“Have a nice trip … see you next fall!”
It was a popular saying when I was a kid, a classic pulled out whenever one of our peers tripped on a bump in the sidewalk, fell on the playground or stumbled for no apparent reason while walking home from school.
Was it funny? In its day, I’d rate it as “moderately clever” at best, yet for elementary school students with little else in their rudimentary comedic palette, it was easy and let’s face it, expected by all involved.
As I look back, tripping and stumbling were more due to simply “growing up” than caused by physical bumps or cracks in our path; and by “growing up,” I mean that our bodies were constantly readjusting to ever-developing feet, joints and muscles and as such, our coordination rarely kept up with the pace of such progress.
Yet, since it was a universal phenomenon (let’s give it a clinical name: “formative clumsiness”), no one (at least in my recollection) ever took offense to the comment. It was a throw-away, an acknowledgement more than a cut, delivered without thought or feeling, like the overworked, unmotivated fast-food employee who tells you to “Have a nice day” (because that’s what the manager says you have to say) without looking up as they slide your order across the counter.
As an adult, tripping due to external forces, or simply over one’s feet, doesn’t ever quite leave us, does it? I mean, who among us hasn’t tripped on a crack or a small bump in the sidewalk, and suddenly looked around to see if 1) anyone’s watching, and/or 2) cursing the very same crack or bump as a way of transferring responsibility for the situation, thus clearing us from any culpability or embarrassment?
In the long, long, long list of things that I cause or that simply happen to me in a normal day, tripping is a middle-of-the-pack concern. By that, I mean it occurs with relative frequency (which is common for people like me, i.e., those who don’t always pay attention to where they’re going or what they’re doing), yet it’s relatively benign and harmless compared to some of the other situation I routinely encounter (usually at my own doing), things like (and this is just a sampling): blows to the head, which happen with frightening frequency; finger cuts while slicing vegetables; burns due to consuming hot food and drinks too early and much too quickly (or spilling said food/drinks on my bare skin); stabbing and mild self-mutilation from flatware encountered while unloading the dishwasher; the occasional esophageal contusion suffered when an “under-chewed” tortilla chip fights its way “down the tube” into my digestive tract (the proverbial “square peg in a round hole,” or in this case, triangular peg), etc.
That said, if I had to estimate, I’d say I trip on something (or nothing at all) six to nine times a week, with at least half of those incidents occurring in public. Over the years, I’ve forgone looking around to see if anyone is watching or cursing the source. I generally just laugh at myself and move on. Saturday, I experienced just such an incident.
We had overnight guests, and Saturday morning, Joanie notified me that we were out of coffee, so I headed for the nearest grocery store. As I entered the store through a set of motion-driven sliding glass doors, I didn’t notice an industrial-grade carpet runner laid between the doors I had just passed through and another set of doors that would take me into the store itself.
As I passed through the first set, my feet transferred from concrete to carpet seamlessly; however, I didn’t notice that about halfway between the two sets of doors the carpet had bunched up, and when I arrived at it (the bump), my right foot clipped it, and I started to fall forward. The physics of it all caused my lurching body to speed up, and I was heading for the next set of sliding doors quickly and out of control.
Now, as someone who has fallen off everything from treadmills to porches and even moving pickup trucks (all witnessed and well-documented), this type of experience doesn’t cause panic for me, but it does get the brain the moving. In that instant -- which lasted approximately .5 seconds -- in which my body was hurtling toward the next set of glass doors quickly and at a potentially dangerous angle of impact, my mind processed all the following thoughts and questions:
“What if the door opens just as I reach it, and I fall face first into the produce section?”
“What if the door doesn’t open in time, and I face plant into the glass?”
“What if either item 1 or 2 occur, an employee sees it, then accesses the security cam footage and posts it on social media for all to see?”
“I am going to fall face first into the produce section.”
“What if a) the door opens, b) I don’t fall, c) my momentum carries me through the produce section and I knock over a display of apples, and d) I hit my head on the concrete floor, rendering me unconscious, landing me in the emergency room and leaving my family and guests to wonder where I am, but more importantly, “Where the hell is our coffee?!”
“This is really funny.”
“I am going to end up as an internet sensation because I’m sure an employee is witnessing this and will definitely pull the security camera footage.”
“Have a nice trip … see you next fall!”
As per usual, in that span of time, I managed to overthink the entire situation, and given my uncanny agility and catlike reflexes (by “uncanny” I mean much less than a normal person of my age; and by “catlike,” think Garfield), I was able to regain my balance (and composure) just as the sliding doors opened, and I walked into the store as though nothing had happened.
Fast-forward 15 minutes. I’m at home, making coffee for my family and guests, and no one is the wiser … well, at least not until that employee finishing posting the video.
© 2022 David R. Haznaw