How to Fall Off a Ladder

Logic has already programmed your inner self such that nobody purposely plans or chooses to fall off a ladder. Even a person thinking about doing themselves in isn’t that stupid. For them, it must be a clean job, like jumping off a cliff with nothing below but air.

Best you know from the get-go that gravity is the main force working against you. It works on everything, the reason Mother Earth is covered with so much stuff.

Gravity has two important points on anything airborne, where the object’s trip begins and where it ends. The heavier the object, the faster the fall and the harder the hit, like why those who jump from airplanes use parachutes.

Whatever activates gravity often comes in sneaky disguise. If one of the ladder legs is on solid ground, and the other leg looks like it is but is really on soft stuff, a lurch to the right or left is imminent. If, at the same time, the surface against which the top of the ladder rests is the least bit slippery, the ladder is certain to slide in the same direction, maybe not much, but it doesn’t take much. If you’re on it, you’d better be ready for a lot of excitement.

If the mass at the top (you) leans too far in either direction, another force joins gravity to do a number on you. It’s the one that says that for every action, there’s an equal reaction. The more you lean in one direction, the more force your legs exert on the opposite side of the ladder. Sometimes, you feel it in time to pull back, but if it sneaks up on you, the law of equal reaction bows to the law of gravity, and you’ll barely have enough time to yell GERONIMO!

Stepladders are no different. Ignore the red words of warning and stand on either the last step or the top, and you could easily become airborne. Sure, you don’t fall nearly as far, but neither do you have as much time to plot a landing plan.

No matter what kind of ladder, if you suddenly find yourself beyond the point of no return, you’ll be tempted to tell yourself you never could’ve been that stupid, but don’t bother. You have far more important issues to resolve.

Like, on what part of your body do you wish to take the hit? For sure, you don’t ever want to land on your head. Even if you’re lucky enough to survive, you’ll forever be shoulder high. Landing on back or belly are also lousy bets. The only choice left is to land upright with bent legs, your knees acting as shock absorbers while you’re hoping they don’t break.

It would truly be your lucky day if you were to land on an awning. Even if it flings you back into the air or both it and you crash to the ground, you might get by with no more than a broken arm or the sinking of a formerly floating rib.

Another stroke of luck would be to land in some dense shrubbery or, and this is a distant second best, on soft ground — like where you placed the ladder that caused the fall in the first place. Just hope the bushes don’t have thorns or if you hit the ground, there are no rocks, bricks or concrete. Frantically flailing your arms or clawing the air won’t make for any lateral progress. If the bushes aren’t directly under you, all you can do is hope.

Finally, allow time for prayer, not the long church kind, but a really short one. Or just skip the prayer and ask for a miracle, no matter what kind. That’s no time to get picky.

Now, for the good news. If you survive, and end up with no more than a sideways drag as you walk, you, the deformed will be offering compelling evidence of what not to do. Teachers use two methods to deliver information — by testimony (least effective) and by example (most effective). You’ll be a classic case of the latter.

If the worst happens, you’ll be leaving Earth and ending up in an entirely new place. No bureaucrats. No taxes. No need to take a shower every morning, buy clothes, or climb a ladder. You will just be flitting around in spiritual form.

If you’re wondering why I’m qualified to tell you all this, I fell off a ladder once, a stepladder. Stood on the last step, reached too far to the left, landed on a shrub, broke a branch and scratched my arm. I prefer not to mention all the near misses I’ve had on tall ladders, which I now consider as necessary research.

Anyway, here’s hoping you never take a ladder flight, but if you do, I wish you the best of all bad landings.

P.S. Try to relax before you hit. There’s a reason drunks tend to survive car wrecks.