Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Advance of the Broken Leg. (Slow.)

Today was the first day trying to go back to work with my unreliable knee. My bad knee. My crutches and brace and backpack clutched under my arm.

The journey was not a success.

At Schiphol I looked uneasily at my track. No train. No cancellation notice. Just no train. I stumped to another track. No train. I stumped back to the original track. No information. No train.

I joined a group of angry commuters in a circle around the NS official. He frowned at his little machine. Logistics problem, he said.

A hatchet-faced man insisted the 'logistics problem' was actually a fire in Utrecht.

The official disagreed. No, he said, there's someone wandering in the tunnel close to the airport.

I asked if any trains were coming. The official shrugged. You know as much as I do, he answered. But I didn't know anything.

I decided to buy a sandwich. And sit. My knee was hurting from all the running between tracks and standing around. I went to Delifrance, and waited in line.

An old man with a wheeled suitcase watched me. He was behind me. He looked at my crutch, his watch, then made up his mind. He dashed around the barrier and jumped in front of me.

His hand was firm on the handle, no indecision. I was Slow. He was going first. His ears did not turn red with shame.

Eventually, I sat and ate my sandwich. The benches in the airport are separated with metal rails. Anti-sleeping person protection. I couldn't stretch my leg out. I saw unhappy people continue to mill around the trains. I wrote email.

Eventually my leg hurt more from the sitting than the standing, so I made my way back to the tracks.

Still nothing running in the direction of Delft. But finally a train for Amsterdam. I got on, went back home. I gave up.

But this isn't what I wanted to say.

I wanted to write about rage. And being Slow. First: Slow.

As a commuter, you are defined by your speed. Other commuters are as quick as cats to smell weakness. And crutches = Slow.

You see it on faces, in the way people react. The tight unhappy fear of someone interrupting pace.

The old man I mentioned above. A girl who raced in front of me to jump on the escalator first. The eye-rolling students behind me, objecting to me standing in front of them. The cars and bikes that sped up when they saw me step into the crosswalk. The pedestrian who pushed me into the railing on the too-narrow sidewalk so he could get past.


And now Rage. I have been surprised, distantly, how much anger is exposed by my bad leg. By the time I was on my way back home, I was chewing my lower lip to avoid shouting like a mad bag lady.

Finally, nearly at my door, a bike came up behind me on the sidewalk, aggressively ringing her bell. She wanted to turn on a side street, but didn't feel like waiting for the light. So she took the sidewalk. Only I was in her way.

I reeled with surprise and nearly fell. She took the moment to race past.

I lost control of my lip. Get pleurisy and rot, you tiresome cancer cuntbitch! I was snarling.

She turned her head, briefly. Shocked.

Good she sped along quickly. I believe if she had stopped I would have hit her with my metal crutch. Pounded and pounded until she was bleeding on the ground, her own leg broken. Bruised and battered. I wished her disability and disaster. I wanted her to hurt. I wished her Slow.

I'm going to take some time and try to learn from how much anger I've got right now. Certainly, I will practice more empathy and less pace. When my leg heals. Eventually.


  1. Lovely read in the middle of St. Paddy's Day. I'm shocked that I've never before read your blog. Thank you for the brief respite from the monotony of office florescence. :)

  2. Thanks, Joe. I haven't actually figured out how to use my blog yet. It's mostly just bits and pieces parked where I can find them.

  3. Disability is difficult, however it manifests itself. I have a hard time responding to people asking me what I do. My partner walks "slow". I sometimes feel like we're an Indian couple, him walking six paces behind me. I loved the part about beating the bicyclist bloody and breaking her leg. So many people have a failure of the imagination when it comes to consideration and compassion. Perhaps they should be quietly and anonymously executed, preferably before they've had a chance to mate and contribute to the gene pool.

  4. Really lovely writing like being in another country that is maybe next door to my country but not. Dreamland.


  5. Thanks, Rebecca. That means a lot.

    Ed-- yes, I feel that way sometimes too. Lack of imagination is a good way to describe it.