100,000 Miles a Second

[Disclaimer: There are some spoilers in the following article, and it is advised to watch the film first.]

I recently discovered a short film by local writer and filmmaker, Patricia Fox, that caught my attention for all of its seven minutes and seventeen seconds. However, as the credits began to roll at the end, the film managed to lodge itself in my mind for much longer. Based on a true story, "100,000 Miles a Second" portrays a brief experience that a young woman has one day on her way to do some shopping at her local co-op store.

100,000 Miles a Second: A summary

An appointment with a neurologist

The film begins with the woman driving around and trying to find a parking spot at the co-op. Once she finds one, she pulls into it and parks, and then she takes a phone call from someone who seems to be her partner or significant other. Clearly agitated and not fine, she tersely says into the phone, "Everything is fine."

She goes on to talk about an appointment she had with a neurologist, and based on this conversation, along with a medical pamphlet we see lying on the passenger seat of the car, we can infer that this young woman has multiple sclerosis (MS), and is not having an easy time with it. Frustrated, she describes what went on at her doctor appointment.

Feeling unheard & misunderstood

"The neurologist didn't have much to say," the woman says. "She said that she thinks it's benign. Can you believe that? She said that she didn't even notice that I was walking weird."

Incredulous, and growing more upset by the second, she angrily tries to explain to the person on the phone how this doctor made her feel.

"I don't care that she thinks it's benign," the woman continues. "I don't care that she doesn't notice it [the way she walks]. I notice it. I f*cking notice it!" She feels unheard, misunderstood, and dismissed by this doctor--someone who is supposed to be helping her.

"She didn't even see me," the woman says before hanging up the phone.

In the next scene, the woman has a mini breakdown while sitting in her parked car. She yells, swears, and slams the steering wheel with her hands while sobbing loudly and hysterically. "F*ck! F*ck! F*ck! F*ck!" She then somehow manages to calm down and compose herself and slowly steps out of the car to go into the store.

Questions from a homeless man

At the entrance to the co-op, the woman sees a homeless man playing a small acoustic guitar and busking for tips. She drops some change into his guitar case, which he thanks her for, and then asks if he can ask her a question. She seems taken by surprise by this and says, "Yeah" and turns back to talk to him.

The busker then proceeds to ask her trivia-type questions about science and the speed of things. Does she believe that scientists can measure how fast a person travels in a car? In a plane? How about an astronaut in a space shuttle?

Scientific facts about the universe

The woman stands there and listens to him, probably humoring him and wondering what the heck he's talking about. He goes on to give scientific facts about the immense and dizzying speed of things moving in the universe (Earth rotating around the Sun and solar systems).

"Do you have any idea how fast we are traveling right now?" he asks the woman.

"Tell me," she says, now intrigued.

"100,000 miles a second!" the busker exclaims.

One last message

The woman pauses, smiles, and says, "It was nice talking to you," as she then turns to go into the store. But as she's walking away from him, the busker calls out with one last message.

"It doesn't mean you have to believe it affects the way you walk," he says.

Upon hearing this, she stops and stares at him, this raggedy-looking man holding a beat-up guitar. Time stops and stands still for this young woman with MS, struggling to cope with a debilitating chronic illness. How could he know?

Similarities to my RA experience

Struggling to deal with a chronic illness

So how does RA fit in with all of this? I can relate to this film and story because I, too, have been in this woman's place, struggling to physically and emotionally deal with a degenerative chronic illness. I've also almost literally been in her place.

Scared of a future with RA

Several times I have sat alone in my car in the parking lot after a rheumatologist appointment, having my own personal breakdown while sobbing uncontrollably. Crying and yelling and grieving for my life, my head dropping into my hands, scared to death of the future, and hating the disease with an unbridled bitterness and loathing--I have felt and done all of this. And I have often found it easy to fall into a deep pit of despair.

Thinking about "the big picture"

But instead of having meltdowns in my car, or sinking into hopelessness, I do prefer to stop and think about "the big picture" and how fast and tiny we all are traveling in this huge and mysterious universe--this thing called LIFE.

I am just a tiny speck in the world and a "speck" who happens to have RA. There are many big things in my life that I can't control, but I can control how I choose to be affected by my RA. I can choose to stay drowning in despair, or I can choose to keep moving and changing and growing.

"The mind is its own place,
and in itself can make
a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

--John Milton, "Paradise Lost"

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