Does clumsiness qualify as a disability under the ADA**?

18 Apr

I like to think of myself as a fairly versatile individual. I don’t think it’s vain to say that; I believe everyone has many fine qualities of which they should be proud. I am creative, friendly, open-minded, tolerant, and fiercely loyal. However, though I have many strengths, gracefulness is most decidedly NOT among them. Not even the slightest bit.

Knowing this, it might not surprise you to learn that on Thursday last week, I accidentally flung an entire plate of food all over my office floor. I was carrying the plate back to my desk after a seminar on the importance of maintaining a positive attitude in the workplace and somehow tipped the plate at just the right angle so that all the food flew off the plate and scattered on the floor in a 10-foot arc around me. I tell you, my boss and my coworker and I maintained a positive attitude for at least the next 15 minutes as we hyperventilated from laughter over my fumble. It was really quite spectacular. My other coworker (who is a self-proclaimed neat freak) laughed at the story as well, but then stated that I was not allowed to eat anything when I came over to her house for a colleague’s upcoming baby shower. We all had a good laugh about it, even though I suspect she was secretly not kidding about that.

The next day at dinner, I was attempting to separate a piece of pizza from the pie and somehow managed to frisbee the slice about 2 feet across the dining room. Is frisbeed a word? Well if it wasn’t before, it is now. Anyway, the pizza miraculously landed face-up on a laptop bag and didn’t even touch the carpet, much to the chagrin of my dogs who had been watching the pizza’s trajectory hopefully, ready to clean up the mess should it have touched the floor.

But the worst of the clumsiness events of last week happened when my mom and I went to the gym. I was in the process of changing into my workout gear when I dropped something on the floor. Naturally, I bent down to retrieve it. The lady using the locker behind me chose that exact moment to step in front of her locker as well, and as I bent over I accidentally touched my butt to her butt. Thank heaven we were both wearing pants at the time. You have not experienced awkwardness until you have inadvertently touched your cheeks to a stranger’s cheeks in the locker room (even if it was separated by a couple of layers of fabric). There is a brief moment where you are clearly both wondering whether or not to acknowledge the event with an apology or an “excuse me”, or whether it would be best to pretend it never happened. Or, perhaps you might even consider canceling your membership at that gym and joining another one, so you never have to worry about accidentally bumping into that person ever again. I opted not to cancel my membership on this occasion, trusting that I would never remember the lady’s face anyway because I was too weirded out to even turn around and apologize.

Of course the awkwardness did not stop me from posting it on Facebook, nor from writing a blog about. Dammit, what’s the point of experiencing something horrendously uncomfortable like that if you can’t make people laugh by sharing it with them?

And that, my friends, is what they call a positive attitude.

**The Americans with Disabilities Act


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