What not to do after you fall into a fountain

Cathy Cruz Marrero's tumble in a mall became a viral hit -- but her reaction has turned her into a villain

Topics: Going Viral, Viral Video,

What not to do after you fall into a fountainCathy Cruz Marrero

Her name is Cathy Cruz Marrero, but you probably know her better as the Fountain Lady. Last week, as she walked past the Piercing Pagodas and Radio Shacks of Pennsylvania’s Berkshire Mall, engrossed in the act of texting, she plowed face first into a fountain. And because this is 2011 and every minor public mishap is not just recorded but broadcast, it didn’t take long for the security camera footage — replete with the delighted giggles of mall security and their enjoyment of the spill from two different angles — to make its way to YouTube.

Nearly 2 million views and thousands of comments about the “idiot lady” later, Marrero is learning firsthand that not all viral sensations wind up with job offers  and guest shots on George Lopez. Instead, her 15 seconds of walking, falling and getting her soaking-wet self out of the water have made her a worldwide punch line. Or as a mall security person narrated, “Aaaaand …. boom!”

At this point, Marrero could have shrugged the whole thing off and accepted her place in the hall of YouTube infamy next to Star Wars Kid and Grape Lady.  Instead, she got mad. On “Good Morning America” Thursday, Marrero, who works at a store at the mall, sat with her attorney and appeared to be fighting back tears as she noted that the world has been “having a great laugh at my account.” She admitted she had been “embarrassed” after she took the spill, but the bigger issue for her seems to be the utter lack of compassion the entire incident has generated ever since. “Nobody took my feelings into consideration. Nobody called, are you OK? Nobody went to my aid. Not one single person.” On the video, her fall and recovery happen so quickly, it’s easy to assume none of the shoppers even noticed. But that doesn’t explain the security team hooting, “Play it back! Play it back!”

Marrero may well have good reason to be wary of the sudden spotlight: After her “GMA” appearance, she was in court Thursday regarding charges that she used a co-worker’s credit card to rack up over $5,000 in bills at two local stores. Marrero’s lawyer says, “Her prior personal affairs have nothing to do with what happened to her at the Berkshire Mall and the video that has been posted,” and told George Stephanopoulos this morning, “We intend to hold all responsible parties accountable, whether that means requesting or demanding an apology, certainly requesting an explanation of how this happened, and certainly we want to know the identity of all persons responsible for making the video public.”

These new twists certainly aren’t endearing Marrero any further to her Internet fans. YouTube commenters have been flocking to the clip all day, asking, “Why is she suing? To be an attention whore some more?” And indeed, appearing on “GMA” is probably not the fastest way to make this whole thing disappear. But to everyone who owns a phone, I say, ask not for whom the shopping mall fountain waits, it waits for thee.

Did Marrero need to be texting her friend from church about her birthday that fateful Wyomissing day? Of course not. Should she have been on the ball enough to realize that she was about to eat a faceful of cast-off pennies and wishes? You bet. But if you have never once glanced at your mobile device while engaged in other activity whatsoever, congratulations. You’re in a small, exceptionally rare population, like people who pay to see Nicolas Cage movies. And while it’s easy to point and laugh at Marrero — hey, falling down is a reliable laugh getter — it’s worthwhile to ask whether the employees of a shopping mall should be spending their time deriding their patrons and disseminating their spills.

Remember the outrage (and yet, somehow, total surprise) when the pizza jockeys at a Domino’s put a little something extra in a sandwich? Sure, nobody at the Berkshire Mall security was handling your lunch today, but when a simple, random moment of carelessness becomes an international joke, it’s difficult not to find a disproportionate amount of cruelty there. Marrero did what millions of people — with and without cellphones — do every day. She just didn’t watch where she was going. She compounded her offense by not having a sense of humor about being mocked by the Internet community. Seems to me the greater portion of contempt should be reserved for the mall security team who took such astonishing relish in her fall, and the YouTube commenters suggesting “the mall should be suing you for contaminating the fountain.” Because while Marrero may not be the most sympathetic person to ever take a fall, she’s far from the only one. And that’s something to consider the next time you suddenly find your own butt over your head.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>