I have a lot of experience with falling. In fact, my body has evolved to cope with falling in a lot of ways - unfortunately not in ways that would stop me from falling in the first place - but in ways like being rolly-polely shaped, for instance. My mind has developed a set of hair-trigger protocols which activate from the moment my balance is compromised until the "fall" is either resolved, or completed.
This morning, in a small, but densely packed camera store in downtown Melbourne; Chaz and I were in search of a camera strap when the forward motion of my feet was suddenly stopped by the upward rise of a step. Of course, my eyes had not detected this change in terrain as my periphery is poor, especially in the "see-stuff-aboves" and "see-stuff-belows" areas of vision.
My foot hit the rise of the step very hard (walking pace is faster than it looks) and my cat-agile brain sent an initial warning to my foot there was a step and I would need to raise the foot higher if I wanted to clear it successfully. Unfortunately for me, my foot and the camera shop: this was no ordinary step. My lightning fast synapses sent an urgent directive to my foot to raise to a level to clear a normal step. If this had been a normal step rise, this signal would have been enough and I would have planted my foot as planned and righted myself with only a slight tripping stumble, and little more. I would have remained upright, and maybe, if I had been extremely lucky: no one would have noticed.
This step, however, was not your every day, garden variety step. It was never going to let my feet pass. It turned out it was one of Melbourne's Most Enormously High steps from the olden days, when steps weren't regulated nor standardised. My foot shot this feedback to my brain, which in turn realised this was now a "five alarm fall" and braced for impact as my body continued on its forward momentum and began to topple.
When I have run out of options to save myself from a fall and have fully committed myself to hitting the ground, I try very hard to lead with my shoulder and "tuck and roll". This, unfortunately, was not an option in this classic "Feet Planted Behind a Big Step: Forward Falling, Hands Full of Shopping" position I found myself in. My only option by this stage was the "Hands Out: Drop Shopping: Brace for Impact".
This set of protocols normally works very well. As mentioned before, I have evolved physical characteristics and crumple-zones that help absorb the energy generated from impact with hard surfaces, so personal damage is often minimal. More often than not, this scenario ends with me on all fours on the floor, impact taken on knees and palms, store/service-station/tram passengers looking at me in various stages of bewilderment and/or hysterical laughter.
This did not work so well in the densely packed camera shop. On my way to the floor, my Hands Out position meant I impacted not the floor first, but the display of cameras that was in front of me. While I was happy not to knock the display over, feeling it move a good hand-span or so along the floor under my downward moving hands; I was pretty unhappy to have my hands drag down through the shelves, knocking them, and their contents to the floor.
I think I shut my eyes as I realised that there was a good chance I was damaging cameras. Expensive, digital, cameras, I thought. Oh Gravity, thou art a bitch.
Fortunately for me, the whole display turned out to be thick cardboard, and the cameras were dummies (didn't even know there was such a thing) so all I had to worry about was feeling like a complete idiot and that, I am well versed with.
Interesting point, while Chaz was shocked at my sudden disappearance from his side, and in turns amused and concerned (mostly amused) at my flailing ruckus, none of the people who work in the store, nor the one other customer, seemed to bat an eyelid. They weren't worried about the stand as Chaz put it back together, returning scattered items and shelves to their rightful places. They weren't phased by the fact a middle aged, highly roll'y woman had just crashed into their display, nor were they concerned at all if she was hurt or bothered or any such thing.
I'm not sure I'll bother shopping there again.