Remember me? I sure hope so! My bad for taking so long to write a new blog post. Things got hectic out of nowhere. Still here, though!
Yesterday, I went to the gym for an appointment with my personal trainer. Everything was going really well. After checking in, I made my way to the locker room to put my stuff away. I always bring a little backpack to my workout sessions so I can easily carry my water bottle around (gotta stay hydrated!). When I got to the entrance of the women’s locker room, I noticed a gym staff member mopping the floor. I literally had to stop short. Kid you not.
I might’ve already talked about this, but for those of you who’re unaware, using crutches on a wet floor is a dangerous combination. The crutches’ rubber tips can easily slip on a wet floor of pretty much any kind. What happens when the crutches slip out from under me? I fall. Obviously. I mean, it’s obvious to me. But just in case it’s not obvious to you, thought I’d spell that out. It definitely was not obvious to the woman cleaning with the mop at the gym. Clearly. So, in an effort to be cautious and safe, I explained myself. Once again, here I was having to explain why wet floors with crutches are just bad for me, someone disabled, to an oblivious non-disabled person. Yes, I’ve been in this position before. Why? Because some people just don’t get it. Believe me, I wish I didn’t have to explain what the heck was going on all the time. But the burden of explanation is on me, unfortunately, because most non-disabled people construct it that way, instead of just educating themselves. Phew. Mini-rant over.
“The floor is wet. I just don’t wanna slip and fall.”
The woman with the mop casually gestured with her arm to keep walking. “It’s barely wet.”
Ok. Listen up, people. If or when I come up to you and politely (!!!) tell you that the floors ahead of me are wet/damp or whatever, that something is therefore making me nervous, do not say “it’s barely wet,” then keep mopping in front of me as I’m trying to walk by. Now, she might’ve said that as a way to reassure me that the floor wasn’t as wet as it looked and thus probably wouldn’t pose a big risk of me falling, but still. I didn’t know that for sure. Also, the fact that she kept mopping in my way was a bit much. Like, really?
“….I’ll try not to slip, I guess.” I was being polite again. Again, I’m likely conditioned to be that way to appease all the non-disabled people around me. Not good. I put myself into a dangerous situation, where I could’ve fallen and gotten hurt. All because I was trying to be accommodating to another person, when they should’ve accommodated me, for Pete’s sake. I mean, I get if you need to mop the floor, but maybe help me walk across? Instead of just continuing to mop right in front of me and watch me struggle in fear?
When the Fear arrives (yeah, I capitalize it), when I get in my head, it pretty much takes over my entire body. I become very stiff, overcome with the possibility that I might fall, get hurt, and get embarrassed. Stiffness makes it much harder for me to walk. To others, it might look like I’m just being cautious. In reality, those few minutes walking on the wet floor stretched and felt like forever. Tried to focus on my breathing. Slowly exhaled.
“Do you need a hand?”
I looked up to see a fellow gym goer, standing by her locker. At this point, I was almost to the bench and could sit down, safe at last. “I think I can make it. I just don’t want to slip.”
“No, of course not!” It seemed to me that she had an edge to her voice, perhaps as though in my defense, she was angry on my behalf at the woman with the mop. I smiled to myself, felt her watchful eyes on me as I made it safely to the bench. I use the exact same locker every time I go to the gym, if it’s available, as it’s by the benches and allows me to get ready sitting down. That way I don’t have to expend valuable energy standing up while getting ready. In many scenarios, like this one, I like predictability. I know exactly what to expect. I have a routine. When things like wet floors get in the way, I get nervous. Anxious.
I was still getting ready for personal training when the first gym goer left the locker room. As she left, two other gym goers walked in. When I was finally ready to leave, the floor underneath me was still wet. I sat still, silently calculating and trying to figure out how the hell I was gonna get up and leave the locker room for my appointment. Would I really have to walk alone across the wet floor again?
In case you’re wondering what the best part of this anecdote is, it’s right here:
“Do you need help?” I guess the woman who’d just came in saw me staring in despair in the mirror near the exit.
I hesitated for a split second. I’ve definitely talked about how difficult it can be for me to ask for help, out of fear of being a burden, annoyance, trying to be more self-reliant, etc. The list is long. “Yeah,” I finally said. It was like I could finally exhale. I pushed to stand with my crutches, taking my water bottle along, too. “The floor wet and I feel like I could fall…”
“I know.” Note: if you, a non-disabled person, find yourself trying to assist me, say things like that. And this: “Do you want to take my hand?”
Perfect! I kept one crutch while the woman’s companion took the other one (and my water bottle, I might add. Such kindness!). I gave the woman my left hand and still felt stable with my crutch in my right hand.
“It is really slippery,” the woman said. Where did she come from? What a gem!
Together, we walked out of the locker room onto (literally) safer ground. I thanked both women sincerely, and wished them a good workout. We parted ways. There’s a big chance I might not bump into them again, but their random kindness is going to stay with me for a long time.
Moral of the story: be less like the woman with the mop. If someone disabled is telling you what they need, please LISTEN. While we’re at it, by all means, be like the two amazing strangers (and the other woman, too!) who helped me. I wish there were more people in the world like them. Unfortunately, in my experience, those kinds of people are rare. After all, gems are sometimes hard to come by. Also want to add this, simple but so true: be kind, always.