I took a tumble the other day.

Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy

Oh, it was bad. I avoided long-term injury and embarrassment — outside of the two snickering dogs — thanks to it happening at home. But it still hurt.

I was wearing flip-flops — something every person who fits extra-snugly into an airplane seat should consider — trying to be a good husband and put away laundry. 

I shouldn’t have been wearing flip-flops in the first place. I should have learned my lesson. I didn’t.

But before that, my history in flip-flops can be boiled down to one fateful evening in the Atlanta airport, the last night I ever wore flip-flops in public. Why I was wearing flip-flops in public in the first place is beyond me. Someone should have just slapped me.

But I was wearing them as my flight from New York landed a million miles and only a few minutes from my connector flight to Jackson. We landed — this is just an educated guess — at Gate E36 and I had to get to Gate B3 in 10 minutes.

With a book bag attached to my back, I hauled off toward the escalator to get me to the train to the B Concourse to the up escalator to ... ugh.

It was getting late. If I missed the flight, my bed for the evening would be an Atlanta airport seat. I looked at my watch and hauled faster.

With the escalator in view, the front of my right flip-flop curled underneath itself. My top-heavy body — I blame the book bag — sprung forward.

I know in these days of being kinder and gentler and more politically correct, making fun of people is becoming taboo. But if you have ever seen a fat man — or woman — take a spill while wearing flip-flops, toting a book bag and sweating profusely while trying to get to an escalator, it is impossible not to laugh.

People of my general physical dimensions have our own special way of falling — a five-point plan if you will. 

1. First is the realization that it is going to happen. Have you ever been playing catch with a baseball when one sails over the intended target’s head? There are a few helpless seconds before the ball smashes through the neighbor’s window. Now you understand.

2. The first stumble. You know you are going down and the stumble takes you a few feet closer to the ground. It also provides a second or two notice to see what or who might become collateral damage. Once the fall happens, someone is likely getting whacked.

3. The near catch. Ever see a gymnast do the big dismount and stick the landing for the briefest of seconds only to stumble or flat-out fall? There is a part of the brain that convinces the book-bag top-heavy human that he can keep it from happening. He can’t.

4. The tuck and roll. Now you need to find a landing spot while causing as little injury as possible. My advice is to try to land on your hind end — preferably on a cheek and not the center to avoid the misery of smacking the tailbone on the hard ground — and make a nice roll out of it.

5. Pop up. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how embarrassing, you have to pop up. One of the first football games I ever covered for the Leader-Call took place at Stringer High School. While walking to my car in the darkness, I fell into a hole — up to my waist.

“Hey, man, are you all right?” I heard a voice ask behind me. 

“Are you the only ones who saw me?” I asked back.

They said yes. I scurried my hind end out of that hole, picked up my muddy football statistics and whistled my way home. You gotta pop up.

On the great Atlanta fall, I covered at least 15 feet of airport real estate as my stumbling body took head-first aim at the escalator railing. My body hurt. My knee bled. The only reason I did not become a social media sensation is because there was no such thing as social media sensations — one of at least 1,000 times I have been thankful for that.

I popped up, took the down escalator and writhed  in pain. Train arrived, off we went to D Concourse... oh, come on, hurry up! C Concourse.. UGH

B Concourse. Yes. 

I limped, still wearing the crash-causing flip-flops. The escalator deposited me upstairs in B Concourse. I refused to accept a ride on the beeping people-movers for fear of being labeled fat and lazy. I made my way slowly toward the gate, resigned that I would be spending the night mending my wounds and waiting for the first morning flight to Jackson.

I reached the gate. At least three dozen people were still getting on the plane.  

I made it. My knee hurt.

I never wore flip-flops in public again.

On Sunday night in our bedroom, with the dogs Walter and Yum Yum lounging on the bed, I tried to put clothes into the chest-of-drawers. My flip-flop got snagged under the plastic dog stairs Yum Yum is too old to use. I lurched forward, overcorrected, shimmied and shook until my shoulder smashed backward into the large wooden bed frame. I crushed the dog stairs like Godzilla did Tokyo. My glasses heaved backward. One flip-flop remained on. Pain pierced every inch of my body. It hurt so bad. I wanted to cry. That’s it, no more flip-flops. Ever.

I looked at the dogs: “Y’all the only ones that saw me?”

I popped up!

Sean Murphy is managing editor of the Leader-Call. Email him at murph@leader-call.com.

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