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200,000 flip-flop–related injuries

Discalceated on May 9, 2021.

In 2002 in the United Kingdom, 55,100 poor souls went to the hospital with flip-flop–related injuries. By 2010, the number of such casualties had risen to 200,000, costing the calceated and discalceated alike £40 million. Flip-flop injuries range from over-pronation to flat feet, tendonitis to ankle sprains to broken bones, and even something the British National Health Service has dubbed sudden explosive toe syndrome.

The discovery this morning of this discomfiting tidbit of information should have been sufficient forewarning for me that the day would go rather poorly. But alas, it was not sufficient. Rather than retreat back under my bedsheets and wait out the remaining 16 hours of the day, praying that tomorrow’s many hours would be better, I plunged boldly forward with my initial plans: Get out of bed, get dressed, get breakfast, and get busy living, lest I get busy dying.

The remainder of the morning passed as mine always do, so I shall spare you the dysfortunate details. Arriving head-first in my kitchen around noon, wearing something vaguely resembling clothing but made largely of bandages and the tattered and melted remains of my duvet, I was ready to begin the breaking of my fast—with breakfast.

Yanking the transparent plastic sack of bagels from the frozen depths of my refrigerator, I firmly clutched the bag in one hand and ceremoniously removed the little plastic tab thingie from its twisted neck. Never had this simple act presented any problems in the past, but today was not of the past: Today was firmly embedded in the present. That today was so uniquely mired in the present, rather than quickly retiring to the past as so many previous todays had done, should have been my second warning that the day would go poorly, but again I ignored it.

Lastly, there’s a first time for everything—there must be. The one saving grace is that such first times are often in the future. But today, keeping in line with all the other signs and portents of what was in store for me, this particular first-time event decided to cheat and manifest itself squarely in the present.

The little plastic tab thingie snapped in half.

One half of the plasticky little thing remained tightly gripped between my bony, man–squirrel–like thumb and index finger. The other half broke free, spiraled through the air toward the sink—a mere 11″ away but what seemed like miles—clattered along the polished, steely surface, did a little pirouette right as it crossed the point of no return, and plunged down the drain. A sad, distant plop! rose from the S-trap below: The little plastic tab thingie’s dying gasp.

I wailed and my eyes started from my head. “What will you do now?” my eyes finished for me. Before I resorted to madly swinging the now-tabless bagel bag over my head in a fit of febrile fury, with the aim of reducing the three remaining bagels within to the breadcrumbs and coarsely milled flour whence they came, I realized I could, with some contemplation and effort, improvise a new little plastic tab thingie. It would require no more than a few items lying around my kitchen, my garage, and the local recycling center. Then I could rest assured that when the filmy, bagel-stuffed sack was returned to the dark abyss that was my refrigerator, my bagels would remain safely within, without any possibility of escape. My equanimous self returned and I proceeded with the breaking of my fast by the making of breakfast (rather than breaking my bagels).

Thirty minutes passed, then some minutes more, and the bagel I had chosen—a sesame seed variety, highly noshworthy—was now resting gently inside the bagel-cutting apparatus I had obtained from a street peddler in 2014. Previously I had used a knife and salad fork to bisect my morning bagel, as any ordinary person would, but after a mishap which led to the need for a new salad fork, a new salad bowl, new cabinets, and a new biffy, I resigned myself to acquiring assistive technology to safely prepare my matutinal bagelry. Fortunately all my toes and fingers emerged from the mishap unscathed, but it could have been worse. (That’s where you thought this was going, didn’t you? Didn’t you??)

So after much searching and wandering, after checking out every store in town from the Spend-O-Mart on Alpha Ralpha Boulevard to the Secondhand-Me-Down store on Stubblebine Street, I ran into a cappadocious street peddler who specialized in exotic and surreal cutlery. He wasn’t as shady as that duck broker, but he sure was shifty—and squirrelly (but not furry). I told him of my bagel-biting problem, and he provided me with a bagel-biting solution: It was a bagel guillotine, essentially, where the hapless toroid of bread is forced to stand upright in a small plastic enclosure, then the blade is slammed down with one hand, running the bagel clean through its midsection. The peddler demonstrated it right there on the street corner, using my neighbor’s lawnmower tire as a stand-in for an authentic bagel. It worked perfectly. I took the little biter home, and it worked perfectly for me too. For years. Until today.

The moment I dropped the blade on that helpless sesame seed bagel, I realized the bagel was not so helpless: The blade pushed in but it would not pull out. The bagel wouldn’t let go. I gripped my instrument of bagely destruction with both hands, tugging vigorously. It would not do: The blade was firmly jammed in the bagel and the bagel was firmly jammed in the enclosing plastic prison. I grasped the device between my knees, pulling with both hands: No dice. I put it on the floor, stood on it, and pulled mightily with both my goaty hands, putting my whole back into it. No dice.

“These sesame seeds provide quite the amazing traction!” I mused aloud (to no one in particular). My eyes widened. Thoughts of gluing sesame seeds to my Trabant’s tires come winter danced in my brain. Perhaps today’s infelicities could be parlayed into an amazing future invention that would make current snow tire technology obsolete overnight and earn me millions. My eyes widened further.

I looked out my kitchen over-sink window. My eyes narrowed and my mood darkened. A snow pile sat in my back yard, remains of the horrible winter of 2015, yet unmelted. “Your time will come soon, Snow Pile,” I ground out between clenched teeth. “Soon, Snow Pile. Soon.”

My mood brightened again as my thoughts, such as they are, returned to the seedy bagel awaiting a good noshing. More time passed—some hours, I forget how many—and in due course my bagel was ready to eat.

As I spooned another piece into my anguilliform mouth and carved the next tiny chunk off the trapped bagel (always careful not to carve any toes or fingers off in the process), my mind, such as it is, returned to the little plastic tab thingie and my need to replace it with something I could MacGyver together before night fell and it was too dark to see. My eyes narrowed again; the monkeys inside my brainpan lurched into action. After much ooh-oohing and aah-aahing, they had designed a new little plastic tab thingie that avoided a visit to the local recycling center to gather raw materials, but would, in the end, require me to install yet another new biffy. I frowned, but this was the best they could come up with. It was either this design, or rent a box truck and pallet jack, and then to the recycling center. I acquiesced to the monkeys’ design choices, but warned them it would now take six months and perhaps $40 million to complete. They just flung turds at the inside of my skull.

I finished the last croûton-sized bite of my eviscerated bagel and decided that, with the little plastic tab thingie project on hiatus, it was time to “go out” into the world for a bit—before night fell and it was too dark to hear. I rose from my breakfasting chair and donned my usual weekend outfit: Wool pants, wool socks, and a wool sweater, layered among my best over-underwear, underwear, and under-underwear—a purple thong—and ending in a pair of neon purple thongs forced over the bulky wool socks. A four-piece business suit and three concentric hats adorning my squarish noggin completed the ensemble.

I approached my frontmost door with nary a hint of trepidation: I had already vanquished the Babadook waiting on the other side, four days ago, so what was there to worry about when the door finally swung open? I grasped the knobby, knobby doorknob in my equally knobby right hand, took 37 deep breaths—each deeper than the last—and flung it open.

I placed one flip-flop–shod foot gingerly upon the ground, and then woke up in the back of an ambulance. At least it didn’t cost me £40 million.