Courtesy, Chronic Pain, and Consequence

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

June 26th, 2008 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

On Tuesday night, I opened the paper, looking for something interesting to do. With excitement, I saw that bass player Yossi Fine would be performing with global electronica DJ Cheb i Sabbah, along with another musician I did not know.

I had written about Yossi and Cheb several times, and while I had gotten to know Cheb personally, I had never met Yossi. Yossi had initiated the Israeli hip-hop movement back in the 1970s, so during my Israeli hip-hop writing craze a few years ago, I had spoken with him on the phone several times. I was jazzed to have the chance to meet him in person.

Given the astronomical expenses associated with chronic pain, and the resulting hole in my pocket, I couldn’t justify dishing out the $30-$50 cost of tickets. So I called Cheb, just a couple of hours before the performance, and left a message — asking if he could put me on the guest list.

Sweetheart that he is, he called back promptly and not only put me on the guest list, but also arranged for me to bring a friend. So I called a gal pal who had been wanting to see Cheb perform for quite some time, and off we went!

An hour or so into the show, while the headlining act was performing, and as I was ogling the wicked cute trombone player, a young man slammed into me — so forcefully that I lost my balance. Immediately, the left side of my back and shoulder were in pain.

Instinctively, I reached out to grab the asshole, as he shoved his way through the crowd. I had the intention of giving him an earful, a fistful, or both. As I swung my arm out toward him, however, I realized a few things:

1. He was holding a bottle of beer and was potentially drunk.

2. Trying to shout above the music was pointless, and given his behavior, chances were that he wouldn’t respond in a particularly caring way anyhow.

3. Hitting him would make my pain worse, especially if the interaction turned into a brawl.

So I dropped my arm and decided to see the incident as yet another opportunity to learn how to channel pain and anger into healing energy. (More about that in another post.)

Self-centered, impatient, and otherwise discourteous ways of moving through space are common in our society and are well beyond annoying. They are harmful to those of us with pain and disability — making going out into the world a downright scary proposition.

Take the incident a few days ago, when I was shopping at Whole Foods, purportedly the market for the enlightened set: An elderly woman with a cane was walking towards me, as I made my way through the outdoor eating area. I could see that if I continued walking ahead, there wouldn’t be enough space for her to pass comfortably. So I stopped where I was and waited for her to walk past.

As she did, a young man came zipping towards us, twerking his body so that he could slip through. If there wasn’t enough room for two of us, there certainly wasn’t enough room for three. In effect, not only did the man compromise the elderly woman’s body space, but he also compromised mine — exponentially increasing the chance that I would be banged into, and therefore, hurt.

“Stop!” I commanded him. “I’m waiting for her for a reason!” Probably in response to my bossiness, the man paused briefly, only to rethink his decision and push on past, laughing. “Why should I stop if you’re waiting for her?”

I wanted to throttle him.

At least I spoke up, loudly, in the heat of the moment. Just days earlier, when I was in a wheelchair at the airport (more on that during another post), a young woman with heels up to her neck literally climbed over me — climbed over someone in a wheelchair! — rather than waiting 30 seconds or politely asking if I could move. At the time, I was stunned into silence.

Tell me something: How did our society end up this way?

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