Stop the Snickering: How to Fall Gracefully

by Cori Cutsinger
for Advanced Composition, ETSU, Spring 2009

About the Author: Cori Cutsinger is a Junior at ETSU studying English and Secondary Education. She hopes to someday teach high school English and open her own animal rescue shelter. Cori still falls every chance she gets.


True Story

                I was walking through the middle of a crowded food court on a college campus looking for an empty seat to rest my arms laden with a heavy food tray. There were other students sitting all around me taking up as much space as possible at their tables. Just as I spotted an open booth in the very corner of the room, my foot found the only obstacle on the tile floor: a pickle. My foot reacted the way anyone’s foot would have reacted and slid out from underneath my body. Without proper support, my body collapsed onto one knee, smashing the food tray against my shirt and causing a rogue elbow to take out the girl sitting at the closest table. Quickly standing I limped to that all too welcoming open booth to assess the damage. My ankle felt cracked, my knee screamed with pain, my elbow was stiff from cracking a skull, and somehow my face was on fire underneath the splash of Coke it now wore. How embarrassing.



            We’ve all witnessed a similar event. Someone crashes flat on their face or back and we try like hell to hide the giggles. Usually our fallen comrades blush while picking themselves up, and run away to die of shame in a corner. Let’s face it girls, it is usually one of us that goes down. With our weak ankles, strappy sandals, and killer high heels, it seems we were built to kiss the earth frequently. Men just don’t seem to take a fall very often. No matter the gender, tripping in front of others is humiliating. After stumbling one too many times in my life, I have decided it is finally time to learn how to pack for these unexpected trips.


Types of Tripping

            There are many different ways a person can fall and different positions in which we find ourselves landing. Each type of fall requires a different reaction from you and your audience. The way you react often determines how your audience will respond to you and to each other. Usually when we see someone fall, we laugh at their embarrassment as they blush. However, there are a few helpful tips to experience a fall and hide the red face of shame.

Simple Stumble

            The most common of trips is a simple stumble where your foot is caught by some obstacle causing you to skip a step, hesitate in mid-air, before coming down hard on that foot. Usually the obstacle is a simple crack in the sidewalk or a step upwards you somehow missed. A good way to handle this situation could be to turn around frantically and scream, “Holy crap! Did you guys see that snake? It almost got me!” Your friends or those around you will quickly huddle together and search the surroundings for the slimy serpent. Thus, the attention is taken off of your foolish miscalculation of footing and directed towards a search for an escaped boa constrictor.

            Another method of handling the simple stumble would be to blame the trip on someone close by. Turn to one of your friends or a by-stander and shout, “What did you do that for? You got a problem with me pal?” Because this reaction will most certainly be unexpected, their reaction will be surprise, giving you the opportunity to overcome them by a couple quick shoves, a glare that could shoot daggers, and a swift turn of the heel in the opposite direction. However, this method has been known to not end well if the wrong audience member is chosen (i.e. a really buff, military guy).

The One Footed Slide
            Another common fall is that of the one footed slide where one foot stays securely placed as the other slides off in some obscure direction. This fall is most commonly caused by loose obstacles dropped on the floor by some unknown assailant; usually something wet or round like a pencil, wrapper, or in my case, a pickle. The one footed slide tests the stretch capacities of hamstrings and blue jeans.     

When this event occurs, it is wise to continue with the flow of the slide. Bring the other foot to meet your extended one and slide it forward much as the leading foot did. Throw your arms wide and begin to hum some random waltz or disco music such as, “Duuuu…duuuuuuuu…….du…du…dom.” Your audience will assume you are simply playing around and/or extremely happy. Although this course of action does not divert the attention of the audience, it does reduce the humiliation of a fall.

The Proposal

            One of the more painful stumbles is demonstrated by the loss of balance of one foot (due to a one footed slide or a simple stumble) and heavily going down on one knee. This fall can result in a sprained ankle, cracked kneecap, or bruised ego, and should be considered mildly dangerous. There are two stipulations to this fall. If your arms are empty and there is nothing to be thrown, dropped, or smashed, you should excitedly claim, “Look! $100 bill!” or “My mother’s ring!” while reaching out to retrieve a non-existent item. Quickly stuffing the hand that retrieved the unseen object into a pocket, you may then stand and leave the scene, while the audience mutters “lucky” under their breath.
             If your arms are not empty and there are indeed objects to be balanced, it is safe to go ahead and throw the items down. You can then scream, “My back!” and assume the position of the old man: one hand pressed tightly against the lower back with the other thrust into the air in pain for a helping hand. The audience will panic and rush to your aid believing the objects were simply too heavy for your back to withstand. You may then be graciously helped back up, and claim, “I’m fine, it happens all the time since the war…” You are then free to leave with the sympathies of the audience and an extra hand to resume carrying the items thrown.

The Face-Plant

            The face-plant is one of the most dangerous falls one can endure. This calls for both of your feet to not respond to any number of actions and drop flat on your face. If you catch yourself with your hands before crushing their face against the floor, it is safe to pretend like the drop was intentional in order to perform some hard-core push-ups. After pushing yourself up and down a couple times, you now have the authority to proudly stand up, and strut off like a bad-ass.          

            However, if you do not catch yourself with your hands, the outcome can be extremely painful and messy. Depending on the type of ground you are walking on, your face and chest areas can be greatly affected and become broken. If this should happen, the best advice is to quickly clutch your face (as I’m sure will be no problem because these falls tend to sting a bit) and scream wildly while rocking back and forth on the floor. A member of the audience will help you up, and rush you away for medical attention. Once again, this method commands sympathy from the audience and concern for your well being. Be advised: not catching oneself in the event of a face-plant may break noses, teeth, and cheek bones.

The Faint

            This fall is the hardest to successfully achieve unscathed. Unconsciousness is a common factor of this fall. If your body should rigidly fall backwards for whatever reason other than actually fainting, there are only two plausible options. Option number one is only to be attempted by those of extreme physical fitness and should be practiced prior to the actual fall. As the upper part of the body hits the ground, use advantage of the backwards momentum and kick off the ground, causing your legs and feet to roll right over top of your torso and head bringing you back to a crouching position. You may then stand and proclaim, “Ta-da!” This technique may result in a stunned audience.

            Unfortunately, the extremely fit may not always be extremely quick thinking and, like the rest of us, lay on their back dazed and confused. In this event, simply lay as still as possible until a caring member of the audience rushes to your aid. You may mumble incoherently to add to the idea you have just “fainted” due to some unknown reason or illness. Instantly, a crowd will form around your body asking medical questions until you are able to stand again. Be prepared for applause and hugging.


            Falls, trips, and stumbles are, more often than not, unexpected. Please do not deviate from the forms of balance loss listed above for the outcome may not result in an adequate environment to perform these techniques. By falling to the side, on top of something, or taking someone down with you, you may not be able to keep a clear mind and deceive others around you about your sudden behavior. With these tips in mind, you may no longer be the subject of the point-and-laugh treatment. Good luck and remember: practice makes perfect.