Yesterday at work, as I headed back to a meeting room following a short break, something caught my eye. I turn and started back to get a better look. My toe hooked a small garbage can. It did not make a good soccer ball. The next thing I knew, my nose was pressed up against the carpet. I went exactly, perfectly, straight down face first.
Ever noticed how a crowd can materialized from nowhere in such a situation?
For a brief shining, moment, I actually entertained the hope that a sudden earthquake would cause the floor beneath me to split open and I would be swallowed in an abyss, never to be seen again, and legends would tell of The Great Earthquake Of 2007 that swallowed Portland and was believed to have been caused by some idiot tripping over her own feet. Then I remembered that there was at least one other floor beneath me, and it would have to split also. The logistics didn’t quite work out, there. Also… is that really the 15 minutes of fame I want? Really?
Crowd: Are you ok???
Crowd: Are you hurt?
Me (nose still to carpet): I’m OK? I’m OK!
Crowd: Wow! We didn’t even hear you fall! Just a sort of noise like a box being dropped or something. That must have been the garbage can falling over.
Me: I’m OK! Really!
Crowd: Can you get up?
Me: Yes, yes. I’m fine.
Crowd: Here. Let us help you up!
Many pairs of hands reach down and helpfully tug on various body parts, all in different directions.
Me: Really, I’m fine. I can get up without help. See?
I rose to my feet and thanked The Crowd — kind and concerned citizens, all — and, brushing off the shredded tatters of my dignity, I walked carefully back into the meeting room and sat down. I picked up the cup of coffee I had, thankfully, left sitting on the table during the break and took a big swig. I wished it was something way stronger than coffee.
The one person in the meeting who had witnessed the actual nose dive (think falling tree here), said that I executed a nearly perfect stage fall.
I guess that drama class I took way back in the dawn of time in high school stuck with me. We practiced falls endlessly. I think because it was a way for a bunch of teenagers to expend a little harmless energy in a way that was still vaguely dramatic and so could be honestly said to be a part of the drama class curriculum. So we fell — with mats so nobody got hurt, much, beyond a few bruises. Life was simpler back then and the school wasn’t afraid of being sued for possibly endangering its students. I was never all that good at stage falls because, well, I was afraid of getting hurt. And I had to think about what I was doing while I did it, so I fell really, really slowly and dramatically, but not exactly in the way the drama teacher was looking for, if you know what I mean. I was great at long death scenes where the dying heroine slumps slowly to the ground in the arms of the strong and manly hero. Not so great at, say, falling down like I’d been shot or whacked by a 2×4 or tripped over a garbage can.
But somehow my muscles must have remembered that long ago falling practice, because I did exactly what you’re supposed to do. And although I actually, really, went straight down face first, the only lasting effect is a somewhat bruised and sore knee that I expect will be just fine in a few days. My hands, although they stung a bit from slapping the carpet, can still knit.
My dignity, however, may never be the same.