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Apparently Only Old People Get Sick

Apparently Only Old People Get Sick

After a long day at work, I got on the bus recently and took a seat at the front of the bus. Several other people got on after me and did the same thing.

A few stops later, a woman with a walker got on the bus.

And someone who was sitting in a seat larger than mine, that had room to accommodate the walker, got up and moved for her.

After this occurred, I heard a few women who were sitting a bit farther back talking about how appalled they were and disgusted that so few people made a move to give this woman a seat.

Ultimately, if no one would have gotten up for her, I certainly would have given the woman my seat.

But she was able to get a seat, so I stayed put in mine.

But I was so tempted to get up and tell these women that they can’t tell everything by simply looking at a person. And before they jump to conclusions, maybe they should consider what someone else’s story might be.

I get it. I’m young and I don’t look sick. That’s two strikes against me.

But I couldn’t believe that they had such a strong negative reaction when a) the woman did get a seat, and b) they were passing very strong judgments on total strangers.

I really wanted to go over to them and tell them to shut up, that I have arthritis and not only old people get sick, and that I had every right to be in a seat.

Honestly, there’s a part of me that felt that if I had to stand up, I might just collapse. I was exhausted and in pain.

As much as it’s sometimes hard to deal with the expectations of people we know, it’s doubly difficult to deal with the expectations of strangers.

And we have to pick our battles. So I stayed seated and tried to ignore their ongoing conversation about the rudeness of people (obviously they weren’t considering themselves in that category, albeit for a different reason).

But I was genuinely hurt by the things that these two women were saying.

There were seats available when I got on the bus, so I took one. And if I would have been forced to stand, I’m not sure what would have happened.

And I resent the implication that only old people get sick.

The big myth that many people think is that arthritis is only a disease of old people. And it’s one that as a community, we have to battle and combat everyday.

And this interaction on the bus is proof that many people think that only old people get sick, not just from arthritis, but in general.

Obviously, that’s not true. I’m living proof of that.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Virginia Johns
    5 years ago

    I was diagnosed with RA in 2003, when I was 51. It came on suddenly over the summer between two school years. When I returned to work that August, fellow staff members were horrified by how fragile I looked. Fortunately, I found an excellent rheumatologist who worked tirelessly to get my symptoms under control. It was months before my medications began to make me feel like myself again, and now (11 years later) I mostly just deal with occasional fatigue and pain. I sometimes feel the need to use the handicapped stall in a public restroom, and I am astounded by the dirty looks I get when I exit the stall. Now that I look healthy again, it apparently prompts others to think that I have no right to use that stall. It’s just one of those little frustrations I’ve tried to deal with gracefully.

  • Kellie
    5 years ago

    I was having a conversation with a group of ladies at the gym where my daughter tumbles. I was asked what job I have. I replied that I am on disability. The reply was that wasn’t it amazing that people who “really” needed it couldn’t get it. I don’t look sick but I have been in pain every day for over six years. I would like to see them deal with that!

  • Anita
    5 years ago

    Public transportation is always an adventure for those of us with RA. I have less trouble nowadays, since I use a cane, but before that, I would get the comments and looks when I would sit in the handicap seats or stay sitting when someone with a more obvious disability came on board. I had one woman shove me and demand I get up for an elderly woman with a cane once, but she backed off when I showed her my own cane.

    I’ve found most people tend to be decent and will offer seats to those who are visibly handicapped. I can’t really blame those who don’t offer a seat when a person has no visible issues, since they can’t really know unless it’s obvious or we tell them. It is an annoyance when people assume you’re fine, when you aren’t. “Props” like a cane help, since they’re a visible signal that all is not well.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    5 years ago

    I guess I’m talking less about being offered a seat as I am about getting called out for not offering up my seat. Might be two sides of the same coin, but…

  • Carla Kienast
    5 years ago

    Hi Leslie: I know what you mean. I have knee and hip replacements both of which it’s recommended to use the handicapped toilets. The comments and looks I get when I go in/come out of the stalls are ridiculous. If someone with a walker or a wheelchair needs the stall, I obviously defer to them because they have lesser mobility, but otherwise, I do what my doctor ordered!

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    5 years ago

    I’m with you 100% percent, Carla!

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