It was our last day, and our group split in half to tour Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Our tour guide, Kenny Burns, sent our half to this food court/mall across the street to grab lunch before it was our turn inside, while the other half of our group finished looking through a museum, then they would have lunch while we walked through the Hall.
Lunch was a frenetic affair, with our small group of kids (eight, I think) all clamoring for a Philly cheesesteak sandwich--none of them had ever had one. We headed outside to rest, eat, and talk while we waited for our 12:15 pm start time. The second group's lunchtime overlapped ours, and Lily and her friends joined us as we were finishing up. I looked at my watch around noon and thought that I had plenty of time to run to the bathroom before 12:15.
Just my luck that 175 Japanese high school students also chose this same mall for their lunch break, and the line for the bathroom (which was clear across the food court, down a two-story escalator, and around the corner in the basement) was 13 minutes long. I rushed out of the bathroom to hurry back upstairs, but I couldn't see an up escalator or a staircase. Now it was 12:15, and Mr. Kenny Burns was quite a stickler about being on time. I didn't want to be the one holding the group back, especially since I was supposed to be a responsible adult on this trip.
So what did I do?
After quickly sizing up the situation and my time crunch, I decided to walk up the two-story "down" escalator. I'm not proud of the decision, but not another soul was on it, and I knew it was my best chance to make it back outside in time. This doesn't sound that exciting does it?
I was almost at the top when a worker changing the trash bag started yelling at me. "You can't do that! It's against the rules! You need to stop now!"
Yeah, right. I was three stairs from finishing, and I couldn't stop now even if I wanted to.
That's when I tripped.
My right knee landed right on the teeth of the step, and I was in excruciating pain. Unfortunately, I most definitely did not have the luxury of stopping to examine my knee cap, which I was sure was shattered from the impact. I had to continue my gerbil wheel movement in hopes that I could get off that stupid escalator. I stumbled and fell a few times as the vindicated janitor added, "See? I told you."
After what seemed like forever, I got my feet back under me and I collected the tiny bit of dignity I still had to walk across the food court packed 175 black-haired students who were staring at me and whispering behind their hands in hushed Japanese. I held my head high and tried not to think about the pain shooting from my knee as I managed to get back outside to where Lily and her friends were sitting.
I slumped into the seat and tried rubbing the pain out of my knee. It didn't rub out. Lily asked what was wrong, and I told her I hit my knee on the escalator (somehow omitting the detail that I'd been walking up the down side, a fact I tried to keep hidden but was unable to). She and her friends were kind, but they quickly went back to talking.
That's when I started feeling sick to my stomach. When I say my knee hurt--it HURT. I knew something was wrong inside there, and I was secretly hoping I could get back to Mesa that evening without going to the emergency room in Pennsylvania. Blood started leaking through my jeans, but since I was wearing tall boots and skinny jeans, the outer court of the mall wasn't the place to investigate the injury further.
And that's when I got flooded with that hot then cold flash that means I'm going to pass out. I put my head on the table, and Lily started asking me if I was ok. I glanced up for a moment, trying to find a place where I could just lay down for a moment. About six feet behind me was a granite planter with a wide ledge, and I knew that if I could make it to that ledge, I could lie down.
Here's where the story gets a little fuzzy because
as I staggered the four steps to the ledge, the world started to go dark
and I made it to the granite ledge before losing consciousness.
Passing out is weird. You're half in the world and half out of the world, and you can hear things but you can't react to them.
I heard Lily on the phone: "Dad, it's Lily. Mom just passed out in Philadelphia. What do I do?" First thing you DON'T do is call your dad 3,000 miles away, I wanted to shout. "Never mind. Bye." Second thing you DON'T do is hang up on him after making that statement.
Then I heard my principal's kind, quiet voice: "Jenny, you ok? Can you hear me?"
I've fainted a few times before from pain (in childbirth and from migraines), so I wasn't too alarmed by the whole series of events, but I guess a Philly bus driver came out of his bus to see the commotion, and all the kids from the tour who were close gathered around.
Again. How embarrassing.
When I came to, I apologized to everyone around, explaining that my body sometimes does that, assuring them that they could return to their business, thank you very much.
And I missed the tour of Independence Hall that I'd tried so desperately to make. Luckily, I went with the second group.
And I made it home without a hospital trip.
My knee hurt really bad for over a week, almost to the point where I needed to go to the doctor. One of the teeth went really deep into my knee, but I think it only bruised the bone, which takes a long time to mend. I still have the last bits of the scab and I still can't kneel long for prayer on that side. But otherwise, I was pretty lucky. More than one tooth of the stair could have entered my knee, or I could have torn ligaments or shattered the bone.
I do have a great story to tell, but I did learn my lesson:
Never run up the down escalator. I hope you all learn from my idiocy as well.