This is the 11th Commandment, is it not? Especially when you have diabetes and are dropping below 50 fast and just spent your last dime but need something sugary RIGHT NOW. Know what I mean?
On my way home from the ADA Conference last week, I had my first-ever experience of being diabetically unprepared and forced to “rely on the kindness of strangers” — which was not forthcoming. I was so humiliated I swore I’d never recount the incident. But I’m over that now. Now I’m just mad. Or more disillusioned, to be precise.
Here’s how it happened:
I linger just a little too long in the Convention Center, run out for a taxi and find the cab line snaking around the corner. I get overheated and annoyed and start moving “extraneous stuff” out of my backpack into my luggage (including several snack items that were just getting crushed, anyway). Jump in the cab with less than an hour to go, fidget through traffic and the protracted commute, prepare to spring out of said cab, but discover that the meter reads $54 and I’ve only got $44.25 to my name. Ransack my purse for the last few pennies to throw at the fuming cabbie. Run inside only to find what appears to be the entire population of New Jersey standing in line. And that’s just for check-in. Fidget uncontrollably. Finally reach check-in counter so late that my luggage is rejected for this flight and relegated to the next. Fidget uncontrollably again through security, and am eventually sent off running to Gate C, which happens to be about 3/4 mile plus an 8-minute shuttle ride away. Start thinking that it might be serendipity to catch the next flight (I can get some work done here in the airport). Reach gate only to be shoved (yes, shoved) through boarding door which was already closed, but alright-quickly-now-through-here…
Phew! Get comfy in my seat and read distractedly for a short while. Until cabin starts smelling like food. Glorious food! Head spin!! Realize that I have no money (not a single cent!) and no snacks (other than a few crumbled glucose tabs, which won’t last long), and golly-I’m-feeling-a-bit-funny. Fumble with meter. Confirm that golly-I’m-feeling-a-bit-funny. Motion to stewardess and explain as politely as possible that I am diabetic (yes, I know, I don’t look sick), but I’m in a bit of a jam and I need to eat. Soon.
Stewardess is one of those tight-bunned (hair, that is), thickly made up, haughty types, who insists that the Purser must sign off for anything so unusual, and Ms. Purser is very busy and won’t be available for, oh… at least 40 minutes or so. I try to sit tight, but find myself asking again and again if Ms. P can’t please make her way over here, it’s getting urgent. Dry mouth. Hot. Sweaty. Food aromas causing excessive salivation. Get up out of seat. No. Sit down. Up again (I think). Stoop to begging Haughty Stewardess for food, which is not well-received. She grimaces and walks away.
Finally get noticed by young male steward (by this time I’m pacing like an expectant father). Mumble a quick explanation, and Whala!, kind steward produces food. But with these words:
“You need to take better care of yourself! If I weren’t wearing this uniform and I saw you pass out, I’d probably just walk on by. You know, nobody wants to get involved.”
Oh how the truth hurts.
Later, once I’ve regained my senses, I remark to Haughty Stewardess how nice it is that her colleague was a little more humane than she, to which she snaps: “Well, you know you have diabetes! It’s your responsibility!”
“Yes,” I retort, “twenty-four-seven for the rest of my life. Everybody makes mistakes. And if someone’s in a jam, and it’s a medical issue, then the human thing to do is help them out.” (especially if you’re an airline stewardess and the issue is a $5 box of crappy snacks, I think)
Looking back on it now, Haughty Stewardess isn’t necessarily the individual (**explative**) I was secretly calling her at the time. She’s simply the product of a society that doesn’t want to get involved. A place where the one Commandment of human behavior held in highest esteem is: THOU SHALT NOT MESS WITH ME. Which is fine, I suppose, as long as you never get a disease that puts you at the mercy of the (elusive) kindness of strangers.
*** UPDATE 7/9/06 ***
United Airlines customer service responded to my complaint today with a $100 travel certificate and these words:
“Your comments are important to us and will allow the appropriate management to provide feedback directly to the employee.”
The certificate is a nice gesture, but I certainly hope they actually follow up with that crew, too.