Friday, August 22, 2008

Temporarily Disabled

About four weeks ago, my mother nagged me into the doctor's office. My foot had been painful to walk on and somewhat swollen for about two weeks without much improvement, and I thought perhaps I had a stubborn sprain that wouldn't heal because I couldn't go for an entire week without at least some minimal walking. To make a long story short, I explained what was wrong to the doctor and he ordered some x-rays.

And it turned out to be broken.

Now, I had never had a broken bone before, so my mental imagery on the subject was rather skewed from the reality--visions of jagged bones protruding through pliable flesh and disjointed limbs hanging in pendulum-like motion apparently weren't entirely accurate. I had a stress fracture on the top of my foot. This meant three days of ibuprofen, four weeks without excessive walking, six weeks out of the gym....and a whole week on crutches.

I may have been carrying my own body weight distributed between two pieces of rubber-padded aluminum, but that didn't mean that suddenly I stopped needing necessities. During the course of my temporary disability, I made three trips to the supermarket--three different supermarkets. Here are my ratings for each of these establishments.

Market Basket
Rank of Three: 1
Customers: Excellent

My first trip, I took with my co-worker, who offered to help me out when I asked him. He wheeled the cart around and I hobbled from place to place to select items. People kindly moved out of the way for us, and some even went the long way around aisles so not to get in our way. I rarely had to stop my momentum to allow people and carriages to pass--many times, people willingly curtailed their own progress to allow us to pass. Some were even kind enough to ask me what happened and to share their sympathies. Overall, a very nice crowd, and I was able to do a fairly large food shopping even without the use of one foot.

Rank of Three: 2
Customers: So-so

I did a quick shopping for a meal's worth of food towards the end of my tenure on crutches at a local Shaw's. I put a backpack on, made sure that the only things inside of it before going in were my wallet and cell phone, and I put each of the items in the sack. I offered to let the cashier to look in my bag to make sure I had taken everything out of it, but she kindly refused with a knowing smile.

There were some snags in this supermarket shopping, however. I was swinging myself along in time with someone directly in front of me walking in the door, and without thinking, she stopped to look at a circular right at the entrance, making it next to impossible for me to get by her. I had to push the crutches together resulting in such a skinny fit that I almost couldn't push my body through them, and at no point did she look up. Although it was difficult, I managed to make it all the way across the store from the produce aisle to the bread aisle (why they put these two common staple categories so far apart, I will never know). Here, I was presented with a conundrum. Although the aisle was wide, there were too many displays down the center of it for me to use that as a transportation channel. On one side, a woman had parked her carriage and was scrutinizing several loaves of Sarah Lee bread, and on the other, a woman had two children in the plastic red car mould attached to the carriage, making it about twice as wide as it would have normally been. Upon approaching this aisle-wide succession of obstructions, I thought if I just paused in front of them, they would notice me and one of them would have moved. After moving close by enough that I could not be ignored, neither of them shifted. I waited a minute--still nothing. Finally, I sighed and literally said "Come on, ladies." That got their attention--both of them moved and one (the bread-examiner)even apologized.

Whole Foods
Rank of Three: 3
Customers: Should not be allowed to reproduce

This trip was absolutely incredible. It was enough to make one lose faith in humanity all together.

I arrived here and parked around the side because every single parking space in any kind of walking distance was taken up by some large gas-guzzling vehicle with four-wheel drive and a luxury logo. On my way in, a young man, who saw me coming and was just a little too far away to beat me to the door at a normal walking pace, actually rushed in front of me to ensure he would have to wait for me to get in the door before he could. I made my way to the back of the store--I only had a few items to pick up and this time, I knew exactly where they were. On my way, I had to maneuver around one clueless guy who was having a very hard time figuring out whether to go for the hot or cold entrees bar with his little, biodegradable carton, and walked in front of me no less than two times in deep contemplation over this topic. After picking up what I needed in the pasta and fish departments, I went over to the produce section. I stopped in front of the bags of salad. I leaned my crutches up against the side of the refrigerated display and shifted about three feet down the way, as the spinach I was looking for was sitting there. No sooner had I picked up the plastic bag and put it in my backpack then a guy, who couldn't be given the consideration of not knowing I was the owner of the crutches, parked his cart right between me and my means of doing any traveling. I couldn't believe it. I had to hobble around him, and actually use his cart to hold myself up, just to get to the crutches. When they were safely under my arms and I was about to move, a conga-line of produce shoppers started to pass by--fifteen of them. I held myself up there while shopper after shopper and cart after cart passed me by and not ONE of them stopped the progress so I could move out of the way. Instead, they looked at me as if my genes would pollute the perfection of the human race with an up-and-down look and an accompanying eye-roll as I stood there supporting my own body weight with my upper half.

The only bright spot in all of this was my next turn into the seasonings aisle. While a store employee had a conversation with a customer in front of where I clearly needed to get, a man approached me and asked me if I were by myself. Since I was, he asked if I needed any help, and I thanked him, but I told him I was Ok. He said if I needed anything, he would be happy to help, and he left. This was the only man in this store who deserved to live.

This solitary bright-spot in my grocery shopping experience was immediately followed by a trip to the check-out line where my successor talked my ear off about the diet she was on and how much weight she had lost.


matthew said...

I'm too drunk to read this right now but I'm feeling it b/c I broke my foot earlier this year....

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Ouch! It all sounds painful.

Sayani said...

i had a broken finger a year ago ...and i can nt imagine what that pain means....i hope u are fine now and i pray for u to recover soon
get well soon dear
take care

Kat said...

Hope you're on the mend soon. Nothing like a potent reminder that people can be both incredibly kind and outright assholes. Sigh.

Zero said...

I know the feeling- i had a hairline fracture once, and had to hobble along on crutches awhile ( the incident that caused the break was VERY PAINFUL).

The pics are from around Richmond, Virginia

girl said...

i miss the stories and the commentaries... there aren't enough steph s. moments in little rhody anymore. thanks for the link and i'll update you on life soon.

anonymous jones said...

So, was the seasonings-aisle-guy cute?

gagknee said...

funny how the rankings coincide with, at least in my mind, the number of elitist shoppers who frequent each store.

is there a stop n shop near you? maybe you could give them a try.

booda baby said...

Oh no!! Oh no AGAIN. Long healing thingie, isn't it, because it's your foot? (I shouldn't have asked. I have a long history of foot breaks. Ow.)

On the other hand, pretty cool to have a lens to view life through. Of course, you'd have noticed it anyway, but it seems to moi our critical skills get better when it really counts.

Good healing!

ellesappelle said...

Ouch. I am feeling this, because I broke my heel at the end of last year and was on crutches for about nine weeks. At my supermarket, they refused to let me carry a bag to put the things in, and made me hobble around trying to balance a supermarket basket as well as support my weight.
There's something about being disabled in some way that really lets you see the best and the worst of human nature.
Get well soon!

skipper said...

So sorry to hear about your loss of mobility. Hey, there is a lesson in all of this - we take so many things for granted. Enjoyed your marketing reviews.

M@ said...

"who offered to help me out when I asked him"

--el-oh-el on that one!

I broke my foot earlier this year and spent six weeks on crutches. I had similar problems but I can certainly one up ya. I flew to Orlando on business and, let me tell you, crutching around those airports and flying was no picnic, never mind crutching around a large convention center.

Oh, I think I was "matthew" from above and I was too drunk to remember. el-oh-el.

Berlinkat said...

It never fails to amaze me how rarely people use their powers of observation in crowded situations, or when someone needs to get by. My "favorite" is when someone is walking in front of me and stops suddenly, and is completely suprised that someone may be behind him/her upon almost being walked into. Sigh...I feel for you!

Anais Anais said...

A day before this post I had back surgery. I was in bed since March with excruciating pain on my right leg due to a herniated disk.

Isn't it marvelous how we get to recognize the marvelous bodies we have, how much we rely on each muscle functioning correCtly to stand, walk, bend and do things?