The only thing worse than having toilet paper stuck to your shoe in public is falling down in public.
I once finished speaking to an audience of several hundred women and started to walk away from the podium to a satisfying round of applause, forgetting that I was standing on a small box. I took a step into mid air, dipped, tumbled and grabbed the corner of the podium with one hand.
The robust applause immediately turned to a collective horrified gasp.
Despite what felt like a dislocated shoulder, I pulled myself up, laughed and shouted, “Down, but not out!”
I was laughing alone.
Even for me, it was an ending with a little too much drama.
Grace runs in the family.
When our youngest was interviewing for her first teaching job, she had finished her demonstration lesson, answered questions from a panel of teachers, and was dismissed. The panel sat quietly as she retrieved her belongings from the floor at the front of the room. She caught the heel of her shoe in the strap to her purse and fell flat on her backside in a skirt suit.
The room fell silent. “I’m OK!” she said. Not that anybody asked. She said the worst part was that nobody laughed.
Last week was a big week for falling. Madonna was performing “Like a Prayer,” in a Dallas concert, knelt down to shake hands with some fans and lost her balance. Her leg shot into the air, she fell on her back and somehow turned it into a dance move. The video clip looks like a demo for Fire Safety Week: stop, drop and roll.
Carrie Ann Inaba, one of the judges on “Dancing with the Stars,” was effusively complimenting a good-looking male contestant while waving her arms around and got so excited she fell right out of her chair.
Then there was the video circling the Internet of a Tennessee reporter holding up a 12-pound fish, commenting on its size, when the fish unexpectedly came back to life. The reporter screamed, threw down the fish and jumped up on a seat in the boat. She lost her balance and fell backward onto the man standing behind her. They both toppled, with the reporter in a short dress displaying all her goods. It may be a superfluous detail, but the reporter was blonde.
Humiliating? Sure. But at least the camera crew and the guys in the boat were laughing.
Falling in public is the only time you don’t care that people aren’t laughing with you and hope they will laugh at you. There’s something about laughter that diminishes the embarrassment — and the dislocated shoulder, the hurting, the bruising and the gaping wounds.
I believe in being prepared for the unexpected. If I take a tumble in public again, I’m going to jump up, thrust my arms in the air like a gymnast at the close of a floor routine and yell out my score. I’ll rate myself low. Maybe that will get a laugh.