I have a new embarrassing story to share. It’s a pretty relatable one, I think.
It happened as I was walking home from work on Thursday. There was this crack in the sidewalk, see, and I stumbled on it and pitched forward. At least a billion people saw it.
Before I could register what was happening, my hands shot out (yay reflexes!), so my upper half landed on my palms. My knees took the fall for my lower half. The heavy backpack on my back slammed forward onto my upper back and lower neck area, adding to the impact of the fall. On the street next to me – University Road, a busy street, to give you an idea of the embarrassment factor – a long line of cars sat waiting at a red light, OF COURSE. As I said, there were a billion of them at least, and everyone was bored and watching me and so they all saw me.
I stumble on sidewalk cracks sometimes. I don’t usually fall.
Is it ever not embarrassing to fall?
I got up quickly and kept walking, resuming my pace. Like, “OH HEY EVERYONE that was no big deal, NOTHING TO SEE HERE.” But in my head, I was thinking OW OW OW OW OW.
My palms stung a little, but my knees. My knees instantly tightened into bands of pain holding my upper and lower legs together, the right side worse than the left. The pain was actually stupid, but I got up quickly and power-walked to my house, which, thankfully, was literally just around the corner. I reached the front door two minutes later.
Why are we so embarrassed when we fall that we’ll sometimes pretend it didn’t happen? Is it simple self-consciousness, or is it more along the lines of how a cat instinctually conceals pain and weakness for self-protection reasons?
I could ditch the stoic act once I got home, because Callaghan is away and I’m the alpha cat so our cats wouldn’t take advantage of my vulnerability.
The first thing I did was I sat down to investigate the aftermath. My palms didn’t hurt anymore, and they looked surprisingly normal – despite landing hard on the pavement, I found no marks, no scratches, and no redness. They looked clean, too, somehow. Okay, fine. Then I looked at my legs, and I was vexed to see that my newest jeans were ripped over the right knee. It couldn’t have happened when I was wearing anything else, I thought. I slid them off and found a colorful strawberry just below my right kneecap, the top layer of skin peeled back from a large spot in shades of deep red and purple.
Who gets road rash from walking? I DO.
I touched the wound to check it out. (No, I didn’t think to wash my hands first.) The skin on top was intact; there was no blood or other fluid. It was perfectly dry. Perfectly smooth. And perfectly excruciating when I touched it.
Having had no experience with wounds that look bloody, but aren’t, I decided to err on the side of DO NOTHING because I’d had a tetanus shot within the last 10 years, so I figured I was covered.
(I wondered where the top layer of skin went, though, because it wasn’t flapping over the strawberry… it was just gone, leaving the wound neatly frayed around the edges in a complete circle. I decided that the missing skin was either stuck to the sidewalk or to the inside of my jeans.)
While the wound looked superficial, the knee itself had inflated in a lumpy non-pattern all the way around. I considered what to do. Place a bag of frozen peas over the swelling? I decided to just elevate my leg.
My right knee took the worst punishment. Left knee was just bruised, but also painful to the touch. Palms got away with the whole thing completely, though I swear they also met the sidewalk with considerable force. A headache had developed – I’m guessing from the heavy backpack landing on the back of my neck – and (spoiler alert!) it lasted for three days.
So that was that, but it didn’t end there. The embarrassing effects extended into the weekend.
On Friday, my head and knees throbbed all day, and I felt useless at work.
On Saturday, I woke up with an intensified headache and almost ate a handful of Advil, but I resisted and went to Body Combat un-ibuprofenized. I’d missed class on Wednesday night… there was no way I was going to miss Saturday morning!
Body Combat mostly went fine. I went easy on the knees. I just got disoriented at some point, almost fell backwards at another point, and couldn’t let my knees touch the floor.
Then I went to do some grocery shopping at Sprouts, where I got disoriented again and nearly drove my shopping cart into one of those cardboard display things piled high with products, but I managed to swerve around it, which worked, but the edge of the cart got caught on the corner of the display, and I almost tore the whole thing down.
Some version of this has happened to most of you, right? Right?
Things have improved a lot at this point. The headache is gone, for one thing. My knee looks a lot better, albeit scabby, and the pain has lessened quite a bit. (I went to Body Combat last night and still couldn’t put pressure on the knees, but it was better than Saturday.)
I’m thinking of writing to the City of Tempe to ask them to either fix the sidewalk cracks or post signs like this in the more cracky areas:
I have to admit, I’m kind of hoping they go with the sign option. I love that tripping cartoon person!