It sometimes feels like there are few places where people with visible conditions are welcome – and accepted as they are.
Medical settings are often the most welcoming and comfortable places known to those of us with visible conditions. The larger, outside world has way too many issues with the likes of us.
Case in point: a mere one hour time span in the life of…. namely, yours truly.
It happened a couple weeks ago. I was minding my own business, going about my day in the usual way. Nothing out of the ordinary: a professional organization’s meeting, getting in and out of my car and running an errand. Doesn’t seem like it would be all that memorable.
But it was – and not in a warm, fuzzy kind of way.
No, the unfuzziness started early in the morning. Toward the end of a monthly mastermind meeting for speakers and authors that I co-founded, a gentleman who I’ve known for years uttered a showstopper.
He’s known for espousing the power of attraction. All well and good, until he stepped over a line – clearly marked with warning flares.
He was going off in his usual manner, instructing us in the finer points of thinking our way to success. Never mind the heavy lifting of running a business. It would take care of itself if we but thought the right thoughts.
At which point, he turned to me. “This applies to health, too.”
He continued, addressing the larger group again. “I have so many friends with arthritis who whine and complain about how bad it is and how much it hurts. Well, of course it does! That’s what they’re thinking about all the time!”
Apparently not yet sensing – or thinking about – the sudden deep freeze emanating from my pores right next to his, he looked at me and further explained, “You probably didn’t realize the connection.”
The deep freeze deepened. “Ohhhhhhhhh, you’ve told me numerous times.”
Momentary taken-aback pause. “I have?”
Perhaps it was the engulfing silence from me or from my fellow attendees. Perhaps it was the ice cold steel clad stare from my eyes to his, the stare coined the Harty Glare from my long-time friend Lynne. Perhaps a combination. No matter. It shut him down. Perhaps ‘thinking’ it so, does work.
Nonetheless, the best comeback came to me later in my car. What’s with the perpetually delayed response time?? What I should have said is, “How many seven year old kids think about getting rheumatoid arthritis – and then do?? Huh, huh?? Answer me that one, ‘O Think and It Will Be So, Boy.’”
But before I had a chance to think that delayed thought, another something happened as I was getting into my car following our hastily-ended meeting.
Just as I was plopping my irritated self into my car outside the restaurant, a woman walked up to me while my door was still open. “Hey. Lady.”
She looked harmless enough, yet I’m always a little cautious.
Calmly, she proceeded, as though this was the most natural thing she says every day to strangers: “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that when I saw you walk past me inside the restaurant, I could see that you have the mark of the beast on your forehead.”
I was soooo not in the mood to put up with yet another lunatic. My pronounced limp often seems to give strangers an assumed license to comment on any aspect of my physicalness. But this was a whole new direction.
I reached for my door, eye-roll in full swing. She kept up the luna-babble. “You probably picked it up at (insert name of nearest big box store). A lot of people get it there.”
“Nooo, I don’t shop there.”
“Ohh! Then, you must have gotten it at (insert name of large regional grocery store chain). People sometimes get it there, too.”
“I don’t shop there, either.”
“OH, well. Umm, I really feel that God is going to heal and lengthen your legs this afternoon!”
“He already did.”
“Ohhh, well, that’s great.” Door is almost slammed shut…. “Have a blessed day!” Seriously? I’m trying, but dealing with the likes of you cuts into the feel of any blessedness.
No longer in the mood to deal with the world at large, all I wanted to do was go home, alone. But my cat wouldn’t appreciate me not stopping to refill his food supply.
So I drove to the nearest (insert name of big box pet store here). As I walked in, another customer preceded me by five paces. The store’s door greeter, beaming, chirpily welcomed her. The greeter turned her head, saw me, and any lingering smile vanished in an instant. Her mouth clamped shut. I was awarded the ‘up and down’ stare. I stared back. This was not the time to mess with me.
I kept staring. She finally stopped staring. In a stilted voice, she eked out, “Can I help you?”
Not unless you can fix your own problem, honey – whatever it is.
Getting home never felt so good. The only other safe place is a medical setting. Maybe all other establishments need to start posting these signs in addition to no smoking signs: “Thank you for not staring.”
Next stop, the nearest sign company. I think I’ll buy a few thousand shares of stock.
This article originally appeared in NurseTogether.com.