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‘You Okay?’
Going to Urgent Care on Crutches in Baltimore City: 6/14/2023
© 2023 James LaFond
MAR/25/24
Written from memory on 6/20/2023.
I have been unable to walk since Friday, June 9. On Wednesday the 14th I stepped outside of Georgia’s house, where Megan rents and cleans and I had lain up for the night.
Lynn scheduled me a 7:30 A.M. LYFT ride with a black guy named Michael in a small sedan. I was headed to Kaiser Urgent Care in southern Baltimore County, a 2 to 3 hour bus haul. Lynn is so nice. Pulling the door shut behind me I felt it lock, turned the knob, and knew it was secure. I have no key and the ladies were at work.
It was 7:27 A.M. I made my way on crutches out to the front walk by 7:29.
7:30 came and went, reminding me that we were on CP time.
7:35 Michael rolls up, looks at me, looks at the Mexican men coming home from their rained out roofing job—yes, it was beginning to rain—and drove off.
My knee and hip were in agony from the bus strip out of Baltimore the Monday before, in which every time the bus stopped, all of my weight and the rucksack’s weight shifted onto my right leg. It had gotten progressively worse until the leg froze around dawn on Friday. I felt like I had been cut down in the ring by a Muay Thai fighter. I needed a doctor to get a look and perhaps order an image.
Was I damaging the knee with all of the mobility work for the hip, thigh and groin, traitor muscle knots pulsated like some mutinous alien crew of the meat ship me?
3 larger than golf ball and 8 smaller knots yet remain.
I crutched for 15 minutes from Eastdale to Eastern along 54th.
Taking the Orange City Link bus down to the courthouse, I asked the driver where the Yellow line picks up and he pointed south across Fayette. Crutching to the curb barely before cars started pulling off I found that this was the stop to Mondawmin, not Kaiser, and began limping around in search of the southbound line.
Next to the Baltimore Police Department Central Precinct parking garage a light skinned man about my size and age, with an eager gleam in his eyes, and looking about for third party observers, said, “You alright?”
He was savoring, I am convinced, his last mugging, I haven fallen past most of the links in our food chain to land at his feet. I glared and he backed off, looking at me narrowly.
Over 4 blocks I crutched, the only paleface out of some hundred souls. Many SUVs and some cars and trucks driven by ghost people and BPD officers cruised about. I crossed 4 streets at rush hour on crutches while the white light walking man blinked on the crossing light, giving way to a red countdown, which I barely beat. I did discover that Baltimore drivers are not completely soulless. While they will normally try to hit you while making a left turn on red as you use the crosswalk, sometimes even speeding up to get you, these drivers simply tried to bump me at about 5 MPH, like sheepdogs nipping at a lamb’s haunches.
I noticed not a single police officer on foot, though numerous squad SUVs. The street was being patrolled by 4 African American armed private security. The detail leader seemed to be the man in unmarked BDUs, who was short, bald, and wore a .44 magnum revolver in a tied down leather holster on his right hip. Every person on foot either ignored me [most] by looking pointedly away, or glared at me with unconcealed hate.
Boarding the Yellow as one of only 2 patrons, the other being a Sikh in turban, I ask the very obese light skinned driver the bus’s destination, and he looked away, clenching his jaw, refusing to answer.
I sit in the first row of forward facing seats and observe.
Two stops out a security guard boards to go home and behind him an extremely muscular man of some 40 years. Even his face had muscles and his jeans and shirt fit like paint. He scanned his ticket and it gave off an invalid beep.
“Hey you, you back there? Yes you, you in red, your ticket is invalid.”
The man returns up there and says, “I just paid two dollas fo dis ticket.”
“Wrong ticket,” chirped the driver, “next time buy an all day pass. That one is retired.”
“Okay, okay, mah bad. Can ya juz’ let a brutha slide.”
“Why should I?” chirped the fat driver.
The man made a fist and to punch the driver and the driver pulled the plexi-glass shield back to cover him and pointed at the camera and then the legal notice about mandatory time for people convicted of attacking transit employees, saying, “Its Fed-eral!”
The man made two meaty fists and posed, “Well I’m gonna best somebody down on dis bus if dis disrespect continue!”
He looks down at me and I wave him to me, then looks back at the driver who says, “I’ll let you slide this time. No go do what you want.”
I waved the thug over again and he sat down across the aisle from me, “Look man, I’m goin’ to the hospital. This is a one way ticket for me en this is my last bus. They are not supposed to be transferable, so don’t scan it for this guy, but it will be good for the rest of the day.”
“Really man, you sure you don’ need dis?”
“I’m good, this is yours.”
He shook hands and bumped fists with me and said, “Mah Man, I will not foget dis. I see you sometime en I’ll do you a fava.”
As the bus made its way past the urban blight around Martin Luther King Boulevard and out through Pig Town on Washington Boulevard, into Baltimore Highlands the muscular thug spoke with the off duty security guard about peace and love and respect. At last, he offloaded at Baltimore Highlands, in the worst stretch and shouted to me, “Thank you again, Mah Man. I won’ foget!”
I waved as he walked towards a huddle of hos and yos before a boarded up wood frame house and the bus made off for its destination.
At I last got off at the Urgent Care door and hobbled in, some dozen of the diverse staff openly horrified at my pain levels as my every muscle was quivering with the effort of using the crutches. The x-ray techs complimented me on not crying or passing out when they forced my knee straight and my legs open, bumping fists and saying, “You were a trooper in there.”
The white queen though, Doctor Karen Manhate, MD. MP, she did a minimal check, threw my ace bandage in the trash and asked me if I wanted pain pills.
“No, I just want to know I’m not tearing the knee apart doing the upper leg and hip rehab.”
Her look of disgust, that had been etched on her face ever since I told her that I did this taking a city bus with a rucksack on, intensified. She dismissed with the news that the knee only had slight arthritis and instructions to rest for two weeks.
The sedan sent to pick me up arrived and I have been trying to evolve back into a biped ever since.
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