What could be more frustrating than working out to improve one’s fitness only to have the whole thing backfire – winding up in worse shape after than before? And what could be more gratifying than seeing that a calamity (in my case, a minor one) could lead to a policy change that could benefit others?

I recently started out on a morning constitutional just before 6 a.m. With the temperature a crisp 58 degrees, I began what I assumed would be a delightful hour’s walk – just enough to help keep my weight and blood pressure down and my energy up. 

With that early-morning-it’s-great-to-be-alive feeling, I briskly strode up and down the city sidewalks through a shopping center and even took the long way around a neighboring apartment complex.  The walker’s high (yes, we walkers get them, too!) set in within short order. Later on, thinking I was pretty close to my one-hour goal, I looked down at my wrist to check the time, only to see that I had forgotten to put on my watch.

No worries, I said to myself. A coffee shop that opens at 5:30 a.m. where I’m a “regular” is just a three-minute walk away. Even though I wasn’t buying anything that morning, I was sure they’d be happy to tell me the time and maybe even pour a little cold water into my plastic bottle.

When I got to the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop, I did see a couple of silver-colored metal umbrella stands in place, but there were no sun umbrellas in them. While crossing the sidewalk to get to my destination, I suddenly tripped. I was propelled forward, tripping again at the opposite side of the walk and landing with a thud face down on the grass. Green is one of my favorite colors; I just wasn’t expecting to find it in my hair, nose and mouth.

They say in moments of fear, your past can flash in front of you. In my case, it was an imagined future of broken ankles, pulled tendons and anything else that had the potential to put me out of commission. A man walking by asked if he should call 9-1-1. No body parts were screaming “ER” so I politely declined.

A lady reading a book at a nearby table asked if I was OK. I was too dazed to be sure. Recovering within a few moments from my initial shock, I was grateful to realize that I could, with a little help from her, stand up and even walk.

I just had to find out what had caused this mishap. Turning back to the umbrella stands, I saw the culprit. It was a metal gizmo with wheels under it, extending several inches out from the base of the stand. While crossing the sidewalk, I simply hadn’t seen it, and with no sun umbrellas up to keep me at a safe distance from the base, it was almost an accident waiting to happen.

Although quite shaken at first, I had the few seconds it took me to walk into the shop to regain my equilibrium and was able to address my concerns to “Susan,” the manager, in a reasonable way.

Susan responded in kind, with concern and a willingness to listen. She gave me the necessaries to clean up and bandage my bleeding right leg.  My bruised nose, lip and left leg as well as my swollen pinky finger would heal on their own. She even offered me my favorite pastry on the house.

I then needed to address the store’s policy for putting up the umbrellas. Susan explained that they are usually set in place about 6:45 a.m. this time of year, when most customers start filing in for their morning cuppa Joe. Many of these customers are busy professionals who multitask: talking on cell phones, texting, thinking of a million things on their agendas for that day. They’re not necessarily looking down at their feet for protruding objects.

I told her, if the sun umbrellas are set in place when the store opens, there is practically no way anyone can get close enough to that metal gizmo to trip over it.

Susan told me that from now on the store policy will mandate that very precaution. This was good news for me. Suddenly a scraped leg and other minor injuries didn’t seem like such a big deal. Because of my tumble, others will be saved from a potentially much worse fate. Knowing this was enough to give me, who had been feeling wiped out, a much-needed second wind.

Barbara Russek is a French teacher and freelance writer. She welcomes comments at Babette2@comcast.net.

(1) comment


How about watching where one is walking instead of trying to place blame on others for one's lack of attention?
Paying attention to one's path of travel would seem to prevent such accidents. Not all hazards presented while walking will have an umbrella to warn those who are approaching them.

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