Job hunting is dismal enough in this job market when you are a 48-year-old man who uses crutches to walk. A few weeks ago, while sitting in the lobby of a large company during a hiring open house, a woman who was sitting on the opposite side of the room felt so uncomfortable with my crutches that she was compelled to get up, cross the room and say to me, “I watched you walk from your car into the building and you did it beautifully.” For as many times as people have made comments to me about my crutches, I still sat there blown away. My response, “Uhhhh, thanks I guess.” What else could I really say?
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of crutch comments I have received over the past five years. I never tried to hide the crutches or avoid talking about them, and I now cope by writing about crutches. However, when you are going through multiple leg surgeries, endless recoveries on crutches or transitioning to using crutches full time, the last thing you need is comments about the crutches every place you go.
I have an extensive collection of “Life is good” tee shirts, short sleeve and long sleeve. I just love them. I love the sayings, the graphics and most of all, the comfort. Needless to say, they have become a staple gift for my kids and wife to buy me. Before my leg debacle, I would wear my “Life is Good” tees every Friday to work. Fridays were dress-down days at the elementary school where I taught, so every Friday I wore a “Life is Good” tee and jeans. The first thing the kids looked for on Friday morning was my tee shirt. They loved reading the sayings and often would try to guess which one I was wearing. Not only did the kids do this, every Friday morning I would have faculty members poking their heads in my room to see what “Life is good” shirt I was wearing. Disappointingly, “Life is good” quickly became “Life is Annoying.”
Once I was using crutches, my “Life is Good” tees were even more valuable than ever, mostly for their comfort. Unfortunately, I soon realized that people were mocking them. It never occurred to me that people would make any connection between my “Life is Good” tees and my physical situation. However, completely unaware of the shirt I was wearing, a waitress at the local diner says, “Life is good? If I had a broken leg, I wouldn’t be wearing a shirt that says Life is Good.” Needless to say, this was the most popular reaction I got from people everywhere I went while wearing a “Life is good” shirt while using crutches. “Life doesn’t look good to me.” “Look, that guy has a broken leg and is still wearing a shirt that says Life is Good.” It went on and on. I soon found myself only wearing the ones that said things other than “Life is good.”
Even without the shirts, the comments kept flying over the years, and still do on occasion. Here are some of my favorites:
With a look of shock on their face, “Darryl, you’re still on crutches?” With this one, I was often tempted to gasp and say, “No really, I didn’t know that, thanks for telling me!”
“Still dragging those old crutches around with you?” The response I was thinking, “Still spouting out those stupid comments?”
While being introduced to someone, the introducer says, “This is Darryl, I don’t think I have ever known him not on crutches.” I am thinking, “REALLY, that’s all you have to say about me?”
A guy who I hadn’t seen in several months saw my crutches leaning against the wall behind me and he says, “Darryl, are those still your crutches? I would think by now you would have custom mahogany crutches.” I am thinking, “If it would get you to shut up, they might be worth it.”
This one’s not necessarily about crutches, but a classic. “Darryl, don’t worry, soon you will be in physical therapy, get your range of motion back and return to all your activities.” This is after they ask what happened and I tell them I had my ankle joint fused. I wanted to scream, “Get a dictionary and look up what the word ‘fused’ means.”
An innocent favorite of mine; I pass two first graders in the hall and one says to the other, “Look, there’s the broken teacher with the leg.” This one just made me smile.
These were just a small sample of the amount of comments I have received over the years.
So, while preparing to go into my sixth surgery, I did Google search for some appropriate tee shirts I might wear. My search came up with nothing, but here are some sayings I had in mind. “I am on crutches, deal with it!” “No crutch comments, please!”
What do you think about my tee shirt ideas?
I think I speak for anyone who uses crutches full time or has used them long-term. Greet us as you would greet anyone else. Our crutches allow us to get around. They don’t define who we are. As for my “Life is Good” shirts, I am still building my collection and wearing them, crutches and all, because “life is good!”