I joke a lot about “membership has its privileges” when I get some special attention over my disease. Closer parking spaces. People holding the door for you longer than they normally would. Things like that. I definitely notice I’m getting special treatment, the more debilitated I get, and “privileges” is becoming kind of a tired joke, but I’m learning daily how differently people get treated when they’re “less than perfect”.
I went through Security Theater this morning, to get on a plane to come to New Orleans for a vacation. (Hello from New Orleans!) Megan and Colin were my partners on this venture, and Colin did a fantastic job of running interference for me. We researched what was needed for someone to go through security with a cane and braces, and Colin was marvelous at stepping up and informing the various security peeps of what was expected.
Sidenote: Post 9/11, this was the most pleasant TSA experience I’ve had.
I didn’t have to remove my braces, they swapped my metal cane with a wooden one so I could walk through the metal detector, and then had me (try to) stand in the imaging machine – not backscatter, it turned out, some other technology. Megan’s going to research that. I wobbled. They patted me down a lot and swabbed my hands and shoes for explosives, and then a really nice TSA officer collected my things for me and led me to a chair to wait for the other two.
My cane and braces got us in the fast track through security. My cane and braces got us boarded first. Pre-boarding, bitches! My cane and braces get me more attention and consideration than I’ve ever had. It is just weird to me still, to be granted privilege and special status because my body is betraying me. “Here, you have less time, literally, than the rest of us. To the front of the line, please.” I’m grateful for the consideration, it sincerely does make my life easier. But it feels weird and alien still, because there’s that edge of “I don’t deserve special treatment” and “I don’t NEED special treatment” and on either side of that chasm is a yawning abyss of “Shut up, yes you do.”
I’m not sure what the point of this is. I guess part of me is a little appalled that it takes something like a terminal disease for people to notice and be nice to you. And I’m just as guilty of it. I’m far more likely to smile at a total stranger with some sort of affliction, like – hey, you’re okay, man, you’re cool. I’m on the other side of that now and… it’s not insulting at all, but it’s a little sad. Like, why wouldn’t you hold the doors for that dude but you’ll hold them for me?
And I joke about “membership has its privileges” but..really, it seems only fair that the universe dishes out SOME gentle allowances to soften the blows. Even if it’s only in letting me on the plane 20 minutes before everyone else. For every fall, there’s someone to help me back up. I’m happy to be in New Orleans on someone else’s dime, and I honestly couldn’t ask for two more considerate and compassionate travel companions who are on point and looking out for ways to make my life easier. (They were always there, though. ALS didn’t do SHIT for me on that front.) So I guess, if the universe is saying “Sorry bout your terminal disease, have everyone letting you on the plane first as a consolation” isn’t that bad. At least it comes with something. And I am grateful for those little mercies. They really do soften the blows, and make things just a bit easier.
I’m privileged to have those small mercies.