The Fall of Man

If I fall down in public and you are among those pointing and laughing, you had better watch your ankles.

When I was in elementary school, perhaps the worst thing that could happen is if you vomited at school. The custodians would be dispatched to the scene where they would cover the upchuck with a generous helping of a pink sawdust-like concoction that was not only supposed to absorb the puke so it could be swept/scraped up, it also attempted to deodorize the body fluid with a strong bouquet. Regardless, it smelled like pencil shavings swimming in minty chunder. Back then, the students did not laugh at the incident or the poor puker. If it happened in the hall, students would invariably circumvent the scene with a mixture of awe, revulsion, and reverence. They knew. They knew that whoever "did it" would become the stuff of legend. Years later they would recount "the day So-and-So threw up in the hall."

Nowadays, vomiting at school doesn't have the same social stigma. If it happens in the hall, there is a mild amount of interest followed by envy of the sick student who invariably gets to go home. To puke in class is a bit more spectacular and might be talked about for a few days, but it, too, passes. What has replaced public puking as teenage anathema at school? Falling down. Students dread it. When it happens, it is hilarious. It's, like, the worst!

When did this happen? When did something as potentially dangerous as falling down become such a knee-slapper? And why does it follow a student for so long? Perhaps it is because I am now a more mature fellow with two titanium hips that I spend more than a little of my walking time avoiding falling. I am not exactly sure what would happen should I take a tumble, but I do not think I would be sitting there laughing and blushing, my only pain in my mind. I have the funny feeling that I would break something. And would someone help me up, or would I be circled by throng of laughing, pointing people engaged in a rousing chucker of "Ha-Ha Herman"?

During the evening wear portion of the 2008 Miss Universe Pageant in Vietnam, Texas's own Crystle Stewart slipped, fell, popped back up, dusted off herself, then resumed her little turn on the catwalk, applauding all the while. According to the news, over a billion Earthlings gasped. I saw her on one of the major network's morning shows the other day, and the main topic was not her victory. It was The Fall. There was a blivet of "What were you feeling when . . . ?" and "How have you recovered from . . . ?" questions. Is it not bad enough that we communicate to our little girls that success = Barbie®-like proportions and Vasiline®-lipped, Crest®-white smile? Now we further the idea that falling down in public eclipses, say, being arrested for driving drunk or having naked pictures on the Internet.

When will this stop? I am certain of one thing, though. If I fall down in public and you are among those pointing and laughing, you had better watch your ankles. I have a mean swing with my cane, and I am taking you down, too!


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