September 12, 2006

Violet, Subway Spy

This happened a number of weeks ago, not long after the Mr. Bright Eyes episode, but I didn’t manage to post about it at the time:

On the F train again, morning commute, sleepy but lucky: today I have a seat. One of the things New York has taught me is that my sense of personal space is, or rather can become, considerably more flexible than I once realized. When I first began taking the train during rush hour, it killed me to be squashed up against other passengers. Now it only kills me if the people I’m squashed up against are screaming at or (actually, if you’re a stickler for accuracy: and/or) making out with each other, happily an uncommon occurrence.

My adjustments to the demands of rush hour notwithstanding, any train ride with a seat is a ride that begins well. Today I am squashed only in the sense that I’m between two men who can’t really help that they are larger than the 16-inch ass space allotted by the geniuses who designed the subway cars. Oh, and in that the woman standing in front of me, pole-hanging, is on the verge of depositing her briefcase in my lap. This makes it a little hard to solve my sudoku puzzle.

I give up and start people watching. Foggy, peculiar Violet isn’t terribly good at sudoku anyhow. (NB for readers sharing the battle against the Other D: the regained ability to complete sudoku puzzles in the hard and expert categories could be a sign that your antidepressant is working! Stay tuned for further updates.) Next to me is a youngish fellow, early 20s, with an Eddie Bauer vibe: semi-casual but neat, khakis freshly pressed, highly presentable. I commence a game of What Job Is This Person Going To? and decide he’s a summer intern at some corporate entity where he is permitted not to wear a tie. He looks like the kind of fellow my mother wishes I had dated in my young adult years instead of, well, the fellows I did date.

Along with his smart workday-casual ensemble, Eddie Bauer has on one of those rubber bracelets that hipper-than-Violet people wear in support of their favorite causes. I strain to make out the lettering without seeming to be staring: ETES.

Hmm. As in…? Yes. When my neighbor turns the page of his New York Post, the message reveals itself: CURE DIABETES. How agreeable.

There are many reasons, I suppose, that a young, Eddie Bauerish guy might be wearing a diabetes bracelet. But one reason in particular comes to mind. I check out the opposing wrist. Aha. A chunky gold medical ID. And there, twining out from his pants pocket over his belt and back under his clothing, too subtle to be detected by anyone not looking for it, is a teeny-tiny length of tubing.

Eddie Bauer, it appears, is a pumper who prefers not to cut tubing holes in the linings of his pockets.

Immediately I feel a bizarre but earnest solidarity with my fellow traveler. Here we are, a pair of strangers on the same path, bumping into one another by chance. It’s been so long since I spoke in person with a PWD other than my therapist that I consider the Big Reveal. But I remember, too, how disconcerting and invasive it was for me to have my diabetes called out in public at a moment when I wasn’t ready for it. Eddie Bauer, with his sporty bracelet, might not see it that way, but I’m not about to presume.

Nor can I connect with him more subtly via taking out my own pump, as it’s tucked away under my skirt. I briefly ponder a gratuitous revelatory blood test, but the proximity of Pole Hanger with Briefcase would make that extremely awkward.

Instead, I sit quietly amidst the roars and rattles of the train, enjoying this moment of proof that I am not alone, not at all alone, even in the thick anonymous crowds of the rush hour.

For those who are wondering, by the way, Eddie Bauer was considerably cuter than Mr. Bright Eyes. Score one for Team D!


  1. Okay, I don't get it (and apparently the gentleman on the train doesn't either)

    Is the hole big enough for the pump to fit through? If so, how does the pump not fall out? Is it big enough to thread the thingie that clicks into the infusion site through? Do you take the top of the reservoir and thread that through the hole? Please advise as to this pocket hole cutting business.

    Signed, another non-hole-cutter

  2. Hiya Art. It's the round thingie that clicks into the infusion set that goes through the hole. Pump sits happily in pocket.

    Of course, this technique does ruin the pocket's useability for loose change or, as I discovered in rather embarrassing fashion the other day, an iPod Shuffle. (Yes, the Shuffle DID end up dangling between my legs, under my skirt, on the subway. But that's a topic for another post.)

  3. Score one for Team D indeed. Nothing says "fabulous" like a handsome man with a pump.

    I always find myself sort of staring at people who I detect the diabetic white noise on. A medic alert bracelet, the tubing from the pump, that unmistakable sound of The Black Zipper Case ... I can't take my eyes off of them. It's like I'm trying to send them messages with my eyes: "Hey! You! I know you're diabetic! I am, too. We should acknowledge each other's presence because I, too, know what it's like to be low."

    But I usually keep to myself, too.

  4. Oh man, you should have picked him up.

    You need to find a really nice pickup line -- like mention the bracelet fund raising, NOT the medical ID or the pump!

    Maybe you'll get another chance.

  5. Kathleen, hee hee, he looked around 15 years younger than I am. Not that this should be a stopper!

    I'm on a different train line now, though, so it may be a while before our paths cross again ;)

  6. How gratifying to see another diabetic on the train, even though you didn't talk to him. It's tempting to say "Oh, you should have!," but I know just how jammed those trains can get and how much you just want to keep to yourself til you can claw your way out of the train.

    (Totally unrelated, and not to freak you out, but hopefully you won't find random strange men exposing themselves while sitting on the subway. Weirdly, I saw this happen three times, in three different locations (in both packed and nearly empty cars), in seven years (on the 1/9 line) and sadly, I never did anything about it other than share the story.

  7. Happily, I've been neither flashed nor groped on the subway thus far--though I am spacey/nonobservant enough to potentially be flashed and not even realize it. I'm pretty sure I'd notice groping, though...

  8. We should come up with some discrete signal - you know, like a gang sign (from the rough ghettos of Minneapolis (grin)) that we can flash to suspected fellow D'ers.

    If they're part of the "in" crowd, they will acknowledge it and then you'll know. And if they're embarassed about it, they can just ignore it!

    I too think it's cool when I see someone with a pump. I've been able to strike up a conversation a couple times!