Walk This Way

Pamela Hill NettletonEssaysLeave a Comment

SO I HAVE this immobilizing boot thing stuck to my foot.

Apparently, there are tendons in my feet, and I have annoyed mine. Or, there’s a fracture and I stressed it. Either way, my left foot is now encased in plastic and I drag it around with me wherever I go.

I figured out that I can still garden. I stick my leg in a Hefty trash bag and off I go to sit in the mulch and weed. In a pinch, I can even manage to hoe with my toes, more or less.

I can still teach. Once I maneuver myself across campus, a lengthy and hopping sort of task that involves cursing in Gaelic (well, it does for me, anyway), I can sit to lecture, and the students don’t mind.

And I can still write. Feet never were required for that gig.

But what I can’t do, as well as one might wish, is walk around town.

I cannot get my gimpy self across the street fast enough.

Even at a corner, even walking between the white lines, which are supposed to create a sanctum sanctorum for pedestrians, I get honked at for my lack of speed. No, this is not happening because I am so darn cute; the glare from behind the steering wheel telegraphs another message. The driver has been delayed for 30 seconds or so by being forced to share the planet with me. He has been wronged. He has been maligned. His rights have been impinged upon, his personal space violated, his sense of himself as the center of the universe disrupted. He has been asked to do what is, simply, too much to expect. He has had to pause and wait for another human being.

If blood pressure medication sales have spiked over at Walgreen’s, stockholders can, apparently, thank me. I can turn faces red at 50 slow, slow paces.

I did, once, turn to a honking truck hood that had nosed its way into the crosswalk and yell, “I’m limping here! I’m limping here!” but it didn’t turn out as well for me as it did for Dustin Hoffman. Rizzo was more threatening, perhaps, though an early pedestrian activist, to be sure.

It is not a sexy thing, this Long John Silver, hop-drag-lean walk I have been forced to adopt. And when a woman is not attempting to look sexually interesting, many men either ignore her or make her into an object of derision. Think I’m making that one up? Go ask three 50-year-old women and then get back to me. So when I cross the street and I’m no fun to stare at, some of them figure they might as well honk and yell nasty things out the window.

I do realize this is not the most incapacitating handicap I could have. Plenty of folks deal with much larger and more permanent mobility issues than my little temporary problem.

Minneapolitans might set about making themselves into nicer folks about this particular issue. Especially here in South Minneapolis, when so much of our culture is about neighborhoods and so much of transportation to schools and shopping is right there at the end of our legs.

Where’s one of those cute little Boy Scouts when I need one?

This was first published in Southwest Journal May 17, 2010.

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