Clumsy (klum-zee), adjective — awkward in movement or action; without skill or grace.

I have always wondered if there was a record of the world’s clumsiest man, so I went on a little bit of a quest.

There was, of course, the obligatory check of the Guinness book. Not really anything substantial there. There were also scattered tales in books of folklore on the subject, but surprisingly few. Asking friends only yielded anecdotal material, but not the world-class kind of clumsy I was looking for. I even checked the Bible for clumsy people. There’s a great account of this dude that fell asleep sitting in a window he subsequently fell out of during a warm summer evening revival meeting. He REALLY had to be revived! I have been to a few services like that and can fully relate.

The reason for my interest in the subject is that I actually think that I might be the clumsiest man in the world. One of those unfortunates who has the ability to trip over his own shadow. I come from an ancient line of bulls-in-china shops. Oh, believe me when I say that it’s not something I am proud of in the least. There are lots of other things I would much rather be best at, or famous for. So far, it’s just a local secret. Another reason I am in love with Amarillo. Everyone in this town just smiles and looks the other way. Sometimes they offer to help, if I or whatever I am carrying winds up all the way on the ground.

So, I have to say that I have developed an obsession, maybe a morbid interest, in clumsiness and the clumsy. Call it self-realization.

Some synonyms for clumsiness that I particularly enjoy are: bungling, ungainly, gawky, maladroit, lumbering, oafish, lummox, lout and the list goes on …

Remember when Gerald Ford was president? Most people of a certain age, myself included, can only recall that President Ford was always tripping, stumbling or falling over something. One time it looked to me like he almost took a fatal spill on the steps of Air Force One. It’s kind of a drag to be consigned to history as The Guy Who Always Fell Over Stuff, but try as I might, I can’t think of any of his other accomplishments. Maybe pardoning Nixon, which also must have been a bit awkward. I remember Chevy Chase, back in those days, having an absolute field day taking pratfalls during his Saturday Night Live skits that lampooned Ford. He always jumped back up looking very presidential, if a bit sheepish. 

What may have happened to me, in retrospect, was the heartbreak, the ruination, the ravager of my generation: television.

In the “black-and-white” days of TV, the Dick Van Dyke Show was a staple of family viewing. The slapstick show theme music included a whimsical stop when Dick Van Dyke fell over the hassock, ottoman, footrest or whatever the word would have been in those days. He was an early pioneer of popping back up looking for all the world like nothing had happened. I always laughed my little 2-year-old rear end off at that, because, well, it was funny.

My theory, however, is this: What if I was watching Dick Van Dyke while I was trying, in my developmental stage, to learn how to walk? That would explain a lot.

Or it could be my arthritis. The cartilage in my knee joints is disappearing, and knee replacement surgery is more than probable for me—it is inevitable. I tend to wobble like a drunken sailor when I walk, often reminding me of Charlie Chaplin. Of course, I was clumsy way before any arthritis began.   

Enough of the excuses and rationalization. I hang around with clumsy people so I don’t look quite as bad, but the truth is, they probably hang with me for the same reason. My girlfriend in high school told me I was the worst dancer in the swing band, and I could provide no argument; she was my partner in the swing band.

I do have some friends who are dancers. Their entire family dances. Ballet, ballroom, all kinds of dancing. They are graceful, beautiful, vivacious and totally amazing human beings, angelic to observe. My goal is to be more like them, but I would honestly settle for a trip to Market Street that doesn’t involve me chasing avocados down the produce aisle.

Last time it was an avalanche of hair products that came down in a multicolored cascade into, and all around, my shopping cart—in front of a bunch of what looked like the Your Mom and All Her Friends Club. They offered to help me pick it all up.

I guess, in the grand scheme of things, you just can’t have it all. 

Some people have extraordinary and obvious gifts, some people’s are more subtle. Some people move through space with style and grace, and some of us stumble-bumble around like we can’t figure out which way the sidewalk went. 


  • Andy Chase Cundiff

    Artist, singer-songwriter, music producer and humorist Andy Chase Cundiff spent many years traveling the U.S. and abroad, but calls Amarillo his home. A longtime resident, Andy’s house is on a red brick street in Oliver-Eakle that is lined with elm trees.