I SUPPOSE THERE ARE WORSE THINGS that could happen than falling down in the Whole Foods parking lot while returning to your car with a bag of groceries, but at 5:30 last evening, I couldn't think of one.
I was wearing a wrap dress and a pair of chunky-heeled sandals. I don't usually wear heels, but these were comfortable and sturdy Dansko, with a thick square heel on the bottom and a substantial leather upper. I only describe the shoes in detail because there was no other reason why I would have taken a tumble. The parking lot had been recently paved, it was dry, and I didn't notice any pebbles or other obstacles. Nevertheless, I managed to fall off of my shoes in spectacular fashion, just a few steps from my car.
This wasn't my first fall. A couple of years ago, I went down while walking down a stationary Metro escalator. I was carrying a wheeled briefcase and it caught on a step, throwing me off balance. I was lucky that the escalator wasn't moving at the time and even luckier that I was just a few steps from the bottom of a short escalator (instead of at the top of one of the really long ones). I jumped up, my lip bleeding, trying to act like I totally meant to do that (what? you don't fall on purpose?), lest anyone nearby become concerned or feel obligated to come to my aid. Then a train entered the station, so I quickly gathered my things and hurried to catch it. Because that's what you do. When I got home, I threw the shoes I was wearing in the trash. I blamed the shoes.
As you're falling, time stands still, and your brain issues a series of vivid thoughts:
Oh no not here please no oh shit
Please don't let me break a bone
Sure glad I didn't buy those eggs
I hope no one sees me
This is going to hurt
Try to act natural
Whatever you do don't cry
I landed - OOOF – with my left knee taking the main impact and my left arm breaking the fall. I immediately scrambled to my feet. In that moment, it made sense to me to act as if I'd done it on purpose. The worst possible thing would be for some stranger to have to decide whether they should come rushing over to help me. Even worse if it was someone I know. Quelle Embarrassment. I opened the trunk – nothing to see here, folks! – and placed my grocery bag in it. Then I realized my plastic milk bottle was dented, so I wrapped it in a plastic bag in case it should leak.
Finally, I got into the car and looked at my knee. It was scraped but not bloody, and it would bruise, but it was fine. Phew. Then I realized there was a woman sitting in the car next to me, pecking at her iPhone. Either she missed the spectacle, or decided to act as if she had. I was equal parts grateful that she didn't add to the scene and insulted that she didn't think enough of her fellow human to at least roll down her window and ask if I was OK.
I didn't throw away those shoes – they're still pretty new – but I did feel that same anger towards them.
The part of this that puzzles me is that feeling of not wanting anyone to go to any bother. I would pretty much rather die than have anyone go out of their way to help me. I'm not good at being on the receiving end of kindness. I'm trying to get better, but it makes me a little… uncomfortable.
I remember reading a story written by a friend, of how she was at a party and realized she was choking, actually choking, and rather than inconvenience anyone with her little problem, she quietly went into a hallway and gave herself the Heimlich maneuver. Fortunately, it worked. She was relieved she didn't have to embarrass herself in front of everyone.
Late last evening, I was reminded that there is something worse than falling in a parking lot. A dear friend just received a cancer diagnosis. With that dose of perspective, I started thinking about what I could do to help her. Because I'd always rather be on the giving end of the equation.
This morning, I'm sore, like I was in a little car accident or something. My knee stings but is fine. And I'm wearing flat shoes.