thing you did wouldn’t have had serious consequences.

    I don’t know why people can’t accept personal responsibility for anything anymore.

    (Victor, I’d prefer cash to the check you offered me to write an insensitive comment. Can you get it here next week? Thanks.)

    • Irene Zion says:


      Rubber bands are a good idea. Or Scotch Tape. Tim suggested bringing a paper bag that has an actually flat bottom. These are all very good ideas that I will positively use from now on.

      On the other hand, if there are two people, the burden could be shared in a normal couple.

      (I’m canceling any check he sends you, Don. So don’t be buying anything on layaway. Just saying.)

  34. Yeah, you really do have to be careful what you put as a status update on Facebook.

    Once I wrote, “On the phone with my crack dealer.”

    It really snowballed.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh Criminy, Jeffrey,

      You just did it AGAIN on TNB!

      Did you really do that? You were thinking it was funny, right? Well it was and anyone who overreacted is an idiot. I think it was funny.

      People on Facebook were really nice, it’s just that I didn’t tell my kids and I got read the riot act about telling the universe before I told them. But, truthfully, they do NOT want to hear me complain, so how can I win?

  35. Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) says:

    Irene, I’m sorry about your ribs. I hope you’re feeling better. I think you should get a personal assistant to help you with the sushi-carrying and letter mailing.

    I wonder how many people actually die of embarrassment? I mean literally because they get hurt and are afraid to look silly or ask for help. One time I started choking and went into an empty ladies room so no one would notice.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Holy Mackerel, Marcia!

      What were you thinking? NO ONE can save you if they don’t even know you’re choking! At least learn from that and don’t do it again.
      Christ. You are really scaring me. NOTHING can happen to you, Marcia. You hold the history of my family and all the answers to everything we can’t answer.
      You are indispensable.
      Yeah, about that personal assistant…I thought being together 42 years would bring along with a little assistance. Wrong.

  36. Eileen Tobin says:


    Hope you are feeling better. Take all the drugs you need. It really helps. Don’t worry about getting addicted to anything be comfortable. I speak from experience. I tried to tough it out when I broke my neck last summer. Then decided if the doc. perscribed them it was because I needed them.

    Also it certainly made me better to live with. So much so that after about a week Dennis decided I did not require any more sympathy and it was SOS as usual. Dogs and puppy were much better and more understanding.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Well, Eileen,
      I certainly need a different kind of doctor who is looser with his prescription pad. He game me a couple of samples of Celebrex.
      I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to get high off that.
      I think if you break your ribs and your elbow and knee look like you were hit by a bus, the doctor should at the very least get you high for a couple of days.
      Oh well.
      It’s probably just as well. Quitting smoking when I got pregnant with Sara almost killed me. I should maybe stay away from the addictive stuff.

  37. Angela Tung says:

    i’m a total klutz too and always have random bruises on my arms and legs from bumping into things, and cuts on my hands from reaching into bags and scraping against god know what. when we first started dating, my boyfriend was concerned that i was anemic. no, just clumsy.

    hope you’re feeling better!

    • Irene Zion says:


      Thank you so much for telling me you are one of my fellow klutzes! I was feeling so alone with all these people with good balance and no bruises and knowledge of left and right.
      I’ll be all right.
      Ribs always get better unless you spear a lung with them, which I didn’t.

  38. ksw says:

    who says you do not bounce like you used to? with a fall and no cause for bread bags that is hardly a true fall ( hope laughter is not painful now since it is the best medicine!) Victor being the Great Communicator meant to day,, Shit are you ok? call if you need other translations caw

    • Irene Zion says:

      You are totally right.
      A fall without the need for a cast and a supply of bread bags hardly even counts.

      You are the MOST positive person I have ever known.
      I’m going to try out Pollyanna for your alternate name!
      I would REALLY like to believe it though, and I’m really impressionable….

  39. ksw says:

    ok that was say and not day

  40. Becky says:

    I like that you have no proprioception.

    I mean, not because I like that you bang into things, but because it’s nice to know I’m not the only one and that there’s a name for it.

    The pointy parts of my hip bones are always throwing themselves against counter corners and just the other day, I hit my eyebrow on the computer.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Protecting ourselves from hurting our eyes is what our brow ridges are for. (Good thing, too.)
      It turns out that neither of us were alone in this proprioception problem!
      Angela has it too. I’ll bet there are a lot of clumsy people out there.
      I’m not happy you both have the same trouble, but it does make me feel better that I’m not the only one.
      We should form a club!

      • Becky says:

        That’s the thing, though. I don’t consider myself clumsy or uncoordinated. I’ve always been pretty athletic, except for being a smoker and not very good at breathing.

        In open spaces, my body is pretty obedient; I’ve been a dancer and a singer and a horseback rider. I can do a lot of very complicated, muscle-control-related, physical tasks pretty easily. But walking through the kitchen without hurting myself isn’t one of them.

        Selective lack of proprioception.

        • Irene Zion says:


          Obviously, you have a sub-category of the proprioception challenged.
          Who knew this was such a complicated affliction?
          Selective proprioception deficiency.
          I wish I had that form. I have the total all-encompassing type.

  41. Eileen Tobin says:

    Since your doctor does not think you need any pain meds. The bottle of Sake did survive the fall. So it must be strong stuff. I think I would keep that handy and take as needed.

  42. Irene Zion says:

    Excellent suggestion, Eileen!

    It IS strong stuff.
    I’ll just self-medicate!

  43. Gloria says:

    I’m sorry you fell. I would comment more intelligently, but it’s 12:39, I have to catch a bus at 7:24 AM, and I’m a tadbit intoxicated. It took me 20 minutes to type these two sentences… More tomorrow. (P.S. it was open mic night at the local pub and a I met a very nice man named Dennis who was born in Burma, when it was still called Burma, and we talked politics and life for much longer than I had budgeted.)

    I hope you feel better soon!

  44. Irene Zion says:


    We went to Burma/Myanmar about ten years ago. We have been to quite a lot of the world already, but we never, ever saw people who looked so down-trodden and hopeless and depressed. Everyone, with the exception of those in government or the military. It was heartbreaking. I have a lot of stories about that place.

    One odd and not depressing thing. We asked our “guide” (all assigned by the government and terrified,) about the name change of the country. She pronounced Myanmar and then she pronounced Burma and I swear to God they sounded to my Western ears exactly the same. We had her repeat them over and over and no one of our small group could hear a difference. I find that to be big-time weird.

  45. mary shideler says:

    i knew sushi was bad for humans!

    so that explains your legs in africa. where we were exactly one year ago.

    8 and snowing up here this morning,

    mary 🙂

    • Irene Zion says:

      Hey Mary!

      How’s the kayaking in the snow?

      Didn’t you know that’s why they looked like that?
      I just bruise really easily, on top of being a super klutz.

      Here in Miami Beach I’m going to have to wear a sweater this morning!

  46. Aaron Dietz says:

    Irene–here I was, just looking you up on Facebook to say, “Hey, that was an awesome Xmas letter I finally got to read while I was on the plane to El Paso” and I saw the status message. And then I followed the trail to this post. Wow!

    Okay, well, I’m glad you’re okay, or at least that you will be okay. Sure, time heals all wounds, but it still takes time. Go, time!

    Now, back to me and my concerns: the Xmas letter. So sweet! You’re a fabulous storyteller, and your Xmas letter tops them all. And I get a lot of good Xmas letters. You win this year. Yay, you! Thanks for sending it to me! Each vignette was concise and colorful. I wanted it to go on forever. And your competition for reading material while I was on the plane included The Bell Jar, which I also liked, but didn’t quite finish, probably because of the time it took to read your letter a couple times. Thanks again!

  47. I was a bit confused at first while reading this story. Who is Victor? Is he a husband or son? From reading the comments, it seems he is your husband. Either way, I see too many men (husbands, sons, brothers, friends) with free hands walking with (sometimes feet away, another male thing) women who are loaded down with stuff to carry. I sympathize with your pain. Your easy bruising sounds like something that should be monitored. I recently had blood work and I discovered I have low blood platelets (mine is 108 and the safe range is 140-400) thus I had to give up coffee, chocolate and Guinness. I enjoyed your storytelling. Be safe and always have a hand free. That’s what my mom would say to me and that’s what I’m tell you. Take care.

  48. Irene Zion says:

    I’m sorry, Lorraine,
    I’m used to the old TNB where it was a smaller group and everyone knew the “characters” in my family. It is a stupid assumption I have to shed, obviously.
    Victor is my husband. I adore him and usually he’s totally wonderful, but sometimes he’s a jerk. I guess like most people. This particular time, he hit the jerk bell for sure.

    I should probably get it checked out again. I did it about 20 years ago, but then I was 20 years younger. Perhaps things have changed. Thanks for caring enough about a total stranger to give good advice.

  49. Thomas Wood says:

    Terrific piece. Love your wit.

    I can relate to the bit about changing, having broken each collarbone, once apiece. It’s amazing the transformation between having a favorite tshirt one day and, the next, regarding it as vile and probably from a poor neighborhood.

    meanwhile, for you victor, may I present my tale of corralling bees into a cup: If bee’s are such idiots, why do they terrify me so?”

    • Irene Zion says:


      I am positive that all my clothing is against me. Also my chairs and couches are lower than usual. I need a personal fork-lift.

      Your story is a scream! Victor would never do what you did with the bees, though. He is allergic to ants, bees, wasps, etc. He swells up like a balloon and gets very uncomfortable and itchy. Children run away screaming from him when he looks like this. Of course, he thinks that this is the only good consequence from this experience.

  50. D.R. Haney says:

    My belated condolences on your pain, Irene, and I do for a fact hope that you’ll follow my example and use your FB status update sparingly.

    But, then, I hate FB with a passion. I check in as seldom as possible. I’ve been doing the social-site thing too long, I think, and when FB dies, as it eventually will (believe me, I’ve been through this a number of times already), I may just neglect to open an account at whatever site replaces it. Though I wouldn’t, at least at the moment, go so far as to deleted my FB account, as per Justin Benton.

    Heal well!

  51. Irene Zion says:

    Thanks, Duke,

    I really do use it quite sparingly. I was on Myspace for a while and one day I got an e mail from them containing passwords to other personal stuff. These weren’t passwords from Myspace. I never went back. Really creeped me out and I worried about it for ages. I believe I’ll use it even less now.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      That’s odd. They were passwords to…do you remember? I never received anything of that kind while at MySpace. I did get hacked a lot, but I think that was true of most.

      • Irene Zion says:

        I think I was being phished. The creepy thing is that whoever sent me this, ostensibly Myspace, knew passwords to financial records, like banking stuff and credit cards. I can’t imagine how. I imagine Myspace was not to blame, after all, but I just got a bad taste in my mouth and never went back again.

        • Anon says:

          Out of curiosity, what were they after if they already had the passwords to such things? Or was it simply a taunt – “All your financial base are belong to us!” – to let you know they’d already hacked you?

        • Irene Zion says:


          I thought the latter. We watched our sites very carefully after that and, so far a we know, nothing ever happened. Either we were just lucky, or we have doppelgängers out there doing us damage we don’t know about yet.

        • Anon says:

          I try to be an optimist. Perhaps your doppelgängers are actually industrious little buggers and they’re accidentally making you rich instead.

          My favorite one-liner when people accuse me of being too cavalier about things like PINs and credit card numbers is (delivered with just enough of an evil smirk to make them consider the possibility), “What makes you think I’m using mine?”

  52. Irene Zion says:


    You are a witty one!
    I’d use it, but I wouldn’t remember it. It’s like a joke. It lasts until I laugh and then I forget it.

    Oh, it would be so very, very nice if my doppelgängers were making me rich!
    I have such a LIST!

  53. kristen says:

    Glad to read you’re okay!

    Sigh–Facebook’s breadth of reach…

  54. Irene Zion says:

    Always good to hear from you Kristen!
    (And your sweet aura makes me feel better already!)

  55. Ouch… Sorry to hear Victor told you to get up. Sadly, that’s probably what I would have done. I get embarrassed when something goes wrong – to anyone – and usually try and sort the situation as quickly – and uselessly as possible.

    Glad you’re not seriously hurt.

  56. Irene Zion says:


    It’s an honest man that would own up to such a failing. I’m proud of you.
    Now, count to ten if something like this happens to your girlfriend and then go help her and say something nice.
    Learn from me, here.

  57. Paul A. Toth says:

    You’re lucky you weren’t ATTACKED for that status post. I can see the comments I would get: “Maybe if you’d stop thinking, you wouldn’t trip and fall.” “Quit reading dead philosophers and look where you’re going!”

    I feel for you. I’m a total klutz. I consider klutzhood a sign of intelligence, but unfortunately, it looks like the opposite.

    I must point out that you mentioned Hugo Chavez — don’t be so political! I hate politics!

    ; )

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh, and this is two, but I think it’s placing before the other, I also broke my ankle this year. But that wasn’t stupidity as usual, I twisted it in a hole in the grass while I was walking my dogs. That one, at least, cannot be attributed to absent-mindedness.

  58. Irene Zion says:

    Paul, when you’re right, you’re right.
    I never should have mentioned his name.

    Talk about klutziness! Last night I was walking with my laptop open because it just wouldn’t stop churning and Victor was calling me and it was dark and my invisible dog Kimchee was just sleeping on the floor and I didn’t see her, cause I was looking at the pinwheel of death, and I got my feet stuck under her and flew in the air and landed on marble with my knees! They both hurt, but at least I can bend the right one. The left one doesn’t bend and I can’t get in to see an orthopedist in my network until Monday. The WORST part is that my laptop flew in the air also and landed on it’s open mouth. It works, but when I open it now, it makes a clicking noise. I feel awful for my poor defenseless laptop! I’m a bad laptop mother.

  59. […] time, she fell and broke her ribs.  This was right before she attended a Fuckerware party, although the two are […]

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