Archive for December, 2010

Help! I’ve Fallen…and I’m Only in My 30’s?

27 Dec

Shortly after the movie is over and the credits are rolling, my petite Japanese friend quickly loses ground, tumbling down the steps inside the theater.  Maybe it’s the shock that she’s failing to navigate a path that is so direct, so well-lit that a pack of hump-backed senior citizens just easily descended, which stops me from immediately coming to her aid.  It’s in those first seconds of her free fall where my own actions will later be questioned.

I suppose I could’ve made a last ditch snatch for the back of her sweater.  But that would mean I’d have to set down my purse, my half-eaten bag of popcorn.  There simply isn’t enough time.  Not to mention that would mean I’d possibly have to fall too.  I’d have to lean forward and hope that I wouldn’t go along for the ride – two sober, thirtysomething women landing one on top of the other at the bottom of the stairs, a hysterical story for fellow movie goers that would be far more memorable than the forgettable plot of the film we’d just seen.  Her arms flail, they stubbornly flutter one last time, not unlike the spastic wings of a newborn bird.  In the bitter struggle against gravity, one of my friend’s leather mules flies off her foot into the first row.

When she finally collects herself and her shoe which I retrieve for her, I must ask the obligatory question that is posed in these type of situations, “Are you okay?”  Once she nods is my cue to let out the peals and peals of laughter that have been caught in the back of my throat.  Initially she is in no mood.  Eventually, though, because I have now cried off all my eye make-up, she is laughing too.

“Pohla,” she will implore then and forever after.  “Why you didn’t help me?”

It is a simple question with no easy answer.  This is not to say that I haven’t experienced my fair share of face plants.  Once as a teenager I was in a hurry to reach my seat in a theater.  I tripped and slid with arms outstretched, at least ten feet down the sloping floor.  Fortunately, the carpet broke my fall.  It was dark.  I couldn’t see a thing, but I did hear some guy utter a deadpan, “Oh my god.”  I never actually turned towards him.  It was less embarrassing if I remained eye level with his bright Nike.  More recently I was coming down steps out my front door when I slipped on some ice, flew up in the air like the black stick figure you see in a yellow warning sign, then smacked the ground hard with my tailbone.  For a moment I just lay there, absorbing the pain, the lone witness to how I essentially just broke my own ass.  That night I watched the Academy Awards with an ice pack shoved in the waistband of my sweatpants.

So what is it about a person falling that makes the scene so humorous?  Is it our lack of physical control?  The sight of our limbs branched out, unprepared for impact?  My same Japanese friend routinely comes to visit from the Midwest where she is now living.  It happened again while I was dropping her off at LAX.  The backpack she was carrying was apparently too bulky, too heavy for her small frame.  Just as I was about to wave a final farewell, I glimpsed in the rear view mirror as she unexplainably fell backwards like a beetle on its back.  It wasn’t her losing her balance that got me going this time.  It was the quizzical look on the sky cab’s face.  Together, during a phone call, she and I will crack up at how even that man, a trained professional at customer care, was somehow too stunned to offer a hand.

Happy Birthday, Naoko!