Growing up, I attended a Protestant church, so I didn't have a lot of experience with Catholic services. And by that, I mean I had no experience. When I was in college I had a girlfriend who was Catholic so I attended my first Christmas mass with her and her family.
For those of us who don't attend Catholic church, the services can seem daunting. There's a lot of ritual and congregational responses and standing and kneeling and sitting and more standing and more kneeling and on and on. I'm sure there's a pattern to it and eventually you get the hang of it, but it's confusing at first.
And then there's the kneeler.
For those parts of the services that require kneeling, most (or perhaps all) Catholic churches have kneelers, padded platforms to place your knees on. The particular church I attended had them attached to the bottom of the pew in front of you, and when it was a "kneeling time" you flipped the kneeler down. And when kneeling time was over, you flipped it back up so that it was out of the way.
An excellent idea. Or so it would seem.
As a Catholic mass rookie, I was unprepared for kneeling time so I had my legs stretched out in front of me. When the kneeler was flipped down, one of its feet ended up on top of my foot, which went unnoticed until everyone on my pew placed their knees on the kneeler, crushing my foot.
With that much weight on the kneeler I was unable to pull my foot out. I didn't want to cause a scene, so I bit my tongue (figuratively) and attempted to maintain my balance with one leg with the foot trapped under the kneeler and the other leg with the knee slightly hovering over the kneeler so that I wouldn't add to the weight pressing down on my foot. I don't know if the pain caused me to embellish this in my memory, but it seemed to me that this kneeling section of the service lasted for several hours, which is amazing considering the mass only lasted an hour.
Eventually, that kneeling portion of the service ended, and the kneeler was flipped back up. For the remainder of the service, my feet were safely tucked under my own pew. Hopefully, this story will prevent anyone else from making the same mistake I did.
As if that were possible.