I was at the food bank one morning in early fall. The air was chilly and snow was predicted, so the organizers of the food distribution had moved what was usually an outdoor activity into the church.
Usually all of us poor folks gathered on the north side of the church, picked up our numbers to mark our places in line, and waited around for our turn to gather our food. I always tried to find a spot in the shade to wait, either sitting on one of the folding chairs set against the side of the building or in a patch of gravel a little ways from the crowd. I usually brought a few postcards to write while I waited for my number to be called.
On this day, I found everyone waiting on the south side of the church, near the door we would enter when our time came. There were only a few folding chairs set out, and they were all taken by ladies older than I was.
I looked around for a patch of shade. Even on a chilly day, the sun beating on my head makes me feel week and ill. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought my sunhat.
I found a shady spot in front of a car in the row of parking spots along the front of the building. I sat down on the railroad tie barrier in front of the car since I didn’t want to sit in the gravel between the parking area and the sidewalk. Some ladies stood on the sidewalk parallel to the gravel area in front of me These ladies were at a right angle to the entrance door. They faced the sidewalk that led to the entrance door. That bit of concrete slanted slightly uphill, to make it easier for someone using a wheelchair to get to the door.
I was busy writing to my sibling when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman approach from my right. She walked slowly, as if her legs were stiff or maybe she was in pain. When she approached the women standing at a right angle to the entrance, she stepped off the concrete to go around them. While they weren’t totally blocking the sidewalk, they were taking up most of it. I’m sure the approaching woman thought it would be easier to step off the sidewalk and go around them.
Something went wrong when the woman tried to step onto the sidewalk perpendicular to where the other women were standing. I think the walking woman failed to see that she needed to take a small step up. Because of the sidewalk’s incline, the part she tried to step on was about three inches above ground level.
Of course, I didn’t witness any of this prelude to what happened next. I had to piece it all together later.
The lady must have hit her foot on the concrete, and she stumbled. I heard a panicked voice shout, Watch out! I looked up in time to see a wide polar-fleeced butt descending upon me. I reflexively reached out my hand and used it to prop up the woman’s butt. It was an act equal parts Good Samaritan and self-preservation.
While I was supporting the woman from below, one of the ladies standing near the entrance door grabbed the falling women by the arm. Our combined efforts set the falling woman back on her feet.
For God’s sake, Nancy! one of her friends sitting in a folding chair exclaimed.
As soon as I could, I jumped up from my seat on the railroad tie. I worried the witnesses might think the near catastrophe was my fault even though I was well off the sidewalk. I suspected the elderly ladies thought I was the one at fault because I was the freak sitting low to the ground.
I tried to stand on the sidewalk behind the ladies by the door, bu the sun was beating down on me there. I ended up moving behind a minivan casting a shadow, a place were I could stay out of the sun and wouldn’t be crushed in an old lady pile up.