Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Falling Down

I would rank falling down among the most humiliating of experiences.

Little ones seem to spend about as much time on the ground as they do upright--stumbling and tumbling regularly as they run and play.  Skinned knees and scraped palms are simply the marks of a joyful childhood.  When you think about it, the average adult human is approximately four times taller than wide, so the occasional misalignment of one's center of gravity should be anticipated and accepted.  But falling down seems to be universally and undeniably awkward, no matter the circumstances.

After receiving a big, concrete-flavored taste of humble pie yesterday morning, I realized that I can't even recall the last time I actually fell down. All the way to the ground. I felt childish and ashamed, and I don't even think anybody saw what happened. Although there's no way to be sure. Perhaps a YouTube search of "hilarious girl eating pavement" is in order.

I was running with Loki and Kezia, my two Siberian Huskies. My dogs are both pretty good running partners, by which I mean that once we are moving they tend to stay focused on forward momentum, usually obey voice commands to slow down or make turns, can run by another dog or human without much distraction, and refrain from pulling, criss-crossing, or other typical canine nonsense. I hold only one leash, which is connected at the far end to a coupler, which then connects to one dog's collar at each end. See figure A.
Fig. A (finishing a run at the beach November 2008)

Yesterday the male dog, Loki, decided that one particular tree could not exist any longer without his personal scent sprinkled upon it.  Occasionally he is unable to control this impulse, and my response is to continue running. Most of the time his business is so efficient that he has returned to his place in front of me before the leash ever pulls taut. Other times I am forced to slow down for a few moments and issue a stern command to keep moving.  But on this particular occasion the circumstances were intricately coordinated so that when he strayed left and I kept running, I basically ran straight through the horizontal coupler while Loki held his position (on three legs, I'm sure) when he felt the tug, and before I realized that a correction of balance was necessary, Kezia was under my ribcage and my elbow was skidding across the asphalt.  See figure B.

Fig. B (my scraped and bruised elbow)

Okay, so it's not really that bad. But the inherent humiliation of falling to which I pointed earlier caused a surprising sequence of emotions. After overcoming the initial shock of being suddenly horizontal, I shouted at Loki, brushed the gravel out of my wounds, and continued to run. I was soon overcome with anger at my poor pet, and actually gave him a little kick in the butt. As if Loki premeditated the event and tripped me on purpose. It was a very childish emotional outburst--attempted retaliation for having caused me harm, both physical and emotional. A few moments later, of course, the remorse settled in and I tried to pet Loki while we ran as penitence for my foolish behavior. 

There were no cars driving by, no people around, but who knows if someone happened to glance out their kitchen window right as my stride became a skid.  The other thing about falling down is that in the eyes of still-upright witnesses, it can be absolutely hysterical.  Common decency suggests that we bite our lips and suppress the guffaws, but come on: haven't you ever seen a falling-down sequence that made you burst into side-splitting laughter (or at least want to)?  For me, the falls that make sustaining common decency a real challenge are those ones that just. keep. going.  The person continues to trip over himself or other objects until you wonder if it's all a carefully orchestrated gag.  But then it's not. And you feel horrible for laughing. You should be ashamed of yourself. Ahem.

So anyway, I fell down. It hurt. But it could have been a lot worse. I wasn't hit by a car, for example, and thankfully the street did not gauge my nicest Nike performance pants.  Possibly because the heroic Kezia helped break my fall.  Hopefully experiences like these will continue to be rare for me. I guess I was due for a good fall--to keep my pride in check.  And now I'll always carry the memory of my intimate encounter with the corner of 13th and Maple. 

When was the last time you had--or witnessed--a good fall? (Sarah, your list of recent falls is limited to 350 words or less. Just kidding!)


Bridget said...

That's a pretty bad scrape. And a hilarious story. Why can't we resist laughing even though it's so wrong?? I love this video even though I feel so bad for laughing:

Bridget said...

Or this one:


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