Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Preparing the Comeback

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 poleswith rubber tipsaway from the trailEven 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 2008some 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 Haagen Daz 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. 

14 comments:

Allan Miller said...

I've got a rollator with big wheels with canes attached for occasional use.

I get away with this because I'm older and grizzled. And I live in Canada where people are generally too restrained to say what's on their minds.

Based on my experiences with newly diagnosed MS groups, I think that this is an even more difficult issue for young women.

Dave Bexfield said...

I agree, Allen. And the younger you are, the more likely you are going to be approached.

Cay Borduin said...

I am just at the start of secondary progressive (an iffy thing to truly ascertain.) I use a cane now even on the good days so people won't assume I'm drunk!

I am terribly interested in your HALT-MS experience - I would really like to keep at my current state of disability rather than... well you know. Are you available to email about this?

Dave Bexfield said...

Cay, a cane also helps if you drink too much, ha. Most info on Halt MS is in our forum, but I'm happy to answer any specific Qs. Just email me.

Anonymous said...

The best one I've had said to me was "why the cane?? (None of his business). I simply replied "to help me walk." That must have made him feel stupid. Cuz it shut him right up.

Nancy Miller said...

Sorry. Anonymous in previous comment was Nancy Miller

My Odd Sock said...

I like your "training to climb Mt. Everest" response best.
It's amazing what you hear sometimes, but it only confirms the old adage "adults say the darndest things."

Dave Bexfield said...

Nancy, I figured it was you the whole time. "To help me walk" hahaha. And yeah, MOS, folks do say the darndest things...

talulah gosh said...

Wow, I have NEVER had anyone say that to my husband. He uses hiking poles to walk too, and most people either say "god bless you" or something like that (which is kind of weird, but at least not MEAN!!). I guess it proves that Pittsburgh really is a nice place to live!

Dave Bexfield said...

Talulah, fortunately it's the minority who are clueless. And they tend to be British. Oh, I joke!

talulah gosh said...

Although I have decided if someone does comment, I will use your Mt Everest line, along with "He'll never make it to the top, but we like to let him dream. I figure he'll get about 100 feet up before he keels over, but at least the sherpas can use his carcass for warmth."

Dave Bexfield said...

TG, I never thought I'd see "carcass for warmth" as a comment on the blog. But what a practical suggestion!

Anonymous said...

I've used my Leki poles on a busy street in the city and had a humorous old fellow look askance and say; "Skiing?" as we passed each other. I didn't mind - he meant no harm, and if he actually knew how hard it is for me to walk, I'm sure he would not have said it. This was the only comment I've ever had. And I live in Britain, so we're not all clueless! :o)

Dave Bexfield said...

Anon, you are right. All Brits are not clueless. After all, maybe he was Australian and I got my accents all wrong, ha. Oh, now I'm going to hear it from Aussies. :)