Little Things with Big Consequences

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

May 16th, 2011 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

Tonight I went shopping at the local co-op. I stopped shopping at the co-op for months and months, after one of the employees behaved in a way that was unbelievably obtuse to my obvious pain/disability. But I’ve ended up back there again, partly because they are open later than Whole Foods and partly because their produce is local, as opposed to the produce at Whole Foods, which is from around the world. Local just tastes a whole lot better, never mind the political and environmental issues.

Anyhoo, I came in about half an hour before the store closed tonight, and the place was practically empty. I took a little hand-held shopping basket and was walking towards the aisle with the coconut milk. There was a young man standing smack in the middle of the main aisle – meaning I had to pass him to get anywhere in the store –talking to another young man.

Meaning, there was just enough room for my body to pass on either side of this guy. I anticipated I might end up with a jolt of pain while passing — as happens when I don’t have a cushion of enough body space around me. And yet, when I have said “excuse me” to someone who has not obviously been blocking my path with physical body mass, I’ve on numerous occasions been given strange looks but no extra space, at as if I’m some kind of control freak for not just passing by like everybody else.

So I did the little explanation-free trick I’ve developed – putting the object I was holding (basket in this case) to my side. I have noticed that if people anticipate that something inanimate will bang into them, they move as I pass; whereas if I don’t, they expect me to contort my body space around them.

So I switched my basket from my left side to my right side. But as I was a nanosecond from passing this guy, I was surprised that he was rock-solid, not budging an inch. I don’t know if he was oblivious to my passing or if he’s just one of those super entitled-to-space-you-move-around-me types, but I ended up contorting my body at all kinds of angles, so that neither the basket nor I would hit him.

Note to self: Commit to letting the object bang into the person.

I don’t get it. When someone is passing me in an aisle, I always instinctively move closer to the side of the aisle, to ensure the person passes comfortably. I don’t get people who are unresponsive to those around them – at least those who are not men. When people don’t have to deal with consequences of body contortion, they probably don’t notice so much. But in my case, I notice when stuff like that happens. Because I end up dealing with the consequences.

My thigh/groin area, which was a problem spot for years but has not been acting up for a while, is now all bent outta shape, as are my knee and hip on that side. Sigh. It’s things like these that make me want to stay home. Or at least go back to shopping at Whole Foods. Because for whatever reason, I find that this behavior happens at the co-op far more frequently than at Whole Foods.

In fact, I find that the more progressive/radical the environment, the more oblivious people seem to be about body space. Which doesn’t make any sense to me, because aren’t those environments supposed to be where the sensitive people flock?

Anyhow, please excuse me as I lie down with a post-Apocalyptic size ice pack.


Nicole Lemelle May 22nd, 2011

I find this quality in people that are young in both age and mind. They can be very self-adsorbed sometimes. I try to shop at non-peck hours to avoid crowds and so far it has worked out pretty well. The next time I’m going to use your “object” trick.
Love the story and advise.

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