Though I have always been a steadfast athlete and competitor, I lack grace in my day-to-day endeavors. Perhaps it is because my anxious mind is always focused on anything else but what I’m doing at the moment. It began as a child with a series of unfortunate events: I cracked my chin while trying to stand atop a large, plastic ball; I was badly sickened for discovering then ingesting granulated dishwasher detergent under the kitchen sink; I once fell during a rain storm on an electrified fence at a family friend’s ranch, incurring a nasty electrocution; in the fourth grade, I broke my left hand and received my very first concussion on the same day, and over a single recess period. And, within the past two months alone, I broke my left foot doing a flip into the shallow-end of a pool, and partially ruptured an eardrum while scuba diving. Most of my cuts, breaks, abrasions, and contusions are directly attributed to my propensity to become unwillingly horizontal or otherwise breached. I’m not sure why my parents so carelessly let me ride my unicycle off curbs with no helmet. I think they figured natural selection would “weed me out” and they wouldn’t have to buy anymore Legos.
Last summer, I took a stroll on the beach in Santa Barbara with my girlfriend at the time. She was walking a couple of feet directly in front of me, as I lackadaisically sauntered barefoot behind her. My gaze was briefly affixed skyward upon something colorful, when I rammed my foot into a partially buried rock. I tripped, and fell forward with incredible force and slammed my head into the center of her back, which caused her to lunge face-first into the sand. As we both lay semi-dazed, I could hear her drone on, as if in the background, about my lack of coordination. I just looked at her and muttered, “Kite…so pretty…tripped.” In that moment I realized others may have caught on to my fairly obvious malady: I’m not so good at operating upright. Am I better suited to another anthropological era—the palaeolithic or australopithecine, perhaps? Maybe I evolved too quickly, and should return to a more appropriate era where it is acceptable to be hunched over, knuckles dragging, and closer to the ground.
It was only a few years prior to the beach incident that I exemplified what is perhaps my most memorable ungraceful performance. I was in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport one afternoon, dragging an unruly, overweight and rotund piece of wheeled luggage. I also had an over-stretched backpack, zippers bulging, full of hard-cover novels clinging to my torso like a spider-monkey wrapped around a mango trunk. I needed to get upstairs to check-in for my flight, and a pivotal thought crossed my mind: “Do I squeeze onto the crowded escalator that is immediately available right in front of me, or do I search for the safer, more intelligent alternative—the elevator?” Intelligence was no match for convenience that day. As I pulled my enormous rolling bag onto the escalator and filed into the crowded ascending line—still donning the portly backpack that was seconds from popping my now fetus-like arms off my body—I soon realized the error of my way. My bag was so elephantine that it would not properly rest upon a single escalator step. Within a few seconds, I could feel it teetering precariously backward, as I struggled to pull it toward my leg to keep my center of gravity.
But inertia made me her bitch that day. Despite my best efforts, I somehow slipped backward past the gravitational tipping point. I lunged forward, grasping the thick, black rubber handrail with both hands in an attempt to counter a fall. Much to my horror, the DFW Public Works Dept. failed to properly glue the rubber escalator rails to their tracks. Both handrails slid backward with my opposing weight. As the escalator continued to ascend, I continued to fall slowly backward, still gripping the handrails, as if a concerted desire were enough to bring me back to vertical. The large man directly behind pushed upward against me with all he could muster. I could hear him grunting in his struggle as I cheered him on. I clearly recall the sound of the breath leaving his body as the two of us fell on our backs like hapless turtles—limbs flailing upward, but no way to roll topside. I made a very awkward apology which felt worthless seeing how he was facing the back of my head, and I had him pinned on his back as we both ascended feet first to the next floor. Unfortunately, we made up only two pieces of a cascading “human domino” line. As I lay pinned on top of one weary traveler, one-by-one I could hear the gasps and screams of the men, women, and children who quickly realized their own meager fate. There was no escape. If you were behind me on that rising escalator—you were going down hard. With each casualty, the momentum and force became greater. Physics is funny that way. When I was finally able to prop myself on my elbows and survey the line of wreckage behind me, I was aghast. It was if the entire escalator ridership had been clothes-lined and thrown down like wooden matchsticks. Travelers of all ages, cut down in their prime.
It wasn’t until the escalator reached its pinnacle that those riding in front of me were able to pull me up and back onto my feet. A few of us then helped the rest of the frustrated travelers off their backs and assessed their physical condition. I took time to profusely apologize for my severe lack of coordination that resulted in their misfortune. In return, I received scorned looks and muttered grievances. I didn’t mind, however—I was just thankful each person had someone else to break their fall. Though, I have no idea what the last rider fell upon—but, I’d like to believe it was something really soft, like a life-size stuffed Mustafah from the “Lion King” section of the airport Disney store.