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08.13.08

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The Bonehead Chronicles

Emergency rooms, vomit and the halcyon days of summer

By Chris Hoke

Upon breaking my clavicle in my senior year of high school, I was instantly aware that I had, in fact, broken my clavicle. It happened during a bike ride to the YMCA with some friends. We were all going swimming, and I had offered to carry all of the swimsuits and whatnot in my backpack, to make things easier on everyone. Little did I know. (I think that's called "foreshadowing.")

I had borrowed a bike from my then-girlfriend, and it was one of those racer-style street bikes that I've only ever seen Lycra-wearing serious bicycle enthusiasts riding. The handlebars curved down in the front, so you had no choice but to bend down quite far into what I'm sure must be the best possible position for racing down a hill at breakneck speeds. It was, however, for me, just the best testicle-crunching position I've ever contorted into.

It took me a block or two to get the hang of the bike, but before long, I was going along at a pretty good clip. I was at the front of the pack and someone behind me called out my name. For what reason, I do not know. I whipped my head around to the left, and my momentum caused my backpack full of their bathing suits to whip out to the right, which threw me right off of the bicycle, down to the ground, and hard on my right shoulder. I heard a crisp snap! and skidded for a few feet, finally coming to rest on my back, on top of my backpack.

Concerned I might look funny lying there like that, not unlike a turtle on its back with its legs waving in the air, I literally jumped to my feet, trying to look natural and cool. Instantly overcome with nausea and nearly blacking out, I nonchalantly vomited into the gutter.

My bicycling friends arrived moments later, having doubled back. I wiped my mouth on my sleeve.

"Jeez, man! That was a nasty-looking fall! Are you cool?" They all agreed that it looked very bad.

"Yeah. I broke my collarbone. I'm fine, though." I played it off and sat down on the curb, making sure I was well away from the vomit. (I know it sounds strange, but my primary concern was keeping myself composed and looking good.)

"Do you want us to call an ambulance?" one of them asked.

"No, I'm good." I gently moved my right arm, and the pain shot through my right side like a bolt of lightning, causing me to black out. When I came to, one of my male friends was (for lack of a better word) cradling my upper body, having caught my head before it cracked open like a ripe casaba on the sidewalk. "Seriously, you guys," I continued casually, "I'm cool. I'll take care of this. Go on ahead to the Y, and I'll call a cab."

"Yeah, right. Nothin' doin'."

Ah, friends.

After a quick trip to the ER, and a few weeks, I was good as new. Until I broke my collarbone. Again. Riding a bike. Again.

"You're joking." My wife said when I told her this story. Sadly, I wasn't. I rebroke it again within one month of the first break.

"I was feeling a lot better, no pain really, and I decided to ride a different bike down to the gas station, to, well, make sure I could still ride. You know how, if you want to gain some speed really quick on your bike, you'll kind of stand up and pedal? Well, I was doing that and I missed the pedal, and my right foot hit the ground, causing my handlebars to come up toward me quickly, and my arms to jerk back quickly. I heard a snap and, yeah, it broke again."

"Did you learn something from this?" she asked me, in a tone that didn't quite suggest confidence that I had, in fact, learned something from this.

"Yes, I did." I replied matter-of-factly. I learned not to tell my wife stories that make me look like a bonehead.


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