When Did I Get Invisible?
April 9, 2011 § 2 Comments
After being released from the hospital after a recent procedure, I was being wheeled to the exit by a volunteer, a female college student. (If you want to feel instantly OLD just get yourself wheeled around in a wheelchair.) My gray hair didn’t look its best, I wasn’t wearing makeup, and yes, perhaps my brown sweats were the teensiest bit stretched out. We came to an intersection in the corridor and I looked up as a phalanx of young professionals swept by, talking animatedly. Three rows of three each. Were they med students, interns, baby doctors of the non-pediatrician variety?
Without a miss in their steps, or a turn of their heads, they commandeered the hallway and swept past, not pausing to give the right-of-way to the wheelchair. They didn’t even glance in our direction. We waited as they moved as a unit down the hall. I felt invisible. WE were invisible. The college student pushing the chair was pleasant, but overweight, and not dressed for success in jeans and a bulky sweatshirt. And there was me, hardly at my best.
It was a strange and new feeling. I’m tall, not afraid to speak out, and used to being noticed in a room. I felt dismissed, irrelevant and OLD. Does gray hair render one invisible? In my mind a response formed: You don’t know me. You don’t know where I’ve been, or what have done. I am NOT invisible!
The volunteer and I chatted as she rolled me to the exit. She was a senior at the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in nursing, and going into public health, hopefully among Native Americans. She had a world waiting, hopes for a bright career, and she was kind. I have a feeling that she would have stopped in that hallway and let the wheelchair go first.
And me? I have a whole lot of living yet to do as well. And I will remember when I see someone in a wheelchair to look beyond the exterior and see the person–really look until I see– and make room.