Monday, March 23, 2015

My MS Radar and Other Intuitive Devices

Kim and I attended a wedding in Massachusetts last summer. Throughout the ceremony and at the reception, I noticed a lady in her thirties using forearm crutches. My MS radar came on, and I grew confident.

I encountered her when we were both leaving, and I asked, “MS?”


Score! We enjoyed a long conversation where we compared notes about how we’ve dealt with the disease. I gave her an iBot demonstration and told her about my blog. Good stuff.

Fast-forward to this past Friday night. Kim and I participated in happy hour at the Snow Squall, as we often do. I saw a lady work her way through the crowd using forearm crutches. As Kim and I ate our meal, I stole glances at her to try to figure out if she had MS. I couldn’t decide. There was something about her that made me think she might not, but then again…

As we prepared to leave, I took a chance. “Excuse me for interrupting, but I was admiring your forearm crutches. I have a pair just like those. I’m curious if you have the same condition that I have.”

“Oh, you’re not interrupting. What condition do you have?”

“Multiple sclerosis. And you?”

“I have nerve damage from radiation treatment that I received forty years ago.”

I wasn’t embarrassed. She was a sweet lady, and Kim and I spoke with her for ten minutes before we left. Because I’m so obviously disabled, I get a pass on what would normally have been a social faux pas.

The next day, I said to Kim, “There was something about that lady at the Snow Squall last night that made me unsure if she had MS, even before we spoke to her, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“I know what you mean. I think she looked too…healthy.”

“That’s it!”

Progressive MS kicks your ass in a variety of ways. By the time you have visible walking problems, you’re no longer as perky, energetic, or healthy looking as this woman was.

One setback won’t discourage me from approaching people in the future who I think may have MS. There’s such a huge upside if I’m right. Meeting new MS friends is always rewarding.

Not only am I proficient at guessing if someone has MS. I also have strong gaydar. I can tell if a person is straight or gay almost immediately. I know, it shouldn't matter, and it doesn't. It's just the way my brain works. Incidentally, I'm a big supporter of gay rights, and I have lots of gay friends and readers.

We used to own a Ford Explorer. The mileage got high, and the maintenance bills piled up, so we decided to sell it. I advertised on Craigslist and divulged the known problems.

I received an email from Jessie, and she wanted to come look at the vehicle the next day.

There was a light, steady rain falling when Jessie knocked on the door. I invited her in. She was medium height, stocky build, short haircut. She asked me detailed questions about the vehicle. This woman knew way more about cars than I did. My gaydar started twitching, but I was far from certain.

Jessie seemed trustworthy, so I handed the keys to her so she could take the Explorer for a drive. Being in a wheelchair, I couldn’t exactly accompany her. She drove around for about ten minutes, returned, and crawled underneath the vehicle for quite some time. She didn't mind the rain. The brake fluid was low, so she went to the local NAPA Auto Parts store, bought some fluid, topped off the reservoir, and crawled back under to see if there were any leaks in the brake lines.

Satisfied, she came in the house to start the negotiations. We went back and forth a little bit and agreed on a price. The vehicle was registered in both my name and Kim’s, so we needed Kim’s signature, but she was at work.

Jessie said, “Well, my partner will be picking me up in a few minutes. I can take the paperwork to Kim at her school so she can sign it.”

Ding, ding, ding. The word “partner” was all my gaydar needed to hear. I am so good, I thought to myself. I just see things other people don’t.

It so happened that there was a gay-rights referendum on the ballot that year in Maine, and the election was only a few weeks off. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to get a perspective on the issue from a member of the LGBT community.

“I’m curious to know, how excited are you about the gay-rights referendum? If it passes, will it make a big difference in your life?”

“I don’t know what you’re implying, but for your information I’ve been married to my husband for twelve years and we have two children.”

“But, but,” I stammered. “You said partner…”

“My BUSINESS partner. My business partner is coming to pick me up in ten minutes.”

It served me right for stereotyping. I backtracked and apologized and tried to extract my foot from my mouth. Jessie let me off the hook and we continued with the transaction. I called Kim to explain that the buyer would be arriving shortly with paperwork to sign.

I added, “Don’t ask her if she’s a lesbian. I already did, and she’s not.”

“You didn’t.”

“Oh yeah I did.”

You know what else I bet I'm good at? Guessing if women are pregnant. I'm going to try that next.


  1. Love reading your posts, this one had me chuckling!

    1. I'm glad I could brighten your day a little bit.

  2. Regarding your certainty that you can tell if someone is pregnant, I would advise caution. My best friend of many years, but who I had not seen for a while because I had moved away, came to see me. She had never been bone thin by any stretch of the imagination, but it did look as if she now had a baby bump. "M---," I exclaimed, "you're pregnant! How wonderful!" There was a profound silence. Whereupon she informed me that, no, she was not pregnant. Conversation after that became very awkward. So, yeah, be careful.

    1. No, upon further review I guess I won't start trying to guess which women are pregnant. That might be dangerous to my health.

  3. We have all put our foot in our mouth before, sometimes our entire leg and foot have been put in our mouth. As I've always told my husband "you never ever, ever, ever ask a woman if she is pregnant. Even if she looks like she might be carrying a baby hippo around in her stomach." Inevitably you will be wrong. Kathy

    1. I knew this would be a post everyone could identify with at some level. Like you said, we've all caught foot in mouth disease before

  4. This gave me some much-needed laughs! I guess MS made you bolder? took away that filter? I've learned never to assume anything and to keep my mouth shut.

    1. yes, MS has made me bolder. Who is going to be offended by someone in a wheelchair? And I make the most of it!

  5. I can only echo what Kim said - "Oh no, you didn't".
    And you know what they say about the word "assume".
    Keep makin' us laugh - oh Mister radar, gaydar!