Oops! Pardon My Parkinson’s Disease and Me!

Who hasn’t had a little mishap while shopping, a spill on Aisle 9, a bump in the rump by a heavily laden grocery cart, or a landslide of pillows in Household Linens?

These can be annoying and embarrassing but they’re just a fact of life in a society blessed with plenty of consumer goods and reasonable income to buy or charge what we need.

And of course there’s all those nice things we want more than we need, but that’s what shopping is all about. Isn’t it?

Haste and distraction admiring all the treasure from many lands with cheap labor and lower standards of living than we enjoy keeps the marketplaces teeming. You’ll hear plenty of apologies and “Excuse me’s” but not much explaining why.

“I didn’t mean to plow into you with my electric cart, but I have Parkinson’s Disease and sometimes my steering is a bit erratic…”  At least the poor lady isn’t driving a Hummer or an 18-wheeler.

This is more than enough making light of we who have a serious disease and as far as that goes, any at all may be too much. But you can surely read the spoof implicit in the copy.

What goes unaddressed is the distress and often pain and embarrassment many people experience when a PD event occurs in a public place with witnesses who don’t know what to think.

People being people, some will doubtless think the worst.

If a well-dressed matron takes a sudden tumble to the pavement, people will be quick to help. I stress “matron” because Parkinson’s patients are generally at least middleaged or older, the general age bracket.

If the victim is not so well-dressed and shocked and shaken by her fall, as happens, bystanders may wonder if she had a drink or two. People being people, God love ’em, will think that, probably  before wondering if she might have Parkinson’s?

My immediate reaction is to say I am all right–assuming I am–and avoid sharing my medical history with every Tom, Dick and Mary within earshot. If paramedics are on the scene, by all means answer their questions though.

And don’t panic. They give you time to pay the $1,000 City of Los Angeles emergency services fee. To be precise, it was $1,005 and no, I didn’t ask. As a longtime newspaper reporter, this recent jaunt was not my first ride in an ambulance. And I figured I was going to pull through when they didn’t even dignify things with the lights and siren.

We will forgo accounts of my other ambulance rides because they didn’t amount to much or–in the case of the first–I was 13 years old and circumstances of the 70-mile race across the New Mexico desert were heartrending.


Some day when there is space and time and not much PD activity I’ll share that other story of March 2, 1956, when people murmured:” Son, now you’re the man in the family.” 

That was 57 years ago next Saturday. Sometimes, I stlll feel 13 years old.


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