The Star-Herald

One cup away from dignified

Dignity is a fleeting thing. Especially when one loses it in the blink of an eye.

On a recent sunny Saturday, I took advantage of the cooler, slightly breezy weather and joined my dad for a ride through the city’s bike path. It is always a beautiful place to enjoy part of a day, and numerous people were out doing just that: biking, walking, being towed by happy dogs and just taking in the outdoors.

After we wound through various parts of the city and rode into Riverside Park, we decided a coffee was in order, so we pedaled on over to the nearby famous-brand-name coffee place. 

It’s fun going through a drive-thru on a bicycle. The folks inside have no clue exactly what you’re driving, and as you glide around the corner to the window you usually get a few smiles. 

Of course, what’s not fun is the cold fear that grips you when a large truck pulls up so close behind you the heat from the engine makes you sweat.

Truck notwithstanding, with coffees in hand we wheeled past the window and stopped to adjust the cups before heading back to the park.

That’s when the ground suddenly reached its arms up and gave me a hug.

You know you’re going to fall. Your legs scrabble and flounder and it happens as if in slow motion. My wheels went to the left and I toppled to the right off the seat. 

Remember being a kid and twirling until you were dizzy and collapsed on the ground in a fit of giggles?  Yeah, that’s it — just without the giggles. 

The coffee went flying. Luckily I had the presence of mind not to try to make a grab for it. I just let myself roll and came to rest with my head on my forearms (thank you, bicycle helmet).

It’s not the first time I’ve entertained crowds with my acrobatics. Years of trying to maintain poise in a variety of situations cannot be eclipsed by the klutz gene. 

Yes, dear readers, I have inherited well. I remember stories of certain family members falling out of chairs, tripping over nothing and even falling upstairs.

I’ve had my moments. Like the time I was in the office about to sit in my wheeled chair. Unbeknownst to me, the chair had rolled back. Down I sat — right on the floor in front of it. While wearing a skirt. 

Or the time I was headed to a party celebrating the anniversary of some family friends. One minute I was walking across the street, and the next minute I was on the pavement looking up at the sky.  Never mind that my knees were scraped and bleeding; once I found out my dress wasn’t hurt I was good to go.

As I picked myself up this recent Saturday, I could see my bike was fine. My broken iced coffee cup wobbled sadly down the drive, empty. People asked if I was all right, and I ascertained I was none the worse for wear save for a few scrapes on one knee and elbow. Nothing was even bleeding. 

So I got right back on the bike, and then the nice person at the coffee place came running out with a replacement iced coffee.

Maybe there are things to be said for losing your dignity. It may inspire kindness. Others may share in the experience, relieved that they’re not the only ones those things happen to. And there’s a metaphor to be had: you fall, but luckily the world doesn’t end. You get back up again and carry on. 

Yes, dignity may be a fleeing thing, but it’s good to know you can always count on a good cup of coffee to help soothe the bruises. 

Paula Brewer is assistant editor for The Star-Herald, Aroostook Republican, Houlton Pioneer Times, St. John Valley Times, Piscataquis Observer and The Penobscot Times, plus websites TheCounty.ME and She can be reached at 207-764-4471 or via email at

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