The Perils of the Falling K Head Honcho Hello for May 2012

A brief history of the slightly 3D Knock Knock letters. 1. One of our early tradeshows. 2. One of our later tradeshows. 3. And an even more recent tradeshow. 4. The stairs above our offices south entrance. 5. Our office mailroom.

At Knock Knock, we love our K’s. Letterform-wise they’re unique, with their splayed horizontal V’s branching out from military-erect I’s. Since ours repeat, they reduce to a convenient abbreviation: KK. One of the reasons I named the company Knock Knock is, as previously outlined in some of our marketing materials,* because of those graphically flanking K’s.

At the time and for the following ten years, however, I had no idea that K’s could kill. Or at least maim (this blog post is putting the “May” in “maim”; now that I’ve achieved official timeliness, I can move on).

I was at home. It was evening. The house was a mess. I put off doing anything about it for a few hours, but finally it was time to bust a move. And a move I busted, along with a body part. Despite my procrastination, once I started cleaning, I was a dervish who whirled. One of my goals over the last few months, for a variety of reasons, has been to reduce stress, to slow down, to not take on so much (the latter two being linked to the first). But I have two speeds: sitting and watching TV or moving fast, obsessed with velocity and efficiency.

After a little while, everything was basically clean. One of my knickknack shelves, however, was cleared of its objects. Earlier in the week, while my housekeeper was dusting, my three 3-by-3-inch cubes of the travertine marble used to build (or, more accurately, clad) the Getty Museum had fallen from the shelf and broken a ceramic bowl on the credenza below. Ofelia pointed out to me that the shelf was leaning downward and was therefore not adequately supporting its contents. As I finished my cleaning, I saw that she’d placed those objets not back on the inadequate shelf, but on the credenza below. Since I had moved the offending and heavy travertine cubes elsewhere, I thought, “Why ever did she not reload the shelf?” and took it upon myself to do so. These objects included a decommissioned plywood Knock Knock O and a decommissioned plywood Knock Knock K. ( As a general matter of collectibility, I like physical letterforms, and specifically I liked that these two spelled OK.)

Since our very first booth at the 2003 National Stationery Show, we’ve had our logo laser-cut into individual wood letters made of plywood, with a lovely exposed striped edge, that we’ve then painstakingly painted either white or orange. Those of us who’ve set up tradeshow booths or overseen office decor have had the misfortune of painting them and hanging them, each letter with its four-or-more keyhole mounts requiring perfectly positioned wall screws. The individual letters range from about 8 inches in height to perhaps 13, depending on their intended location. They’re about 0.75 inches thick. They’re not only iconic, they’re heavy.

My housekeeper was right—the shelf was inadequate. As soon as I hefted up the letters, they and a few other objets came crashing down. The K landed on my right foot. On one of its eight corners. With a force akin to that of a stiletto heel, i.e., with the same effective weight as an elephant, because, as we all readily know and discuss at cocktail parties, pressure equals force divided by surface area.

My foot, about to give birth to an alien.

My first response, if I recall correctly, was “motherfucker.” I figured this was one of those eye-watering whacked shin or stubbed toe moments that hurt like the aforementioned motherfucker but subside relatively quickly. I kept cleaning. While I was leaning down to pick the objects up from the floor, something caught my eye: a light blue hemisphere on top of my right foot, somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball.

I thought about sitting down at this point, but I remembered that earlier I’d set water and dishwashing soap to boil on the stove in an attempt to clean a recalcitrantly gunked-up pot. I hobbled into the kitchen and took the pot off the stove, poured it out partially, and then burned myself while attempting to scrub. That’s when I said to myself, “Stop. Just. Stop.”

The scene of the krime. 1. My knickknack shelves; please don't judge. Note that the top one is empty save for the feather-light origami pieces (constructed out of KK Pads, I might add). 2. The O and the K, ill-placed on the credenza under the thought that the shelf may be too unstable to hold them. 3. Three-quarters view of the kulprit K, held in order to demonstrate (a) the beautiful striped plywood edges; and (b) the lethality of its heft and corners.

It was about 9:00 p.m., and the last thing I wanted to do was go to the emergency room. When does anybody ever want to go to the emergency room? So I called a friend I thought might know what was going on. This swelling had literally ballooned. When I’ve broken bones or incurred sprains, the swelling is always much slower and more all-over. She suspected it might be a burst blood vessel. I did not go to the ER.

In the morning, the goiter had flattened and the black and blue had spread. To the ER I went. X-rays showed that nothing was broken, and the doctor confirmed that I had indeed burst a blood vessel and incurred a hematoma; the injury was to soft tissue. Over the course of the following week and a half, the swelling shifted across my foot, immobilizing my toes, and the black and blue traveled all the way to my ankle. I couldn’t put on a regular shoe for a couple weeks, and a month and a half later there’s still some pain at the point of impact. (By the way: I do not recommend doing a Google image search on “hematoma.”)

Why, you’re now no doubt asking if you’ve read this far, am I telling you this story, illustrated with gruesome pictures of my long-without-a-pedicure foot? Because it’s ironic (but in the incorrect, Alanis Morissette meaning of the word, not the gap-between-words-and-meaning literary definition). Because it’s so very me. But mostly because it’s ironic. And iconic. I don’t know that I’ve ever had an experience that was so simultaneously ironic and iconic: basically, during my partial leave of absence and my attempts to slow down, reduce stress, and not take on so much, the very essence of Knock Knock fell on and injured me.

1. A day later; please note that my toenails are not fungally yellow, but instead bear the remains of a months-old pale pink pedicure that looks yellow in this light. 2. A few days later. 3. A few days after that. Note that the bruise goes all the way up to my ankle; the difference in coloration between the two feet is not the result of lighting.

The lesson I’m drawing from this incident is mostly to slow down, because it’s when I move quickly that I make mistakes and have accidents. (FYI: I very rarely get sick; I have accidents and injuries and structural afflictions and surgeries.) But the kicker of it is that my speed mostly helps me in life. I’m really fast at a lot of things, so I get a lot done. Do I accept that speed works for me but periodically results in injuries and accidents (and not just of the physical kind), or do I slow down, reducing my efficiency and my life satisfaction (because I’m so impatient, slowing down is a nightmare) but possibly managing not to kill myself? I don’t have the answer to that. But I will tell you that the shelf has subsequently been fixed, and I have not moved the O and the K back up from their temporary position on the credenza. I’m also cleaning less. And that in itself is nothing if not slow-down-and-smell-the-roses self-improvement.


*Why the name Knock Knock? Well, first off, Knock Knock’s founder, Jen Bilik, had glued plastic letters that spelled out “KNOCK KNOCK” to the outside of her front door (and “WHO’S THERE” to the inside), and when she decided to start the company, she looked around and the words popped out at her. When she thought about it, she realized that “Knock knock” is a call-and-response command that invites a “Who’s there?” question. Knock Knock also reminds us of childhood, which we hope to honor with our glee, open-mindedness, and purity of purpose. Because Knock Knock is one word repeated twice, it lends itself nicely to the design of letterforms. Graphically it’s a palindrome, with consonants flanking a center O, the odd K at either side, and the N and C tweaking what might otherwise constitute cloying symmetry. Also, Jen thought it would be fun to answer the phone “Knock knock.” And by the way, we’re actually Who’s There Inc. D/B/A Knock Knock. Long story.

Knock Knock's namesake front door (which, oddly enough, I now live next door to).