Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Monday, July 5, 2010

Surviving a Crowd

Last night we went to an Independence Day celebration at a park in a town near our cabin. The town is not huge, but not tiny, either. It seemed that not only every resident of the town was there, but all the neighboring counties, as well. Two or three radio stations were broadcasting from various locations around the park, and the city band played patriotic music, including salutes to every war the USA has been in, and to each branch of the armed forces. Ending the evening was a wonderful display of fireworks. We had a perfect spot for viewing the fireworks, so we thought. It turned out that they were being shot off to the right of where we expected them to be shot off, with a tree directly between us and them. More on this later.

I seldom go anyplace where I expect a crowd anymore. It has been years since we have been to a concert or fireworks display. My husband suggested we go this year, I agreed that it sounded like fun. It occurred to me that a good topic to post on would be how to survive a crowd. People with chronic illness or pain have to plan more carefully for things most people take for granted.

* If walking is an issue, find out where parking is in relation to the event. Don’t forget your Handicapped Parking placard if you have one. Arriving earlier will likely get you a closer parking spot. I do fine with walking, though I had to tell my husband and son to slow down a few times.

* If you walk slowly, or don’t like to feel rushed by people behind you, either leave the venue early, or wait until most of the crowd has gone. There will be less people around you or behind you.

* Leave your vanity and strappy heels at home. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes. What is more important, impressing a bunch of people you have never seen before, and will likely never see again, or preserving the health and happiness of the body you live in 24/7?

* If you will need to stand in line, maybe your companion can stand in line for both of you, while you sit off to the side. I have seen canes that have a little seat attached (this is just one of the options Amazon had listed) that could be useful for standing in line .

* Find out what food and drink will be available, and where they will be in relation to where you will be. If you have special dietary needs, such as gluten free or sugar free, take your own food/drinks rather than take chances that they will have what you need. I always have water and snacks with me, even if I am just going shopping.

* Take with you whatever medications and other supplies you might need. Include anything you would be taking a couple of hours after you expect to be home, just in case you get stuck in traffic. We folks with Sjogren’s Syndrome don’t leave home without our arsenal of eye drops, nose sprays and mouth moisturizers. Gum or candy with xylitol helps keep the mouth moist, I like Trident Blueberry Twist.

* If getting to a bathroom quickly is a necessity, find a place that will give you easy access. As my mom taught me, always go right before you leave home.

* Find out what seating accommodations are available, or if you need to bring your own. Last night, most people were on blankets on the ground, some people had folding or collapsible chairs to sit on. We had a blanket, and I had a squish pillow for extra padding.

* Hearing: If excess noise is a problem for you, don’t sit too close to amplifiers or speakers. Take earplugs if you think you might need them. If you have difficulty hearing, sit closer to the speakers, or close to where the action is. Sometimes being able to see better will improve hearing, as well.

* Vision: If bright lights are a problem, take sunglasses even if it is at night. Some ball parks and other places have very bright lights. If you need more light, a flashlight can help in some situations, or a magnifying glass may be useful.

* If you don’t like wind in your eyes, there are glasses/sunglasses that wrap around the sides of your face, or goggles that block the wind completely. Again, which is more important- impressing people you don’t know, or caring for your own body? A hat with a visor can also help.

* If noise and commotion get to you (I tend to ‘shut down’ and withdraw into myself when there is too much commotion around me), try sitting on the fringes of the crowd, instead of right in the midst. This can also help you get away easier.

* If you are unsure of the weather or the air conditioning where you are going, wear layers or take a jacket/long sleeve shirt. I get cold easily, so I always take a jacket with me for wearing inside air conditioned places in the summer.

* If you need to take many items with you, consider using a backpack or a young, hardy person to carry your stuff. We did both- loaded everything into a backpack, and had our 20 year old son carry it. You could also use a wagon or cart on wheels.

Most of these ideas are just common sense, but common sense is not all that common, especially when brain fog is an issue. So, about that tree that blocked our view of the fireworks? It is kind of a metaphor for my life. I had a good life, good job, wonderful husband, etc. Then illness hit, and the view of my good life was blocked. It took some scrambling and rearranging, but we adjusted. We saw about 80% of the fireworks. About like my life.

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