After the motorcycle accident and my release from the hospital, I had visiting family and amazing friends helping me with my day to day activities, most important of which included grocery shopping. My friends would either call first and drop a few things off for me or if they had more time to spare, they would go with me to the supermarket and follow my crutches with a shopping cart to be an extension of my hands (but not my wallet unfortunately). I cannot stress the feeling I had of being a burden on my friends because I had a craving for a Chocodile, but due to my vehicles (a motorcycle and a stick shift truck) I was unable to leave the house on my own. I was humbled by my friends with all the attention and love they showed me during a rough transition period of my life. Some call it stubbornness, I called it freedom, but I was never one to ask for help and often chose to do things alone (hence the motorcycles).
As soon as I felt up to it physically, I placed my truck on the internet and after a few weeks, sold my manual truck and got a much needed automatic car. Since my injury was limited to my left leg, having a vehicle I could operate using just my right leg was one of the greatest forms of entitlement I have known in my life.
Since I live alone, I typically do my food shopping once a week (give or take a few days). On those days I tend to arrive at my local big-name-brand supermarket before the sun rises (between 5 and 6am). After parking in a handicap parking stall, I work my way inside and commandeer one of those electric carts with a basket on it. Not always an easy task, this particular supermarket has a habit of not plugging their three carts in overnight. Many a day of mine has been ruined before the sun came up, due to the fact that I could not do my own shopping. I’ve also had one cart die on me during the beginning of my shopping experience, so I left it in the produce section and took another cart.
Although the electric shopping cart makes me feel like an 80 year-old man, the sense of independence is exhilarating. The fact that I can get up and do all my own shopping without having to rely on friends is something that is difficult to express. I love them for everything they have done for me, but I need to do this in an attempt to get some sense of normalcy back into a life I barely control.
Once I find a cart that has a charge, I zip through the store slaloming the palettes of items in the aisles to be restocked. Occasionally I time it right as the stockers are finishing up and the aisles aren’t too congested, but other times it can be very tricky to go down an aisle without having to back your way out (the attention grabbing staccato beep is awesome). A few blocked aisles and not having certain things replenished is the price one pays to get there so early to avoid the blank stares and pity looks I usually get from strangers when I go someplace crowded.
Kids say the damnedest things, but they usually are too young to know any better. As soon as I hobble by a child, they will ask their parent what I did to hurt myself or why am I using those sticks to walk. I usually ignore them, but sometimes I’ll entertain their inquiry with a short story, always emphasizing that they always were their helmets when riding their bike on the street. When it comes to annoying questions, adults are a whole other issue.
First are the noises. As I pass by the onlookers I tend to hear the oohs and ahs as well as the sporadic tisk tisk (kind of like a ticking stopwatch noise) which make me feel so pitiful I tend to pick up my pace to further my distance from the sound. The noises were a lot worse when I had the seven external pins protruding out from my shin, not to mention they acted like seven mini lightning rods for awkward interactions.
Then there’s the questions.
If I can give you a few words on approaching someone with a noticeable injury. Do not walk right up to them and ask flat out, “What did you do?” As soon as someone says that to me I turn immediately cold, defensive and dismissive. Maybe it is just my attitude, but who the hell do you think you are coming up to me and asking such an intimate question? I am not going to share such a traumatic story with an idiot who either wants to make small talk or worse, wants to share their similar experience. If you are that curious then come up to me, introduce yourself and be completely upfront with your intentions. Treat me like a person, not a roadside attraction.
To end this blog I have included a typical interaction at the supermarket if I go later in the day, or worse, during the evening rush:
INTERIOR: A crowded supermarket check out line.
STRANGER: “What did you do?”
ME: “I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle.”
STRANGER: “Oh man, I’m sorry. Motorcycles are so dangerous. I had an (insert relative here) who was in a motorcycle accident and he/she died.”
ME: “I’m sorry to hear that.”
STRANGER: “Yeah, motorcycles are death traps. I never rode one, but they seem unsafe. I broke my arm when I was 10, had a cast just like yours.”
STORE CLERK: “Thank you Mr. (insert butchering of my last name here), you saved (insert large dollar amount here) today with your card. Do you need carry out service today.”
ME: “No thank you.”
I apologize for the generalization, but in my nine-plus months of using crutches, this is a very accurate portrayal of an everyday interaction for me (Although nothing beats the old lady who tapped on my brace).