Straight Tripping

Can't help but laugh when someone falls down

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: August 11, 2003

Straight Tripping

Now I know I?m wrong, but there is something inside of me that makes me laugh when someone falls down. It?s not that I don?t have empathy or are concerned if they are truly hurt, but to me falling down is funny, even when it happens to me. Most accidents happen when folks are inattentive, drunk and or running for office.

There was a time when I saw this teenage kid balancing a huge bag of groceries while riding an old fashioned ten speed bike with the ram horn handlebars. He was going really fast then suddenly his front tire got stuck in the metal drainage grid, then he did a few high summersaults in the air, kicked a few oranges in mid-flip flight, landing on his rear end, while the bike stuck like a dart in a nose dive in the grid. I almost slipped down out of the driver seat, my eyes wet with tears, my stomach hurt for a few days.

Yea, like it?s my fault the dude crashed and no one else thinks that?s cute, but you weren?t there! At least I was cautious to avoid running over his melons.

I don?t know why, but things are funnier when you are not supposed to laugh, in places like church or funeral homes where solemnity is the order of the day. My Mom, who passed away earlier in the year, was the last person you wanted to go to a serious place with. She would always say something hysterical and get you in trouble. Once Mom started with the giggles it was contagious and a laugh riot usually ensued.

The most memorable Mama Rose moment was when we were all attending a funeral of an elderly friend of the family. Upon returning from viewing the deceased, Mom came back slowly and at first glance it looked like she was overcome with tears, upon closer inspection she was besides herself with laughter. Dad drew her close to her and asked her ?Honey why are you laughing? This is not the time nor the place." Mom looked at him trying to control her voice and said, ?Why did she need glasses?? Needless to say our whole row left on our own accord before we were asked to do so.

I?m like Mom.

Then there was the time my sister made the mistake of inviting my brothers and me to see her boyfriend competing in a track meet where he did the high hurdles. He was doing great until the final stretch where he fell forward with a face plant, and according to my brother skidded a couple of hundred feet of his forehead, his legs curled up over his back flicking his ears, while his arms trailed behind like fins on a carp. My brother and I laughed so hard they had to almost carry us off the field.

I draw the laugh line at babies, the physically challenged and small kids falling and getting hurt. That?s not funny. Fewer kids would fall down if parents were more attentive.

On the other hand once when of my barrio bucket cars was on the blink, I rode a local bus. There was an old dude, who paid his fare just as the jerk bus driver nailed the accelerator. The surprising agile oldster took about 200 tiny little steps backwards, 17 rows in all at an amazingly slow pace, only to bottom out right before the back row. It kind of looked like that moon dance Michael Jackson thing as he passed me. The guy got up and was fine; I intended to give the bus driver a tip.

The better dressed the person is, funnier is the fall. If you ever had the chance to view a suited businessman taking a header, or a debutante takes a booty bump ride down a flight of stairs, your life has been enriched. The ambulatory mishaps of the paid and pompous to me help make life worth living.

My kids and I remember once at my daughter's High School, a suave popular guy was getting ready to leave, so he tried to slip off in a cool semi-jog while spitting some slick salutation for the benefit of all the girls sitting around. When he turned to run off, he tripped over a rock, and somehow did a headstand for what seemed to be a full three minutes. We don?t remember what the school occasion was but we remember with fondness Mr. High School Cool?s impromptu acrobatics.

Irony is the great equalizer of mankind. I'd like to be the one who finds Saddam's moustache.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.

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