Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dear Random Guy

Dear Random Guy Sitting Next to Me at the Movie Theater,

First of all, hello and welcome to my blog. You don't know me, and that's totally okay (a lot of people reading this have never even seen me in real life, so you've got one up on them at least!), but since you're here and reading you'll probably learn some interesting things about someone you previously just thought of as "that annoying girl sitting next to me." Things like the fact that I have cystic fibrosis, a genetic and totally non-contagious lung disease that, unfortunately, causes me to cough occasionally. Or the fact that I'm currently on home IVs, which means that I sometimes run a tiny bit behind schedule, which in turn means that I have to rush down to my seat in a crowded movie theater and might, just as unfortunately, be just a little bit loud and breathless about the whole thing. You might also learn, because I'm saying it right now, that it is never my intention to disturb anyone by any of these relatively annoying byproducts of my disease. In fact, when I'm really sick and coughing up a storm, you can bet that I would make a point of staying home and avoiding quiet places like movie theaters. Not because I'm a danger to others, mind you, but simply because it's no fun to cough your way through what should be a silent experience.

Okay, so now that you know a little bit about me, I want to apologize. Yes, that's right, I would like to sincerely apologize to you and your girlfriend for what happened at this afternoon's matinee. See, when I rushed in after a CF-related delay, bounding up the stairs into the theater to take my seat before the start of the actual movie, I knew it would likely make me cough a little bit. And I knew, equally, that the film was just beginning and that people around me might not be entirely pleased. I did not know, of course, that anyone would take it upon themselves to voice the opinion, out loud, that "people who are sick should just stay f-ing home" (censored for the benefit of other readers, but then again we both know what was said), but I guess I could have been better prepared to give an appropriate response.

Instead, I snapped. I leaned over, as you know, and hissed in your face that my condition was genetic, akin to asthma, and nothing that you needed to worry about catching. And I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't say any of this politely; I didn't shrug it off and turn the other cheek, knowing that your comment was said in frustration and ignorance of the whole situation, nor did I calmly touch your shoulder and whisper that it wasn't contagious or that I would be happy to explain after the film. I didn't even pause to consider that perhaps you have your own valid reasons to fear germs, and were simply voicing a concern about being stuck next to someone with a possibly contagious illness. Nope, I did none of that, but I did make myself heard, and for that -- for the way I did so and the hostility in my voice -- I am very, very sorry.

You see, the thing that's hard to explain is that, for someone with chronic illness -- and especially a sometimes loud chronic illness -- the little comments and eyerolls and other most likely well-intentioned little gestures (cough drop, anyone?) can sometimes get a little overwhelming. Not that such an explanation explains or excuses my behavior because, quite frankly, it doesn't. After all, your comment was offensive to me precisely because it failed to take into account the totality of my situation, and yet my response was in fact no better. I responded to you without much thought for your feelings, your experiences, or even the best ways to spread CF awareness. Sadly, in doing so, I may not only have lowered myself to bad behavior, but I might also have missed a chance to truly educate someone about CF. Because this time, when the credits rolled and the house lights came back on, we both shuffled out without a word.

I am truly, deeply sorry.

So, Random Guy, I hope that you went home tonight and thought a little bit about that awkward interaction you had with the annoying woman at the movie theater, because it's been on my mind all night. True, I'm not proud of the way I acted, but I can hope that I've learned at least a small lesson about taking things in stride and not responding in anger, especially to strangers whose stories I don't know. And perhaps if you take the same lesson away from this all, then our meeting might not have been wasted after all.

And we can both be a little bit more proud of ourselves next time when the house lights come back on.

Coughing Girl


  1. OMG you rock. I am linking this on FB because everyone needs to read this. I snapped at someone for freaking out because they took their kids to a "kids reading time" and the "reader" had a mask on. Of course, I informed my "friend" that the "reader" was probably trying to protect herself! Love ya Cyster!

  2. LOL I would have snapped too!!!! Not the best idea as you mentioned but sometimes the moment overcomes us all!!!

    Glad to see you figured out the 3 column blog!!!!!!! Looks great cysta!!!

  3. Great post! It never occurred to me to take the moment to educate "the random guy" in that situation and I always feel bad when I have a coughing fit at the theater.

  4. You're a much bigger person than me...I usually just tell those people that I have a highly contagious airborne STD.