Dear woman who shared my flight from LAX to PDX this past Wednesday —
I know you expected to board the plane first. You were proudly standing at the front of the First Class/premium status boarding lane when I limped up the economy lane with my cane, Lisa Costello and
the_childfollowing close behind and juggling our bags.
I know you were suspicious of my coming forward at the call for passengers needing a little extra time in boarding. I saw you studying my cane, my plump-and-pink face and body. I could practically hear you thinking, He doesn't look sick, is he carrying that thing for a prop?. I'm sorry you were suspicious, and I'm sorry I ruined your experience by getting on before you.
I know you were glaring at me when I walked down the aisle of the plane to the lavatory mid-flight, astonishingly enough, without my cane. Which I don't need for short distances, especially with my shoes off, and which would be somewhere between inconvenient and dangerous to take into the tiny airplane lav with me, should we hit turbulence while I was voiding my bladder. Once again, I did not look sick to you. To you I looked like I was abusing the privilege of my disability to inconvenience the privilege of your premium traveler status.
I know I don't owe you or anyone else an explanation. The airline does not require me to present a doctor's note. (Though I in fact have one for certain purposes, satisfying your suspicions not being one of those purposes.) You weren't in the gate area when I arrived by cart, which are hard to get unless you have a very good reason, so you didn't see that. You don't seem to understand there are disabilities which can make it hard for a healthy-seeming person to walk. You had no way of knowing I'd just flown across the Pacific, which would leave even a fully abled person pretty run down and worn out.
But you know what? Fuck you. Fuck you and your petty little suspicions and your glaring eyes and your privilege of health and premium traveler status. I'm sorry that one of the fringe benefits of terminal cancer is that I get to board your shiny, empty airplane before you. It's not like we get to pick seats based on our boarding order. My disability costs you absolutely nothing, lady, while it costs me my life. So if an otherwise largely indifferent air travel industry is willing to extend me the courtesy of not having to stand elbows deep in a slow-moving line on my aching, painful feet, I will take advantage of that courtesy.
You're dying too, lady. Just somewhat more slowly and obliviously than me. Next time, try to find a little more human compassion and little less suspicious judgment. Who knows, you might even have a better day for your trouble.
Yes, this. Fuck Cancer and Fuck That Look that people give those of us with invisible disabilities, terminal cancer and the walking wounded.
F that entitlement and privilege.