When you use walking aids—and are under the age of 70—you are going to get questions. It doesn't matter if you are using a cane, trekking poles, forearms crutches, walker, or pogo stick (not recommended, by the way). People are curious and have an unquenchable desire to eat one's own foot. This is particularly true when using said walking aids in an unfamiliar way, say trekking poles—with rubber tips—away from the trail. Even I'll admit it does look a bit strange to be walking around Costco with gear more suited to scale Kilimanjaro (although granted the store is large enough to nearly qualify as a leg on the Appalachian Trail if one walks the entire length of each aisle). Of course you expect to get the occasional quizzical look or two. Perhaps the head-snapping double-take. Maybe a question about your disability or a misguided "get well soon." But the snarky, “I don’t see any snow” comments sort of piss me off. Not enough to make me want to clunk these jerks in the head with my Black Diamonds, but enough for me to stew about it.
My stew reached a rolling boil when, while exploring an historic Bhutanese temple back in 2008, some dude (presumably British, not that there is anything wrong with being British) said to me, “Chap, it’s not snowing.” I paused. At the time, I responded with only a smile. But for the next hour I decided to prepare a list of comebacks to make these idiots question their idiotic statements. Option one: a full frontal assault. "In my world where my body is being ravaged by multiple sclerosis, it’s a blizzard every single day." Bam! Okay, that might be a touch harsh. Option two: “I’m training to climb Mount Everest, and nothing interrupts my training schedule, not even a trip to the grocery store. I see you are not in training by your lack of poles and that in your cart.” Option three made me smile widest. "You don’t see any snow? Well… I don’t see any assholes. Oh, wait. Yes I do.”
Alas, I always just smirk and nod, but it is cathartic coming up with snappy returns that will forever stay in my back pocket. Probably.
Portions originally published June 26, 2008. Edited and expanded.