On My Propensity for Smacking Myself In the Head

18 Apr On My Propensity for Smacking Myself In the Head

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 19.4.21


The other night in an underground city carpark, I put on quite a show. Not the kind of show I had just done in the comedy club up the road – that had gone far more to plan and involved very little slapstick. Also, that had been stand-up. This was entirely fall-down. 

There was a sizeable audience for both events, though. I’d finished work to a decent crowd around the same time the Auckland Philharmonia had knocked off next door, so the city’s carpark was abuzz with classical music lovers now queuing up to pay for their parking and happily chatting. By all accounts, Michael Houston was superb and the Rachmaninov had been invigorating. You could tell there would be no early nights in these people’s houses.

I chatted with strangers about our nights the way you do in long, slow moving queues, then skipped towards my car, possibly a bit full of myself and my own good times. And suddenly fell flat on my face on what I can only assume was a particularly slippery bit of concrete.

Keys and handbags and open palms make quite a clatter in underground carparks. Still, not quite loud enough to drown out a dozen or so people sharply drawing in their breath. An older lady came to help and asked me how I felt, meaning my scraped knees and red hands. “A bit silly, to be honest,” I told her. That clarified, and my stuff put back in my handbag, she told me she couldn’t find her car or the husband who was waiting in it, and we agreed we were both having quite a time, and wished each other all the best.

In the usual run of things, I’m not someone who trips or spills or knocks things over. I can catch a ball and throw a dart, and I’m not the wedding guest people keep away from a three-tiered cake because “you know what she’s like”. But I am capable – suddenly, out of the blue – of smacking myself in the head with all manner of things in inexplicable ways.

This is not (I’ve googled it) because of anything underlying and sinister. I just get a rare and sudden onset of clumsiness when I’m tired or distracted. It doesn’t happen often enough to worry me, which also means when it does happen, it’s quite a shock. “I am totally not the kind of person who falls over in a carpark,” I am able to think as I fall over in a carpark.

Mostly, I find these moments amusing and endearing. I mean, we’re supposed to worry that grazed knees – perfectly acceptable in small children – mean something else when we’re grownups. We’re waiting in trepidation for the day a fall becomes A Fall with a capital F and leads to hip replacements and assisted living.

Rather, I suspect these moments serve to remind us we’re not as grownup as we think we are. A sign, not of decline, but that the world is still a place we can’t take for granted and needs our attention.

So this is a shout out to the occasionally klutzy doofuses amongst us. We know who we are. And like the nice lady who tried to cheer me up by telling me she’d forgotten the location of her husband, let me lift your spirits with my most ridiculous moment of gawkiness.

One of my favourite jobs is recording voice overs for radio and TV commercials. It’s one of the few times when I really feel like I know what I’m doing – I’ve been doing this for years, and I love it.

It’s one of the few jobs where someone like me is on an equal footing. You’re not on the back foot because of your gender, or age, or appearance. It feels like there is no glass ceiling with voice work. It’s all about skill, and what you can make your voice do.

On this particular day, it was a demo for new client – a kind of lightly paid audition that might lead to a regular job. There was a cluster of new people to meet and try to impress. And they were impressed with my first take, and got excited about seeing what else I could do.

Can you do it so we can hear your smile? Yes, I can. Now like it’s a warm secret? Absolutely. Can you make us feel the colour green? Sure thing. Give us something that sounds like corduroy? Not a problem.

Amazing, they said, this would be a regular gig. I thanked them, picked up my umbrella and… smacked myself in the head with it. Quite hard. I have no idea how. I could not recreate this. Recovered (oh, how we laughed) I turned to go… And walked straight into a glass door.

Turns out it’s not just the glass ceiling you have to worry about. I did not get the job.