Etiquette, a Lost Art…



For the past 6 months of my life I have tried desperately to keep a cool head and promote a positive attitude. I’ve tried to be grateful for the little things and turn my frowns upside-down. However, I believe there comes a point in every persons battle with illness where you just can’t fake it anymore. Where your outsides start to reflect your physical feelings inside and you don’t feel like smiling. There are some days you just don’t want to wake up and face your current reality. I cannot tell you how difficult it is to “stay positive” and “keep fighting” when all you feel is pain, suffering and sickness. When life seems to go on around you but you are stuck in the same continuous loop, it can make you so angry you want to scream bloody murder.

You see I am currently unable to go anywhere on my own. I have been stuck in an immobilizing brace since my surgery on May 14th and have yet to bend my leg. I can only walk on crutches in my apartment and only for short distances. So, any time I would like to leave the house I must do so with someone else present in a wheelchair. These brief outings are my only means of escape from the confines of my home and I try my best to enjoy them, even if I’m only going to sit I front of my building. That being said, I have a major bone to pick with the majority of strangers I encounter in my day to day outings. It seems like every time I leave my house, be it in the elevator, the lobby, the park downstairs or any other place I may see another human being, some one just HAS to ask me “What happened to your leg?” or “What happened to you?” or “How’d THAT happen?”. It seems to me that any notion of etiquette has been thrown out the window and for some reason being visually disabled opens up a floodgate of inappropriate and un-necessary questioning from the masses. It seems as if people have lost their ability to control their mouths and/or curiosities. If I know you and you want to ask me how I’m feeling or doing, that is fine. But to constantly be barraged by people I have never seen/spoken to in my life is maddening. It’s very unnerving to me how people are so quick to make small talk out of your personal struggles. Every time this happens, it makes me feel like less of a person and more of a patient. What ever happened to “Nice weather we’re having” or “How ’bout those Yankees?”.

Today I wasn’t feeling well but I decided to go out with my mom to a local flea market. I was trying to take my mind off of things and do something that I used to enjoy immensely. Within 15 minutes of being there, every single vendor we approached inquired about my leg. And I told them all about the cancer…because it seems I have nothing else to talk about. I left feeling worse than I did when I arrived…and I am SICK of it.

In all of my life, I have never asked someone in a wheelchair WHY they were in a wheelchair. Have I wondered to myself, particularly if the person was younger? Yeah, absolutely. Would I have the nerve to inquire about something so personal in an effort to make small talk or satisfy my own wondering? Absolutely not. I wish other people would think before they speak. It is not worth ruining someone’s day and besides, it is none of their damn business. So, next time you see a person in a wheelchair or with a cane, crutch, cast, etc. try smiling and saying hello, you could be making all of the difference in the world.


4 thoughts on “Etiquette, a Lost Art…

  1. Dearest Sara, I wish you the best blessings in the world. You are courageous and a champion. I wouldn’t let others hinder your need to continue to experience life on your terms. Maybe you might tell them, you’d prefer not to talk about it? It’s okay not to have to explain anything to these people you are encountering. I think also within your gracefulness you feel compelled to respond to their questions…I wouldn’t:) I hope you can make it outside more:) Peace and love your way!

  2. I’m so sad to hear this and I totally agree; today’s generation just have no manners (which is not to say that it cannot be learned as I’m still in my twenties). That aside, please get better soon x

    • After reading the post again, I began to think back at a time when I have ever asked someone why they were in a wheelchair, and thankfully I haven’t. But this lack of respect is entrenched throughout today’s society. I was talking to one of my old school mates because of one of his Facebook status updates berating the parenting skills – he basically described how the kids on his bus were running amok. In his status update he talked about he would never have been allowed to do such a thing when he was younger.

      I merely laughed it off, but a few weeks later I too had to catch the bus to go into town. The bus soon became packed with older people entering the bus, and so I automatically got up off my seat to let the old lady nearest to me sit down.
      While I was standing up, the kids (probably around 15-17yrs of age that were still sitting around) just looked at me as if to say “what the hell are you doing giving up your seat for someone else?” Let’s just say I was UTTERLY amazed that they didn’t even flinch when they saw the elderly standing up during the bus journey. It’s shameful and I was absolutely embarrassed really; embarrassed that like my friend had said earlier the fact that it would never have happened when I was their age but less than 10 years earlier! Ridiculous and I sympathize with you totally!

  3. Hi Sara,
    I think of you a lot, you are in my prayers. I’m sorry people are being so nosey, it is rude and insensitive, even if not meaning to be malicious. Why people feel the need to ask a total stranger about an injury is beside me. My husband has a below the knee amputation from a car accident back in 1986, he has a prostetic limb which is visable when he wears shorts. In the two years we’ve been together I cannot begin to tell you how many people have asked him what happened. He is always polite but jeez, why is it so important to people? He is so uneasy at the pool where we live that people will ask or stare. I believe social manners and privacy has long disappeared.
    It must be very tiresome for you as well. I guess knowing people are going to be nosey and rude is tough to accept, but please, don’t let them get you down. Do what you love, the best you are able to. I know you’ve got a lot of people who care about you, including me! You are always in my prayers my friend. Love to ya!

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