A funny thing happened on the way to buy my daily scratcher. I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop, a first for me. Here’s the funny part. I wasn’t driving a car or any other wheeled form of transportation. I was walking.
This is not a story about racial profiling. I am a 68 year old white man living in an upscale community where 68 year old white men are a dime a dozen. And as the motorcycle’s blue and reds flashed before me, I couldn’t remember having robbed any banks of late. So, for what it’s worth, I felt no trepidation, no concern for my safety as he rolled to a stop and said, “Hi there. Everything okay?”
It took me just a second to correctly assess the situation. I wasn’t guilty of J-walking, a known gateway crime leading to even more flagrant pedestrian violations. No, I was P-walking and P-walking can look a lot like someone about to disturb the peace or urinate on an azalea, i.e., a drunk. You see, I have Parkinson’s and if I’m not paying attention, my creative walking style might include a dip here and a weave there and a do-si-do, if the mood strikes. In other words, at 11AM, I can do a perfectly adequate impersonation of an old man on a bender.
The conversation: “I’m fine. Is it because of my walking?” He nodded. I explained that I had PD, not a fifth with breakfast. He quickly switched from stern/inquisitive to sympathetic/just here to help. With a friendly salute, he rolled away to go after the more serious crimes plaguing our community – gas leaf blowers.
Up until that morning I convinced myself that, with meds working, no one would guess I have Parkinson’s. Well, my meds were working and yet I managed to interest one of Marin’s finest. A pretty serious wake-up call. I’m not ashamed of my disease and at times I even enjoy the physical jazz my body performs, I just thought I had more time in the shadows.
While nothing like this has happened to me so far, it did happen to a friend of mine. He was buying liquor and his speech is very much affected by his Parkinson’s. He was very embarrassed, as he did sound intoxicated, but he chose to use the situation as a teaching moment, very calmly explaining to the staff and the waiting customers what his story was.
I appreciate your friend’s attitude and choice to use an uncomfortable situation to speak up and teach those around him. Thanks for sharing, Sue.