Anxiety and not being an asshole—AKA not letting Yippy bite the other dogs at the park

I’ve seen a couple very “suck it up and deal, you’re not a special snowflake” blog posts about mental illness lately. The first, “Your Anxiety Isn’t an Excuse to Be an Asshole” is what inspired the title of this post.

Her basic premise is that there’s too much online advice excusing self-indulgence and jerk behavior in the name of self-care, and that people think their anxiety gives them license to treat others like shit. I’ll agree with her basic premise: anxiety is not an excuse to be mean or self-centered. But at the same time, I have a couple disagreements.

First off, I’d have loved to see her link some examples of the advice she sees as problematic. I’ve seen plenty of “You can’t pour from an empty cup” and “Be gentle with yourself,” but absolutely no “Cancel plans with no explanation,” or “Throw your phone in the river and lock yourself in your room for two weeks.” This may be because I’m not on Tumblr, but I think I hang out in enough anxiety-friendly spaces online that I’d have noticed such a trend. So, to start with, I’m not sure if suggestions to blow off responsibilities and flake out on loved ones are a real thing or a giant strawman. I mean, the internet is vast and full of all sorts of questionable crap–someone, somewhere probably said this at some point.

Secondly, while I fully admit that anxiety can make it harder to avoid being a jerk, and I’ve been guilty of that myself,a lot of the time it makes people *more* sensitive to other people’s feelings. Not in a helpful way. More in an “Oh, God, did I piss them off? I bet I pissed them off, they’re totally going to hate me,” way. I have definitely been terrified that someone would hate me forever over fairly minor stuff. So, telling me that “No one has to put up with your bullshit, and if you don’t actively work on making yourself a better and more rewarding person to be around, no one should wait around for you,” well, it does more to feed the jerk-brain than actually help anything. Both because constant fear of losing people (because you suck and they’re probably only nice to you out of pity anyway) is an awful and unhealthy place to be and because needing constant reassurance is just as annoying as being abrasive or flaky.

Finally, there’s the bit about cancelling plans. It sucks to have people bail on you, especially at the last minute, and especially if those plans can’t go on without them. But it’s also shitty to expect someone with a chronic illness (or, heck, anybody) to never have to cancel. Is it jerk-like to blow off plans without calling? Yes, especially if you do it all the time. Is it selfish to bail if you’re not feeling 100% but could really go and be okay? Yeah, particularly if the plans in question can’t happen without you, like a one-on-one lunch date or if you’re someone’s ride. But on the other hand, anxiety is an actual illness. If you have a friend who gets migraines, you understand that sometimes they will cancel on you if a headache comes at a bad time. If you have a friend with anxiety or depression, you should give them the same consideration.

One thing I thought was lacking here was any discussion of root causes for flaking out. If you’re having to cancel plans all the time, maybe you’re over-committing yourself, or making the wrong kind of plans. Too loud, with too many people, or not enough time in between to recharge, maybe? The answer might not be “Suck it up and go, or you don’t deserve to have friends” unless it’s some major life event. It may be to look at why you’re having trouble, and plan fewer or easier things.

I’ll agree that anxiety isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card for ignoring responsibilities. But it may be a sign you have too many responsibilities. All the things the author mentions as helping with her anxiety–eating better, exercising, having a dog, getting a less stressful job–those all take time and effort, leaving you less for other things. It’s a good investment of spoons, and likely to leave you with more time and energy in the long run than if you *didn’t* take care of yourself, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t displacing something. And if you have anxiety about disappointing people or missing out, it’s really easy to overcommit.

I could have probably made this a much shorter post if I had just said, “If you want to know how to cope with anxiety without being a jerk, go read Captain Awkward.” She has a lot of great stuff on boundaries in relationships, and she does a really good job of explaining that balance where you respect your friends’ needs without ignoring your own.

Abortion as self-defense

I was discussing abortion with a fairly conservative friend, and an interesting parallel occurred to me. He, like most other conservatives, is big on the right to bear arms for self-defense, but generally opposed to abortion. Even if you grant that a fetus is a person, it seems odd to accept killing someone who breaks into your home, but to be required to accept the intrusion and all the associated risks if someone occupies your *body*. Even if the intruder isn’t actively harming you, or about to, none of these guys would let that person rummage through their stuff and eat their food for a day, let alone nine months.

Sure, the analogy has problems. There are choices and moral culpability on the home intruder’s side, while no one gets to pick who they’re born to. But as a thought experiment, what if you took that away? Say you knew that an intruder in your home was there for reasons beyond their control. Maybe they’re experiencing a delusion, maybe they’ve been drugged against their will, or Kilgraved or taken over by aliens. Pick whatever explanation you like that removes blame or decision-making from them, however far-fetched–because, thought experiment. Assuming their actions are the same and the chance that they will harm you is the same and it doesn’t give you any other options, does that change your right to defend yourself and your property? Morally or legally? I mean, it would change how you feel about it, certainly. And I think it would add more responsibility to look for other options than if the person meant you harm. But I don’t think it would mean you were obligated to let them do whatever they’re going to do (maybe harm you, maybe just break your possessions, maybe nothing at all).

So, then, take it another level. Let’s assume that if you remove them from your house or leave their presence, they’ll die. Kilgrave-style mind control is probably the hypothetical that works best for this. Say they’ve been mind-controlled into following you around, and if you lose them, they’ll die. How long are you obliged to let them go everywhere with you? A week? A month? Nine months? What if they randomly hit you–not hard enough to do damage, just painful? What if they make it difficult or impossible to do your job, and you risk being fired?

In this weird scenario, I’d like to think I would do the paladin thing and help them out until we could un-mind-whammy them and they could go on their way. But I wouldn’t condemn someone who decided they couldn’t take it. And I don’t think it’s reasonable for someone who’d feel no qualms about shooting someone dead for trying to steal their stereo to expect that kind of sacrifice from other people.

On Candles and Darkness

I’m just coming back from a week-long vacation, seeing family, relaxing, and reading a lot. But in the world beyond my little personal bubble, it’s been a really bad couple weeks. Terrorist attacks in Paris, Libya, Mali. An outpouring of religious hatred against refugees fleeing for their lives, with presidential candidates fanning the flames. And a spate of domestic terrorism, from armed rallies, arson, and vandalism at mosques to a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

So in the midst of all this, I’ve been railing against all the evil and hate in the world. I’ve posted on Facebook about hate crimes, about Donald Trump falsely accusing American Muslims of celebrating 9/11, about the connection between dehumanizing rhetoric and terrorist violence. And I’ve been thinking about that old saying, that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. While I think it’s true, I also feel a weird pressure to be positive and sunshiny when the world seems to be falling apart all around me or to be super kind and sensitive even when calling out evil, and I don’t think that’s helpful.

Sure, lighting a candle is better and more useful than cursing the darkness, but you don’t always have a candle handy. Sometimes you just need to say “HEY! It’s really dark over here!” in the hopes that someone else will come by with a candle. Or the darkness is so deep and seemingly impenetrable that your little candle doesn’t do much to dispel it. So you yell about the darkness to anyone who will listen, trying to spur people to bring not just candles but lanterns and spotlights. And sometimes cursing the darkness is really all you can do, because you tripped and fell in that darkness. Now you’re on the floor with a sprained ankle and no candles in reach, so you curse. Not only because you need a hand, but because cursing actually helps with the pain.

At the same time, you can get wrapped up in cursing the darkness, to the exclusion of everything else. And as good and useful as it is to point out the darkness, and stand up against it, it’s also necessary to point out the light where you find it. Like with everything else, I guess it’s a balance.

Come back, you selfish person, we’re not done hurting you yet!

This post, The Selfishness of Skipping Church, came across a progressive Christian Facebook group I belong to. I was, to put it mildly, not impressed. People don’t go to church, he argues, because they’re selfish and lazy, and view church like buying a car. He does say he isn’t criticizing ” the shut-in, the sick, or those who must work” but he also calls hurts, needs, and disappointments an “excuse” that apparently isn’t sufficient reason not to show up every Sunday, at a minimum.  He criticizes people who only go to church “once or twice a month”:

 Imagine if a construction crew showed up to a building site only once or twice a month.  Think of what would happen if physicians and nurses manned the hospitals and ERs only a couple of times a month.  Consider the problems in education if our teachers worked only two days a month.

How about considering that construction crews, nurses, and teachers have promised to work a certain job, day in and day out, and in exchange for that commitment are being paid. In contrast, church is something people need to fit in around the activities that actually pay their bills, and something that most people have made no promise to attend every time the doors are open.

To me, making it to church every other Sunday counts as pretty regular church attendance, but apparently it’s a “cold, lifeless” and selfish behavior. The author bemoans the fact that people used to go to church “weekly and even several times a week,” which is apparently the expected standard. It may just be my own church history, but when a church wants me to go to two and three services a week, it feels like a red flag to me.  Am I supposed to have hobbies or a life outside the church? If I try to have boundaries, are people going to respect them?

I would even be fine with railing against people who renege on their commitments, like volunteering to serve and then suddenly dropping the ball. But for this author, even serving in church isn’t enough, as he criticizes “church workers who only show up to church when they are scheduled to serve, teach, or lead.” These are the people who are keeping the church running, but that’s not enough if they ever skip church. They might get a pass if they’re sick but being tired, or wanting to go out of town for the weekend, ever, probably doesn’t cut it.  Likewise, if you’re actually scheduled to work the hours that church is in session, that’s okay, but if you just got off midnights Sunday morning, drink some coffee and drag your selfish butt to church because American civilization will be wrecked by “rabid hedonists, religious fanatics, and ignorant young socialists and progressives” if you don’t go to church often enough. This bit had me scratching my head, because I have to wonder what counts as a religious fanatic to someone who expects unfailing church attendance regardless of an individual’s needs. At least I know from the jab at ignorant socialists and progressives that he doesn’t actually want me at his church, which I’m quite okay with.

One of the worst things about this article is that it so narrowly defines valid reasons for missing church or leaving a church. It’s not even enough to attend church regularly; once you start going to a church, you and that church are married, and you aren’t allowed to even consider other churches, lest you be a selfish church-shopper, ” ungraciously and habitually leaving church after church.” No acknowledgment that some pastors are abusive, or that some churches teach harmful theology. No acknowledgment that people’s religious beliefs can change over time, and they might leave a church over serious disagreements, whether because the church changed or because they did. And certainly no acknowledgment that anyone might leave a church because they aren’t welcome, or literally aren’t safe. Nope, you’re just selfish and lazy, with a cold and lifeless faith and a greedy consumerist attitude.

But even worse, in my view, is combining that with the reasons that the author is so dead set that all Christians must attend church all the time no matter what:

The culprits in the current spiritual malaise and indifference in our country are the selfish Christians who fail to consider how they can help, assist, and encourage someone else by coming faithfully to church instead of focusing on and serving their own wants, preferences, needs, and schedules.  That single mindset of coming to church not for what you can receive, but for what you can provide is the key to a true spiritual renewal in our land. When you are not in church the gifts and abilities in you are not made available to others.

That is, your needs aren’t important. We don’t care about your schedule, or your other obligations, or your struggles, but we expect you to care deeply about ours. You must always encourage, assist, and provide, never expecting anything in return, and if you get burned out and want any kind of spiritual nourishment or encouragement for yourself, we’ll berate you for your selfishness.  This sounds less like the body of Christ and more like an abusive relationship.

Faking Allergies – Don’t do it, but don’t assume others are faking

This article describing the process restaurant kitchens go through to avoid cross-contamination for customers with allergies was fascinating. Labels, separate cutting boards, the whole nine yards.

I have mixed feelings on the article as a whole. I think it points out a real problem but is also too quick to paint people who go gluten-free without celiac or a wheat allergy as bandwagon-hoppers.

11 percent of American households are following a gluten-free diet, even though only a quarter of them said they were doing it because of celiac or gluten intolerance.

The gluten-free spectrum is diverse. About 0.3 percent of Americans have a wheat allergy, meaning that ingesting even a trace amount could send them into anaphylactic shock. Then there is the 1 percent with celiac. Finally, there are people with gluten sensitivity, who suffer symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, or fatigue after eating gluten. Given the absence of diagnostic tools, the size of this last group is particularly fuzzy, though Fasano’s research suggests it’s in the 5 to 6 percent range.

Fasano is troubled that so many people are diagnosing themselves with gluten intolerance, changing their diet without ever going to the doctor. “You don’t say, ‘I’m drinking a lot and peeing a lot, so I must have diabetes,’ and then start injecting yourself with insulin.”

Many who go gluten-free find themselves feeling better and see that as proof that they have gluten intolerance. But a genuine gluten problem is only one of three possible explanations for their improved health, and statistically the least likely. Another reason could be the placebo effect. The most likely explanation is that paying closer attention to diet and avoiding fried and junk food — which tends to be loaded with gluten — is bound to make anyone feel better.

What’s the big deal if gluten-tolerant people go gluten-free, especially since they’ll be eating fewer Pop-Tarts?

The problem is the more these bandwagon-jumpers demand special attention, the more likely that restaurants and wider society will come to see all gluten-free people as phonies.

The assumption, based on a single poll, is that the majority of people doing a gluten-free diet are simply following the fad. But I don’t think the math holds up. If 1 percent of people have celiac disease, .3% have a wheat allergy, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6% have gluten intolerance, and 11% are doing gluten-free, then the majority (6-7 of 11) of those have an allergy or intolerance to gluten. That’s odd considering that it was the main reason given by only a quarter of the gluten-free respondents to the survey quoted. (The summary of the study itself doesn’t list all the potential reasons or indicate whether respondents had to select a single main reason. And only 25% of the respondents believed that a gluten-free diet was generally healthy for everyone. So, a large majority are well aware that gluten isn’t some dietary bogeyman, but something that some people react badly to.

As another confounding factor, gluten-free diets are hawked as a potential weight loss method, and I don’t know whether “weight loss” was a reason given in that survey. And while gluten-free in and of itself isn’t likely to result in weight loss, having severely limited carb options certainly can, at least in the short term. When doctors push weight loss as the solution to any and all problems, it’s not surprising that people would flock to anything that’s promising that as a potential benefit. In their view, they are doing it for a legitimate health reason. The article mentions claiming allergies to dairy as a weight-loss tactic, but doesn’t connect that with a fatphobic culture or pressure to be thin at any cost.

I also think the “you wouldn’t just diagnose yourself as diabetic and start taking insulin” analogy is way off. If eating something makes you feel crappy, and taking it out of your diet makes you feel better, you are under no obligation to prove to anyone else that your issue with that food is legitimate. You get to eat whatever you want, period, end of story, diagnosis or no diagnosis. Sure, if you’re cutting out whole food groups, you should probably work with a doctor and/or dietitian both to verify that it’s necessary and to make sure you’re not missing important nutrients. And if you’re having symptoms that seem allergy-related, then seeing a doctor is an extremely good idea. Both to make sure you have emergency meds if needed and to nail down what precisely you’re allergic to. But if it’s a mild intolerance, and you can cut something out without stressing yourself out or severely limiting your diet, that’s your call and no one else’s. Eliminating a food from your diet isn’t even in the same ballpark as randomly deciding to take prescription medications with no diagnosis.

For example, I don’t eat pad thai. I’ve had it twice, once at a restaurant and once homemade. Both times, it tasted delicious, then sat in my stomach like lead, and I felt lousy. Did I just eat too much of it? Is there something in it or some combination of things that I react badly to? Was it a total coincidence? I have no idea. But when given the opportunity to eat pad thai, I think “ick,” associate it with an upset stomach, and don’t want to repeat the experience. But as long as green curry, chicken satay, and tom kah gai exist in the world, I can live quite happily without ever eating pad thai.

If we decide that I’m not allowed to go “pad thai-free” without a real medical diagnosis, how do I accomplish this? If I go to the doctor and say, “When I eat pad thai, I feel sick to my stomach?” do you think they’re going to run tests or try to figure out if I’m intolerant to fish sauce or tamarind or beansprouts, or do you think they’ll tell me not to eat pad thai? Yes, I know there’s a difference between cutting out one highly specific food and avoiding a staple like wheat, but even people with definite gluten sensitivity often have trouble getting a diagnosis. So they do what they need to do for themselves to feel better. If there are barriers to their getting appropriate medical care (and there are an awful lot of those in the US), we should work on those, but in the mean time, people are still going to take care of themselves as best they know how.

I agree that people shouldn’t lie about allergies. If something upsets your stomach or gives you gas or triggers a gag reflex, it’s not an allergy. That doesn’t mean you should be expected to eat it for politeness’ sake, but lying about allergies does cause people to jump through totally unnecessary hoops to avoid cross-contamination. But I also think that people are too eager to “catch” somebody faking and that they jump on inconsistencies that may or may not be dishonesty. The person who can’t have dairy and then ordered ice cream? Maybe they lied. Maybe they weighed the risks and decided it was worth it. Getting to make your own decisions includes making decisions that aren’t optimal. And sometimes people have multiple competing things going on with food that they don’t feel the need to fully explain, which might look inconsistent or dishonest on the surface. This Captain Awkward post about a part-time vegetarian is a good example. People seem really quick to jump to “Lying!” “Attention-seeking!” instead of “Needed protein!” or “Don’t fit fully into either the carnivore or vegetarian box!”

Personal example time again. I don’t generally tolerate spicy foods well, both in taste and in GI unpleasantness afterwards. But it really depends on the day. There will be times when I think, “Bring on the heat!” and times when lamb korma somehow tastes “hot” to me. And while I’ve had GI unpleasantness from Mexican food, I’ve never had that reaction to hot wings. (Possibly because they go with pizza, so the percentage of “hot foods” to “overall meal” is lower.) So, if I turn something down because it’s too spicy and then next week you see me eating hot wings, it may look like I’m bullshitting you, but that’s not actually the case.

I do think it’s impolite to put other people to trouble you won’t go to yourself. If you’re going to expect a kitchen to slow way down to do the allergy dance for you, then you should be willing to forgo the tasty food with the ingredient you just told them you can’t have. And it would be kind of jerk-like as a semi-vegetarian to insist that your steak-loving friends always go to the vegetarian place rather than having your once-every-so-often chicken come from the place they like.

Food and Consent

I love this post from the Fat Nutritionist about a couple where one is a picky eater and the other is a foodie and keeps pressuring her to try new things.

People have to come around to food in their own time. If they aren’t allowed to, if they are pressured or forced or coerced into trying something that they find intimidating, there is a very good chance they will not suddenly love that food, will not have the Foodie Switch in their brain flipped to the On position.

More likely, they will associate more anxiety with that food, not less, and it will probably taint the memory of the delicious thing you were hoping they’d enjoy.

So what do you do instead? I’m going to sound like a broken record, but: follow a Division of Responsibility.

Not the one for parents and children. The one that exists between adults.

As an adult, you are responsible for your own eating. The other adult is responsible for what, when, where, how much, and whether they eat. You can negotiate certain things — where and when are sometimes necessary to coordinate, and if you’re deciding on a restaurant or a recipe, some negotiation around what will also be useful. But you need to remember that any negotiations around what end at offering. Not ingestion.

What this means is, you can both decide on a place to eat, or a recipe to try, and you can put the food on the table and both sit down.

After that? You must chill.

No one has to put anything in their mouth or their stomach that they don’t want. To insist that they do is a serious boundary violation, and a breach of their bodily agency. There is a spectrum of not-okayness that starts with coaxing, wheedling, and pressuring someone to try something they don’t want, and ends with force-feeding. Don’t be that guy.

One of the many (many, many) ways our culture is screwed up around food is the idea that consent isn’t as important as getting someone to eat the “right” things. This shows up a lot in the idea that it’s healthy and normal to pressure someone to eat :healthy” or try to lose weight, but it’s also depressingly common in the pressure to try new foods, or to eat a wide range of things. There’s the assumption that a diet that includes sushi and Brussels sprouts and kimchee is both healthier and more grown up than one that doesn’t, and that it’s the more enlightened foodie’s job to show their picky partner the light. Oh, and the classism. Let’s not forget the classism. Fancy restaurants, exotic ingredients, even the ability to waste food if you ruin a recipe or end up not liking something—those are all privileges.

Also, I love the idea of applying the Division of Responsibility to adults, with each person having total control over what they eat. I think Michelle is absolutely right that wanting to control what someone is eating, even if it’s by “gentle” pressure, is not treating them as a competent adult. I like the extension of the Division of Responsibility as applied to adults. For kids, it’s pretty easy to make that distinction. The adults choose when, where, and what to offer, while the kid gets to decide if and how much they’ll eat. With adults, as Michele says, there can be negotiation around when and where for a shared meal, and even some negotiation around what, as long as it stops when the food goes on the table.

This got me thinking about how this gets worked out in relationships where one person does most or all of the cooking and one partner is very picky or has food restrictions. (These can be related—a lot of severe childhood pickiness results from choking incidents, and the pickiest person I know also has a long list of foods that will make her sick. When food can and has hurt you, it’s pretty understandable that you’d be wary about it from then on.)

If you’re splitting the cooking 50/50 (or thereabouts), this is pretty easy. When the picky/restricted person makes dinner, they know they’ll get food they like. And the more adventurous person has the option to include foods they like when they cook dinner, as long as they make sure there are also things the other person will eat.

If one person is doing the majority of the cooking, though, it gets more complex. Especially in situations where that division of labor is due to work/school schedules, illness or disability, or other things that make it harder for one person to cook. In general, I think the cook gets final say on what they serve. One of the trade-offs of not doing the work of cooking is giving up a certain amount of control over what gets made. (With the obvious caveat that making someone a meal that doesn’t include things you know they can/will eat is a jerk move.) But at the same time, if you’re preparing most of the meals that your partner eats, and they have food sensitivities or restrictions, I think you owe it to them to provide foods they can/will eat that meet their basic nutritional needs. I’d go beyond including one thing you know they’ll eat and say that at most meals, you should include carbs, proteins, and fats that you know they’ll eat. For example, let’s say the only protein they’ll generally eat is chicken, while you’d much rather have steak, or pork, or wild game. If you do breakfast and lunch on your own and split dinner 50/50, that’s only three meals out of twenty-one where they might miss a protein. Probably not a big deal, especially if some of those meals include other sources of protein like beans or dairy. But if you’re cooking every single meal, and a large portion of those don’t include a protein they’ll eat, that’s really not great. And would probably contribute to a stronger sense of insecurity around food and even less desire to try that awesome quail recipe you found.

The same goes for vegetables, although they tend to be higher on the pyramid of Satter’s Hierarchy of Food Needs, probably hanging out anywhere between “good-tasting,” “novel,” and “instrumental.” So, a meal with a veggie that you can’t eat is less of a big deal than a meal where you don’t get enough of the macronutrients to get you through to the next meal. Still, I think you should meet the person you’re cooking for halfway on veggies. If you don’t do veggies at all, and they need vegetables to feel like a meal is complete, then have a side salad or a simply cooked vegetable at most meals. Likewise, if they will only eat corn, peas, or carrots, you should offer one of those three at most meals if you’re doing the majority of the cooking.

A small taste of institutional ableism

I recently had minor surgery, and my discharge instructions included “Limit climbing stairs to once or twice daily.” I physically *can* do stairs, but my abs get a bit cranky, and I understand the recommendation that I not push it.  Since I work on the second floor in an old building with crappy elevators, it’s been an “interesting” week.

To start out with, I really wish that my doctor, or the hospital, or *somebody* had let me know about the stairs thing at some point in the months leading up to this surgery, rather than only finding out in my discharge instructions. My workplace isn’t exactly conducive to mobility issues.  I work on the second floor, with another little half flight of stairs leading up to my work area. Fortunately, there’s at least a “Porch Lift,” a little elevator designed for a single person to ride up.  The building next door, where I attend meetings occasionally, has a third floor cube farm with *no* elevator access.

So, I came in on Monday, took the elevator up to the second floor and walked up to the disability elevator, only to find that it needs a key to operate.  I, of course, did not have said key.  I walked up the half flight of stairs and looked for the guy who I figured would be in charge of such things.  I didn’t see him, but I did see that the elevator key was in the elevator at the upper entrance.  I grabbed it and shot him an email.  He let me know that there’s another key, which one of the high-level managers has, so I asked said manager for that key.  The elevator requires a key to open the door on both levels, and a third key to actually operate it.  If you hang onto the key when you go down, you can use it again coming back up, but you have to remember to take it each time. Once I got the third key, I could just leave them both in place.

This elevator is a groaning, clunking monstrosity. It takes twice as long to go up half a story than the regular (and also temperamental) one, and it loudly announces your comings and goings to everyone on the floor.  It’s also open at the top, with a half door. A coworker mentioned to me that when a guy who used a wheelchair used to work there, it got stuck, and someone had to jump down to physically get him out. (Facilities has a two-hour turnaround for elevator emergencies.)

Since the surgery was kind of personal, it was also *awesome* to have the noisy elevator announce to everyone that I was using it.  But I definitely mentioned the surgery, without giving details, to anyone who commented on the elevator use, because I didn’t want comments later on me being too fat and/or lazy to take the stairs. (My coworkers are a bunch of smartasses, which I love, but the line between smartass and jackass gets crossed on a regular basis, and there’s a lot of teasing that can get mean-spirited.)

I should mention that, with the exception of a sink and a coffee pot, all the workplace amenities are down on the second floor proper, so I’ve been using this elevator not just to come in in the morning and leave in the evening, but at lunch and every time I visit the restroom and the water fountain. Or the vending machine. Or the kitchen. And since I usually eat breakfast at work, either an oatmeal packet that needs to be microwaved or a Pop-Tart from the vending machine, that’s another trip.

Just when I thought I could not despise this elevator any more, I got in, held down the button, and it descended about three inches and stopped dead. I tried taking the key out and putting it back in, pressing the button again, and bringing it back up then trying again. No joy.  I mentioned it to the appropriate coworker, who emailed the facilities folks. He let me know a couple hours later that they hadn’t responded.

At some point, I just about cried. It was 10ish, and I hadn’t grabbed breakfast, and all I wanted was to go down to the vending machine and get a freaking Pop-Tart. I figured I should wait, though, because the elevator could be down all day and I should save my couple trips up the stairs for lunch and bathroom breaks.  I ended up calling my husband, who works in the building next door, and asked him to bring me a Pop-Tart. He did, because he’s awesome.

Later, I tried the elevator again and discovered that when the half door on the top floor closes automatically, it doesn’t close all the way.  And, strangely enough, the elevator won’t descend unless the door is closed.  Which is a lovely safety feature, except for the fact that the door stops about an inch before it’s actually closed, leaving me to swear a lot and try vainly to get someone to check it.

Before I figured out what was wrong with the elevator, I called my boss and asked if I could move to another location temporarily.  He went off to check who was out on travel or vacation, and he did actually find me another spot. I ended up not needing it, but the actual people I work with have been really helpful. The building design itself, not so much.

For me, this is an annoying inconvenience that will be over Friday afternoon. Even if the elevator dies completely, it probably won’t do damage for me to go up the stairs an extra time or two.  At worst, it’ll hurt some. But for someone with a long-term disability, this would be a nightmare.  That wheelchair-using coworker who used to work in the building?  Yeah, they had to move him somewhere else because of elevator issues.  The elevator would be down, and he’d be stuck in the lobby for two hours instead of being able to come upstairs and do his job.

Nobody intended that certain areas of the building be unusable for people with mobility issues.  Technically, the building is presumably ADA compliant. But in practice, ouch.