Breathing Room: Slow down and respect fellow humans

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

May 11th, 2010 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

We live in a society, at least in Southern California, where everything is rush-rush-rush. Barrel past the old lady on the sidewalk. Race over the crosswalk when a pedestrian is still on it. Honk and yell at the cyclist and demand she move over, so that you don’t have to wait 20 seconds for the light.

That last one happened to me a few days ago. I was smiling from ear to ear, so happy to be back on my bike and cruising around in the sun, on my way to teach a class at the YMCA. I hit a red light and stopped my bike. Then a car honked at me. I knew right away that the driver wanted me to move, so that she could make a right-hand turn.

I felt trapped. My panier was heavy with my computer in it. Maneuvering a bike without a computer is already asking for trouble – sure to leave me with pain in my ankles and other sensitive body parts. I absolutely couldn’t jerk it around with a computer inside.

There wasn’t enough room in front of me to move forward, without going into the intersection, and besides, starting and stopping in a jerky fashion also would surely trigger my ankle pain. Turning around and communicating with the driver was not an option either, because twerking my body like that would leave me in pain.

So I sat. Anxiously. Knowing that this is LA, and any driver who honks at a bike won’t stop there. “Excuse me, I’m trying to turn right. Can you move over?” the driver inevitably shouted. I didn’t respond. I knew she probably thought I was a belligerent biker. But seriously, if I was in a car, would she be all shouting at me, expecting me to “get out of the way”? I mean, what the fuck. Really?! You can’t be bothered to wait 20 seconds and leave a cyclist alone?

I can’t remember if she shouted again or honked again, but I decided to yell (and hope she would hear behind my head) that the light was about to turn green. Right when I said that, the car charged forward, deciding it was more important to risk my life and try to squeeze by me than to wait another three seconds.

I swerved my body around and yelled, “G@d!!!” — pointedly looking at how close the car had come to my bike, as the driver screeched the car to a halt about three inches away. And guess what? She lost time. The light was green, and we were still sitting there, because she had to go to all that trouble to save a few seconds.

Of course I was fucked. The jerking motion plus the jolt of fear plus the body twerking set my ankle off. Which has had all kinds of consequences for my life: I had a hard time walking around at the YMCA; I had to bike home very slowly and carefully; and I was anxious the whole way back about whether I would make it.

I have been more or less homebound again, not wanting to go for a walk or bike ride, lest I exacerbate the ankle pain. Which just leaves me feeling frustrated and angry. The quality of my life is worth more than that bitch’s 20 seconds.

I am so tired of the aggressive, careless ways that people are hurdling themselves through space. It’s as if the only thing that matters is whether they can shove their way past something or someone, not whether doing so is kind, considerate, or even time-efficient in the end.

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