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Left Hand Brake

What's Your Left Hand Brake?

What’s Your Left Hand Brake?

I woke up motivated. At 5:30am, I popped out of bed, practically bright-eyed and almost bushy-tailed. I wanted to sneak out to hot yoga while the kids, animals, and kid-animal, aka husband, were still snoring.

I pulled into the strip mall parking lot, nabbing a great parking spot, right up against a berm across from the entrance to the yoga studio. I opened my car door. Everything was going my way.

Most parking lot berms in San Diego have been recently redesigned. Grassy berms are so passe! So 90s. Berms are ‘water-wise’ now, which is a good thing, because given the choice, I’d rather drink my water than step on it. Old-fashioned water-slurping berm grass has been replaced with modern marvels such as wood chips, prehistoric-looking succulents, drought-tolerant grasses, and river rocks in varying hues and sizes. The new berms look good. I’m a fan. So when I holler things like, “Don’t step on those river rocks, they’re ankle twisters!” to my kids as we approach these new-fangled berms, it’s not because I’m a hater. It’s because the river rocks, in all their caveman-meets-future-city glory, ARE ANKLE TWISTERS. Especially when you’re a kid (or kid-like) and you think it’s fun to use any surface as a path. Or when you’re any age and you step onto the rocks wearing flip flops. Really though, any shoe holds risk. Hiking boots with over-pronounced spaceman tread? They’ll slip off the darn river rocks as if they’ve just been sprayed with Wesson oil. Take note readers: Those rocks that are calling to you like sirens? They are not part of some cool secret path. They’re desert-friendly space fillers, nothing more.

As I stepped out of my car this morning, planting my flip-flopped foot squarely on a river rock, did I think of the Ankle Twister refrain I sing to my kids every time they near a berm? I did not. I put all of my weight on that greased rock, and then stood. And, to no one’s surprise, as I leaned back to flick my car door closed, my foot slipped and I got all wonky. Before I knew it, my feet flew out from under me. I flailed my arms around for a long moment, eventually burrowing one toe into a rock and smacking a shin into the corner of the sidewalk as the rest of my body plowed into the black top. Pain lit up my entire being as I lay in the road. I might have soon been road kill had it not been sub 6am. But since cars were still few and far between, I rolled onto my back, kicked my quivering legs into the air like a dead bug, and moaned. I might have stayed there a while but for a personal trainer from the gym next door who trotted over in that way that only super fit people trot and said, “Let me give you a hand.” I wanted to say, “Stuff it, you muscle bound Boy Scout,” but instead I said, “I appreciate that. Thank you,” and stood with his considerable help.

Hot yoga was suddenly the worst idea I’d ever had. I retrieved my car keys from whence they had flown mid-fall and hobbled back in the direction of Oil Slick Rock, ready to drive home, dive back under my covers, and pretend this was all some jacked-up dream. Then I thought, Oh screw it, I’m already here and I want to lie down, and that’s when yoga became less about a burst of morning motivation and more about the fastest way to get horizontal.

I walked inside the studio. There sat the instructor — a physically perfect specimen, glowing with health, and half my age. I noticed that none of her toes were bleeding. “How are you?” she asked, smiling serenely. I thought of how to answer as I lurched her way, dragging my right leg.

I’ll be honest. Sometimes this question, “How are you?”, it stops me. Does this person really want to know how I am, I have been known to wonder. “Fine, thank you,” I almost always respond because I have finally figured out that most people who ask this question are looking for a simple, non-grumpy answer. I get it, I might ask you this same question without wishing for you to unload your baggage either. We can’t all be each other’s therapists.  Plus, every language I’ve been introduced to has a greeting where people ask a question without wanting the real answer, just that culture’s equivalent of “Fine, thank you”. It’s not just an American thing is what I’m saying. I know this and thus, I submit that she was probably looking for the quick, easy answer. However, at that moment, I was only capable of the more honest, awkward answer.  “Well, I just had a helluva yard sale in the middle of the parking lot, and now I think my downward dog may look more like a one-legged half-dog with a side of wince”.

“Oh no, how did you fall?” she asked, her brows furrowed in compassion.

“I stepped on the river rocks. Totally my fault. I tell my kids not to do what I did 100 times a day.”

She sighed and nodded her head. “Yesterday, I was going to my other job at the bike rental place down the street. I can’t tell you how many times a day I tell people, Always pull both hand brakes! If you only pull the left brake, you will fly ass over nose straight over your handlebars. Well, I was riding while holding a coffee in my right hand. So when I had to stop suddenly, I braked with only my left hand, and there I flew, ass over nose.”

And just like that, in a very Grinch-like way, my heart grew three times its normal size. She falls too! I smiled. Her left hand brake is my river rock. We’re wipe-out twins, probably separated at birth, except twenty years apart.

The larger message attached to this story could be any one of the morals listed below:

1)       We fall, we get back up, we’ll probably fall again

2)      Always go to yoga when you’re already there

3)      Carry band-aids in your car

4)     Only say fine, thank you, most of the time

5)      Embrace your inner left hand brake



12 Responses to “ Left Hand Brake ”

  1. Love Z. says:

    Poor you! Sorry for the fall. Falling really hurts when you’re old. Like me. Last weekend we took India’s training wheels off her bike. I was so proud of myself (and of India, too) when she coasted for a full 7 seconds down our street without any assistance. Of course, I was yelling and screaming for Matt to come out and witness her awesomeness. Half of our neighbors ran outside thinking something was wrong. And they all witnessed the disaster of India colliding into me and then both of us tumbling upside-down into the side of our car. The bike landed on top of India. India and the bike both landed on top of me. My head landed on the pavement (thankfully not too hard). India was screaming uncontrollably and, once she was able to speak, declared that she would never ride her bike again.

    Falling hurt.

    • Oh my gosh! that is so terrible and so funny. I had a similar wipeout when I was a kid! I was teaching my neighbor and fabulous friend @sararosenthal how to ride a bike and she started independently riding and I was running next to her. It was such an awesome feeling! Until we started to get cocky and suddenly collided. Bam! Splat! It was beautiful until it was ugly.

  2. Nancy Villalobos says:

    Awwww. So nicely ended with a warm fuzzy. Everyone can relate.

  3. francine hardaway says:

    “Fall down seven times, stand up eight” — Japanese proverb put on a t-shirt by American woman.

  4. Heidi Berry says:

    Namaste! I giggled through the whole thing…….something about falling. :))). Way to turn it around girl!!


  5. Suzanne says:


    Only you could make these funny and sweet.

  6. Lily says:

    Namaste. Glad you were able to still go to yoga and get some relaxation in. hope you are ok!


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