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19 August 2007

Blue

The last thing I remembered before spinning to a stop was observing that the passenger side airbag was, surprisingly, blue. Blue enough to catch my eye as the other airbag exploded in grey-white powder and smacked me in the face. Light blue, like the clear sky that day.

Days later, when I saw the car, my shock at the crumpled metal was subdued by my amazement that the air bag, now deflated and hanging from the dash like an abandoned grocery bag caught on a tree branch, was, indeed, blue. Barely discernible as color, except in contrast to the white. Barely blue in contrast to my bluish-purple broken foot, only faintly colored in contrast to the reddish-brown burn marks across my neck and chest, it laid there, disabled, no longer serviceable, having done its job to protect the absent passenger. The driver's side airbag -- the one that kept me from skewering myself on the steering wheel or flying through the windshield -- was white, with a slight pinkish tint.

This past week marked the first time in over 4 months that I've driven regularly. It is also the week that I began to wear regular (although somewhat unfashionable) shoes. No cast, no walking boot-brace, no cane: freedom, of a kind.

Already I've noticed the looks I get from strangers are different when they observe my new, awkward gait. A cast or brace is temporary and elicits slight smiles of sympathy or an occasionally "What happened?". Passing someone else in a heavy ortho-boot (almost always the right foot, I noted), gets a nod of commiseration. But limping, moving slowly up a flight of stairs, stepping awkwardly from curb to street, receives puzzled looks of curiosity. No commiseration, no sympathy, no breaks; at best, there is a curious recognition of one's otherness; at worst, rejection for not meeting the normal standard.

It will be interesting in the next several weeks until I am walking in a manner not discernibly different, to continue to observe reactions of strangers I pass in my daily activities. One thing for sure, when I go back to NYC in a few days, I don't expect anyone to give up their seat for me on a rush hour train.

12 comments:

gnomeloaf said...

Congratulations on the progress!

Having been through the NYC commute with a broken ankle, I would recommend at least carrying a cane there. Not so much for you, but as a signal to those around you that your agility isn't completely up to par -- the bar is set a lot higher in congested urban areas. It made a world of difference for me (specifically, the world between fear of getting bumped into/run over and being able to recover at my own pace).

Dorothy W. said...

Yikes! I hope you continue to heal quickly!

hobgoblin said...

I'm glad you're okay. I think the cane idea is good--most people in NYC will accommodate you if you have some sort of visible marker for them.

Cam said...

Thanks for the well wishes everyone. I'm glad to be approaching full mobility again after so many weeks. Gnomeloaf and Hob, thanks for the advice w/r/t the cane. I've been debating whether I should take it. Makes sense as a visual cue & I did notice that it worked that way when I was in the walking cast too. There were a few times that the cane did little good to signal others - but only in extremely crowded sidewalk situations.

Emily Barton said...

My big question: did people in NYC actually give up seats to you while you were in the cast (I'm assuming you had it last time you were in NYC)?
And my big response: so glad you're healing and that you had that air bag.

Cam said...

Emily, the answer is a resounding "YES!". I've spent most of the summer here, with the casted foot, and have taken countless rides on the NYC Subway and the PATH. Only rarely was I NOT offered a seat. Or have people open doors, or offer a hand going up stairs, or ask if I needed assistance. Just this evening, as I was approaching my Midtown hotel, two people stopped on the sidewalk and held the door open for me, beating the doorman who was helping someone else to the door.

There was only one instance that I can think of where someone acted obnoxiously with regard to my slow pace -- a 12 year old girl pre-boarding a plane kvetching to her mother that I was too slow walking down the stairs to the tarmac. I was headed home; by the accent I could tell mother and daughter had the same midwestern destination as I.

An especially common attitude in the middle part of the country is that New Yorkers are brash and obnoxious. In any large city the sheer mass of people going about their lives can appear to be cold and unfeeling, but on an individual level, most people are kind and considerate.

Sure, it has its problems, but I love New York!

Emily Barton said...

I had a feeling that would be your response. My experience is that New Yorkers are far, far friendlier and more helpful than anyone gives them credit for being (and my personal theory is that all the unfriendly New Yorkers move to Connecticut).

bloglily said...

Like everyone, I'm glad to hear you're healing -- and in NYC! Lucky you. And I loved hearing about New York courtesy. I firmly believe that city dwellers have a kind of courage and faithfulness that leads them not only to do extraordinary things when needed, but ordinary things (like subway kindnesses) really well.

chiefbiscuit said...

Cam I was shocked to hear about your accident ... so vividly described by you in a fine piece of writing. It sounds as if you are recovering well - glad to hear that at least. Altho' a slow recovery I presume - poor you.
Love the sunflowers ... they are a fav of mine as they feature in Dr Zhivago - my fav movie.

pmousse said...

The airbag imagery was beautiful. It's amazing how long a split second can last. Also interesting how a visible cue to disability (even temporary) seems to be necessary before people are willing to understand and accommodate.

Bardiac said...

Scary! I'm glad to hear that you're healing, though! Keep healing!

Bookie said...

Cam - So sorry to hear of your accident, but I'm glad you are recovering. That was just beautiful writing. Blue. Bravo.