“Can I fit in there,” she asked from behind me as I stepped into the elevator with my bike. I sensed right away who she must be, having pedaled past her on the way in. I moved my bike to one side and she rolled in behind me. “Third floor, please,” she said, and I jabbed at the cold metal button until it gave up and lit.
It was unclear whether the woman had grown to fit the electric cart, or if the cart was required for the size of the woman. Either way, she was already beginning to outgrow it. Rolls of fat were pushing through the holes under the arm rests. I tried to ignore the situation, but despite how little time we had together the quiet little room wouldn’t allow me to escape the inevitable inner conflict. I struggled once again to understand and legitimize my feelings about people who are so extremely unhealthy. My sadness fought my anger and it suddenly mattered quite a bit to me which came first: the woman or the cart.
I once had a coworker who was large enough that she had difficulty walking. Because of her weight, she began to develop ankle problems. I felt bad that she was having to suffer so much and couldn’t enjoy some of the things I love most about life: running, dancing, jumping and moving freely. Then one day I overheard her.
“I went out to celebrate last night with my husband and we ate two whole pizzas,” she said cackling. “For his birthday I got my husband this really nice easy chair. It even has little cup holders and side tables for snacks. He likes to spend a lot of time in front of the TV so it’s perfect for him. He loves it.”
I felt cheated. Used. I had given her the benefit of the doubt, been willing to assume she had some kind of health problem that lead to her condition. I began to take notes on the things she said each day.
“I love the way they give you so much food you can’t even eat it in one sitting.”
“We had a dinner with steak and chicken and fries and potatoes…”
“How about some nice greasy enchiladas? To be honest I’d be happy with a nice turkey.”
“Oh god help me there’s pizza left isn’t there. Like a little guppy.”
“Oh my… look at all them tators…”
Most of them were about food, but the rest were more along these lines:
“When Zack had his cancer and they were removing his kidney there was a Schlotski’s right down the street.” *cackles*
“I just found out that my insurance will probably pay for one of those little motorized carts. So I’m really excited about that.”
The fact that she was excited about sinking even deeper into her sad state by rolling around in an electric cart filled me with rage. How could she give in? How could she be so eager to give in?
I turned to look at the woman beside me, and the elevator slowed. I didn’t know anything about her, and there she was, equally as likely a product of illness, injury, well funded junk food advertising campaigns, depression, or laziness. We came to a stop. The doors began to open. I cleared my throat.
“Madam, we have arrived at flour three. I hope you had a pleasant flight!” Her laughter filled the little box and poured out into the hall. As the doors were closing behind her she shone through the opening between them and said, “thank you so much. I really needed that today.” My mind cleared. I had discovered something more important, and all that was left was her smile and mine as I whistled my way up to the next floor and down the hall.