HUNT COLUMN: We all fall down

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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President Biden’s biggest viral moment last week came when he tripped over a sandbag on the stage at the Air Force Academy graduation. He was quickly helped up and seemed unfazed and unhurt. He later quipped that he had been “sandbagged.”

If a world leader has a physically awkward moment, it’s usually in front of a live crowd then later seen by millions, especially now that phone cameras are constantly taking videos. Presidents and prime ministers, dictators and evangelists ­ no one is safe. Remember Gerald Ford’s tumble on the steps of Air Force One? It made him a continuing joke on Saturday Night Live. When Xi Jinping fell in 2019, it became known as the Great Fall of China. 

How glad I am that my graceless moments have not been caught on camera (so far). But I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve had my share of them, many on the job as a teacher. The worst slip and fall I endured was in the THS cafeteria when I was seven months pregnant. I was carrying my tray from the line to the teachers’ lounge when the heel of my shoe hit an English pea and slid right out from under me. Everything went flying and my rear end hit the floor hard. I guess the fact that I was noticeably pregnant had the students more worried than tickled. Everyone was solicitous, I was made to go home for the day, and ultimately all was well.

Just about everything else that happened was pretty funny, and I’m glad I could laugh at myself. I can’t count the times that I attempted to sit on the edge of my flimsy rolling desk chair and it flew out from under me. My classroom was cluttered (not a shock to anyone who knows me) and I have terrible depth perception and I was constantly tripping over and bumping into things. Once I was leaning hard on my desktop lectern while talking passionately about something and sent it skidding off the front while my torso flopped helplessly onto the surface left behind. 

One epic fall happened when I was leaving the house for school one morning. It was winter dark, but I visualized my path to the front door before turning off the kitchen light. Nonetheless, my knee clipped the corner of the piano bench. I had several bags slung over my left arm and a cup of coffee in my right hand. As I fell onto my bags on my left side I held my coffee cup aloft, losing perhaps a few drops of brew at most. I was kind of pleased with that feat, and kind of wished someone had witnessed it!

As a high school teacher, I realized I was scrutinized daily by an often critical audience while standing before my class. Tripping and stumbling didn’t constitute all of my awkward moments. One morning the first thing I did was spill coffee all over a new white skirt. One time I wore mismatched flats, one navy and one black — not noticeable while dressing in the dark but highly obvious under the fluorescent school lights. I guess that’s not any worse than having your clothes, hair, and weight closely monitored every day by a few dozen teenagers. You learn not to take yourself too seriously.

Students trip walking across the platform at graduation. Pageant queens slip on the stage. Most of the time the only real damage is to one’s pride. We all fall down. 

The key is to get up, dust off, call yourself “Grace” and keep moving. Be careful out there!