I had the WEIRDEST exchange on Saturday. Anthony and I had had an amazing day of pre-St. Patrick’s Day adventures wandering the city and people watching — originally, we’d planned to go to the parade, but due to extremely poor time management that morning, we did’t manage to leave the suburbs till around 3pm.
I wanted the opportunity to take some interesting photos (and believe me, I did!), so I insisted we go anyway and do some people watching and check out the river, which the city of Chicago dyes bright green each year in honor of the holiday.
As you can imagine, we walked for miles. I was wearing my finally-broken-in Doc Martens, which have heavyass rubber soles. I’d finally learned to wear long, thick socks with them, so for a change blisters were not an issue. But after wandering for so long in such heavy soles, muscles I guess I haven’t activated in a long time (e.g., hip flexors) started complaining. A lot.
And although it’s been nearly a decade that my right side has been compensating for my left side, on intense days of incessant walking, my right knee begins to bother me. This wasn’t the worst case of such an ailment (I remember once returning to Italy and feeling a shooting pain with every step with that leg), but it was pretty bad.
Following our city adventures, Anthony treated me to a surprisingly delicious dinner at a grill that more resembled a diner, and then we planned to see Oz the Great and Powerful at a cinema by his house. (Great movie, by the way. I cannot take James Franco seriously, but it was very well done.)
The movie theater we went to is large, supercommercial, and accessible only through a giant parking garage. We got confused by the layout of the garage and because the entire world was apparently going to the movies that night, we parked way up on the fourth level. The elevators were also unclear as to which level to get off on to access the cinema, so after much confusion leaving the elevator and getting back on and off again, we ended up outside an entirely different elevator only one floor above the entrance to the theater.
“You wanna take the elevator or the stairs?” Anthony asked, and he pressed the down button.
“I’d like to take the stairs, but my leg is bothering me so much [especially going down stairs] that I’m gonna opt for the elevator,” I said.
A minute later, a lady joined us. “Oh, you’re going down . . . I have to go up!”
“Yeah, don’t judge us,” I said with a smile. “I know it’s only one floor, but we’ve been walking all day long and we’re exhausted and sooo sore.”
“I can beat you,” she said. “I have stage four lung cancer.”
. . .
I was so dumbfounded by this response that I was at a complete loss for words.
Then Anthony asked, “Do you have a rebuttal, honey?”
So I replied, “I’m not competing with you . . . we’re just too tired to go down a flight of stairs.”
And then the elevator arrived. Once we left, I had a moment to process what had just happened.
“Why didn’t you tell her about your condition?” Anthony asked.
Because it’s not a competition. I’m not going to duke it out in a round of Who’s Got it Worse with a lady who’s feeling sorry for herself. Besides, there’s no such thing as comparisons when it comes to human suffering. (And to be quite frank, I have no desire to win that game, anyway!)
Make no mistake; I feel sorry that this lady has such an ailment, and at the same time I feel pretty offended. By attempting to one-up a total stranger who has as much a right to be too exhausted to go down a flight a stairs as anybody else, she has made assumptions about me. Whether she thought I was just being a brat or that I didn’t know what suffering was doesn’t matter. That is not a debate I’m interested in taking part in.
My point is simply this, and I’ve said it a million times before: Never compare yourself to other people. You never know what any given person has been through to get them wherever they are today.
To our healing,