YOU DON’T REALISE HOW important your dignity is until you suddenly lose it. Falling and breaking a hip is clearly a tragedy but tripping on a paving slab and doing that sudden monkey-spasm-trip-walk-thing is rich street comedy.
During your trip everyone within a mile radius will see you and laugh themselves sick inside. Immediately after your stumble, you will try to give the impression that a little tripping movement is a normal part of your walking pattern and hardly worth noticing. However, even when you’ve just had a little trip, you completely forget how to walk afterwards, and it feels like you’re doing some kind of stilted stagger. A mile or two later these feelings begin to wear off, and you resume walking normally, just in time for your other foot to hit another wonky paving slab.
Watching where you’re putting your feet will reduce the chance of tripping in the street. At the same time, it will increase the likelihood of banging your head on a piece of low scaffolding. People with their finger on the nuclear trigger are kept well clear of low beams and scaffolding because if they were to hit their head really hard, the world would be the first thing to get punished.
Embarrassing yourself doesn’t have to be physical. Just getting someone’s name wrong will do it. Especially if you call your boss “mum”, your teacher “dad” or your wife “Brian”. These are called Freudian slips. Freudian trips are even worse. This is where you slip on a banana skin just as you were thinking how much bananas resemble the sexual organ.
Oddly, it’s the smallest things that embarrass people the most. No-one minds being caught naked on camera during a live broadcast to the nation. But if you ask someone a question, pretend to be interested in the answer and then ask them the exact same question again seconds later, you might just as well walk into a corner and stay there. Another top clanger is to ask someone how their friend/relative is when you’ve forgotten that they’re in fact dead. Saying, “Still dead?” won’t help.
In any acutely uncomfortable situation, the quickest way out of it is to bang your head on something low and hard as this trumps any other concurrent embarrassment.
© GUY BROWNING IS AUTHOR OF ‘NEVER PUSH WHEN IT SAYS PULL’ AND CREATOR OF ‘TORTOISE IN LOVE’ (DVD) – USED BY PERMISSION.