Pen Ultimate / After the Fall

As my scooter lacks shockabsorbers, the bumps of Tel Aviv's roads and sidewalks are etched in my posterior parts.

Being a proud, and relatively new, grandfather - to Uri, 2, and Yair, 6 months - I was watching my older grandson taking his first steps with particular interest. It was some months ago and I saw him falling down, getting up and toddling on his way again, wiser and more confident in the power of his small feet. Every fall was a lesson he profited from.

I, however, am not a toddler anymore and when I fall - and alas, I do - I do so not alone but rather from, or with, my electric three-wheel scooter. And if anyone then should remind me, as they are wont to do, that "Whatever does not break you, makes you stronger," I would break some part of his anatomy. That is, after getting myself up.

The first fall occurred on the sixth day of Creation: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof" (Genesis 2:21). This was the direct cause of Adam and Eve's fall from grace, and their expulsion from Paradise into this world of ours. It is interesting to note the similarity of the sounds of the Hebrew root nun-peh-lamed for "fall," and its Greek translation epebalen (pronounced "epevalen").

The second major fall - perhaps even the first, preceding the Creation - is described in Isaiah (14:12): "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!" Here, the morning star in the Hebrew version becomes Lucifer, the carrier of light in Jerome's Latin translation, before he becomes the "Prince of Darkness" in Christian theology - who is sometimes confused with Satan (who also took a fall, apparently, after rebelling against the Creator).

I have taken some falls in my life, both spiritually and physically, but have not bothered my readers with the details. I did write here about my first (major) fall with the scooter last November, recounting how some well-meaning citizens kept pulling me up and apart in different directions while trying to help me. The point I was trying to make was that the person who fell and is down (but not out) is still the best authority on how he can be helped up, but he has to make up his mind (assuming he's retained the presence of it) as to how he can best be assisted. I did not make myself sufficiently clear then, which prompted some of my best friends (and worst enemies) to demand: "Will you make up your mind, please! Do you want to be helped or don't you?"

Lest you think that I have turned crashing with my scooter into some kind of an extreme sport, or that I am a reckless three-wheeler driver, I will hasten to add that my subsequent spills were the direct result of the sorry state of Tel Aviv's streets.

In Hanoch Levin's play "Schitz," one of the characters, Cherkhes, asks for the hand of Shprakhtzi in marriage from her father, Fefekhtz, based on the love both he and his chosen one share for certain things. To which Fefekhtz answers: "Skip it. The things my daughter loves are etched deep in my wrinkles." As my scooter is not equipped with shock absorbers, the bumps of Tel Aviv's roads and sidewalks are etched deep in the bruises of my posterior parts and in the scars on my elbows.

My second fall with, or rather from, my scooter occurred on the corner of Simta Palmonit (which means "unknown" - as in "unknown soldier" - lane) and King George Street. Lane it is, but you still have to cross it to get to its other side. And while I could easily have descended with my scooter from the sidewalk on Side A to the road, there was no easy way to roll it up onto the sidewalk on Side B. Undeterred, I stood up on my legs, switched the scooter to "free-wheel" mode, lifted its front wheel onto the sidewalk, and made both rear wheels follow suit. Then I turned the electric motor back on and, assuming that the vehicle was secure, sat back down on the seat. The scooter responded by sliding back onto the road, throwing me to the left, where I landed on that heavy and relatively plump part of my body where the back ends, onto my left elbow.

I remained down there for a few minutes, trying to get my bearings, bracing myself to tell the Good Samaritans to hold it, and not me, for a moment until I sorted myself out before starting to pull me up. But there was no need: Nobody came. People went on their way along King George Street, minding their own business. "Just as well," I said to myself, although with a tinge of surprise. I found a place to stand on and pulled myself up to my knees, bowed toward Mecca and got myself back to my normal state, on the scooter's seat and on the sidewalk.


A week or so went by, the skin on my left elbow healed (the bruise kept nagging me though) and then the scooter developed an electrical problem, resulting in a sudden, self-imposed breakdown, after negotiating a bump. One fine Saturday morning, on the corner of Pinkas and Weizmann Streets, I descended from a sidewalk into a sort of gutter, which on rainy days keeps the water off the road, and was getting back up on the asphalt when the scooter stopped abruptly, throwing me off to the left side (I wonder if that has anything to do with my being "left-wing"). Then, as if deciding to follow me through thick and thin, the scooter joined me in taking a fall, landing on top of me.

Luckily it ain't heavy (it's my scooter), and in a matter of seconds I had four Good Samaritans of both sexes surrounding me, asking: "Are you okay?" When I answered in the affirmative, they stood there, hovering, waiting for me to tell them what to do. I asked them to lift the scooter off my left leg, calmed myself, and then pulled myself up with the assistance of a pair of helping hands. One passerby helped me gather my scattered belongings, I checked my bruised elbow and aching hip, and we each went on his own way.

On Sunday I went straight to a shop specializing in sports accessories, and learned from a very courteous salesperson what the difference in quality (and price) is between elbow- and knee-guards made in the Far East and those made in Italy. I went for quality. Now, with my elbows and knees safe (although the ankles are still in danger), I can answer the queries of those who did not get my drift after the first fall: Yes, I do want to be helped up. And now I know how to be.