For no reason. Just, you know. Fell.
I had stopped my car in front of a store in a strip mall, to stick some mail in the mailbox there and toss some trash and the remains of my breakfast in the can. Moving confidently and without impediment, I strode around the back of my car, headed for a completely uneventful encounter with surrogates for the US Postal Service and municipal trash and refuse collection.
Next thing I knew, my ass was kissing blacktop. Hard.
Near as I can tell, my right leg went forward of its own accord just as my left leg cut across sideways. I don’t think I tripped myself… then it seems I would have fallen forward. I fell straight down.
What the hell…? How did I get down here? I was sort of dazed for a second, taking in my new, low-angle perspective on my surroundings (and also some exhaust from the tailpipe of my car). Did I slip on something? I wondered as I struggled to my feet. I looked around at the ground. Nothing to precipitate my fall. Nothing to trip or slide on.
Oh my God. I have Mad Cow Disease.
Just then, a man walked out of the drugstore I had intended to approach with all my limbs arranged properly. He kind of smirked at me in that way when you know someone is trying not to smirk at you because you just did something incredibly dumb and embarrassed yourself in the middle of a parking lot… but they’re concerned you may have injured yourself.
He raised his eyebrows. “You okay?” he asked me wryly. As if those two words were actually code for, “I saw that, it was totally inelegant, one second you were walking upright and the next you had dropped completely from view, I watched you through the window there, and you have got to be mortified.”
I rolled my eyes and bobbled my head in the universal sign for “Yep, I’m an idiot.” “Yeah,” I said, sighing, sharing through my body language that I was, in fact, sort of mortified, but more to the point, disturbed by the fact that I could just fall down for no reason.
The thing is, I wasn’t really as embarrassed as I probably should have been. That’s a bad sign, right? Time was, I took myself way too seriously and would have looked all around to see who might have seen me (though the looking around would have been done with a great deal of subtlety, because the only thing worse than being embarrassed in public is being seen looking around wildly afterward). But I’m past that point now. I don’t care nearly as much. I laugh at myself a lot more. I seem to remember the transition happening when I was about 23 and my sister and future brother-in-law had come to visit. We went bowling and I swear I let go of the ball, but it didn’t let go of me. It carried me over the line into the waxed lane and I flailed wildly, then landed on all-fours. My sister was crying with laughter. My brother-in-law, God bless him, tried to stifle his. I laughed so hard I couldn’t get up. Serious self-regard cured. Siblings will not let you get away with that crap. The story is told to this day at family gatherings. My brother-in-law no longer stifles his laughter.
I assessed the physical damage. Remember when you were a kid and you’d fall and scrape up the heels of your hands? Ooooh, that stings, right? Yep. Did it. There was even a chunk of skin missing from my right hand, and I was bleeding. I regarded it with curiosity and analysis. Now how did I do that? I wondered. Just in terms of physics, it seemed wrong. I fell straight down… didn’t I? How did my hands get scraped up? And yet the mail and the trash are still firmly in my grasp…?
Am I in a parallel universe? What the hell is going on?
I brushed off my backside, sort of checked my feet to make sure I wouldn’t fall again, and walked to the mailbox. I dropped the bills through the slot. It was only as I reached my other arm out to toss out the trash from my car that I realized I was holding…
…wait for it…
…a banana peel.
Oh, come on.
It had been my breakfast, and now it was serving as a satire for a cartoon. The universe seemed to be playing with me.
I shook my head at myself, got back in the car, and drove to work. I fetched some alcohol wipes from the medicine cabinet and cleaned off my raw and bleeding hands. “What did you do?!” several people asked me. I told them. And then I sat down and composed an email to my sisters, detailing the fall. I knew they’d get a kick out of it.
I’m told one of them wound up laughing aloud – and snorting – all alone in her cubicled corner of her office.
Yet another story told and retold at family gatherings.