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Watching the world go by

Yesterday I saw the saddest thing I’ve seen all year. Granted, that’s about 8 months of memories to sort through, but the only recent contender I recall is that flattened bird in the bank drive-through lane the other week which falls more under “gross” than just “sad.”

I was walking down the trail yesterday evening*, mostly done with my walk. I’m coming up to the red bridge across the river, when I see someone up ahead at the opening to the little dirt path that leads down to the river bank.

It’s a 400-pound man in a motorized scooter, just sitting as the joggers and bikers and in-line skater’s whiz by.

I should probably attribute the crunching sound I heard to the breaking of twigs I was trampling over, but it just might have been the sound of my heart breaking. Here was a man literally watching the world pass him by. He was a metaphor given flesh.

He was so large that there is no doubt in my mind he needed that scooter to get around and wasn’t just someone who’d taken a grocery store scooter for a joy ride. I doubt he would have been able to walk a half mile without getting winded. I know because I used to be almost as big as him and walking from a concert venue to a parking lot only half a mile away was my version of the Iron Man.

I didn’t get that good of a look because I was actively attempting not to stare at him like he was a rare white tiger exhibit at the zoo. But I was about as drenched in pity for him as if I’d fallen off the bridge right into the water. He was so clearly isolated even though he was surrounded by people. It made me wonder why he’d come out to the trail. Did he just like the weather and wanted to be outside like most of the people there? Was he involved in some sort of self-flagellation by watching people do what he could not? It seems rather cruel to rub your nose in it like that. He could have been there for some other reason that I can’t guess at. Maybe his battery had died.

While I have some concerns over how commonplace gastric bypass surgery has become these days, seeing a man in his situation made me want to grab some chloroform and a staple gun and do it myself. Okay, not really. At least not any more than I’d perform lipsuction on myself with the dustbuster. I exaggerate to make a point.

I also knew there wasn’t anything I could really do for the guy, much like seeing a wounded raccoon on the side of the road. So I just kept walking by, grateful that these days I’m part of the world passing by and not the one watching it.

* You should probably just amend this phrase to ever other entry I write these days. The trail is a great source of blogging material!

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13 Comments

KB • September 5, 2006 at 6:49 pm

I’ve been lurking for awhile and I have really enjoy following your plight. You have helped motivate me to get busy living and therefore I am on day 5 of SB. Thanks for the insight! Keep it coming I need all I can get.

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christie • September 5, 2006 at 8:06 pm

I know what you mean. I see a lot of really heavy women shopping in my store with walkers and an oxygen tank or something, and they’re probably in their 30’s only. But like 400 pounds or so. It’s really, really sad.

I am so glad that I’m working on making myself healthier so that I don’t end up like that. But it really does break my heart not being able to do anything to help.

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Monica (M.) • September 6, 2006 at 1:50 am

hey, dietgirl linked to you (under “elsewhere in fatblog land”)

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...jus me • September 6, 2006 at 2:08 am

I know what you mean…it is very sad! It breaks your heart. The sad truth is that it inprisons others in other ways, and they are not always visable, and you don’t have to be 400 pounds to be afflicted! Being overweight carries it’s own things to live with.

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Mark • September 6, 2006 at 8:22 am

When did grocery store scooters appear? As someone who lives overseas, I have frequently had Rip Van Winkle experiences when returning to the U.S., and walking into a grocery store a few years ago and seeing scooters for people to ride was one of them — my jaw dropped.

I figured it was just because my family had moved to one of the fattest places in America (rural Maryland) from Los Angeles, and maybe scooters were an obese rural tradition — especially considering the obviously high number of amputees. But apparently, while I was away and not paying attention, they became normal everywhere.

Was there some court ruling under the Americans with Disabilities Act that provoked this? Or maybe it’s just the sudden increase in obese people who are not completely mobile, yet not to the state that they are completely trapped in the house on a hospital bed in the living room typing Peapod orders on their computer.

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Debbie • September 6, 2006 at 9:52 am

Some years ago, I was in a mall food court. I saw a fella who had to have been at least 400 lbs. He was in a wheelchair, totally unable to walk on his own. He had a relative or friend with him, who had obviously just bought him a huge fast food meal, and he was busy chowing down.

All I could think was, “Slow suicide.” It’s really, really sad.

And I felt I was a prisoner in my own body at my top weight of 220. I can’t even imagine.

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v'ron • September 6, 2006 at 1:17 pm

I remember, at my peak of 245, and even more when I was pregnant, the physical pain, especially in my lower back, of carrying that much weight. There’s that day at WW when you mutter that 20 pounds isn’t much (245-20=225, you’re still fat!) until they tell you to carry a 20 pound sack of potatoes around and after 5 minutes you’re like, OK, you got me, 20 pounds is a lot. So I can only imagine the physical pain that somebody who has to carry upwards of 300 has.

Sometimes I’m at the Y, and I’m in the whirlpool in the women’s room, and a very large woman will join me in there, and I’ll remember how good it felt, when I was pregnant and my back hurt like the dickens, just to be floating in some water to take the pressure off. Outside of the humiliation of having the water level go down 5 inches upon exiting, I never really pitied these women, because at this point, they’re at the Y, they’re *doing* something about it, and they’re getting a nice reward for schlepping to the Y, doing a workout, and such. But I do feel bad for these morbidly obsese people who won’t (or possibly, because of issues I’m unaware of) can’t. The physical pain is hauling all that around is bad enough, emotionally, I have enough demons myself in the low 200s. But what spurs someone to believe it will ever get better? I look at someone like Akkasha, who started out in the 300s, and she just celebrated goal (165) this year and cheer loudly, not only for reaching her goal, but for finding whatever it was that made her believe she could. That’s what I think the source of the sadness for morbidly obese people is– I’ve just begun to believe I can ever do this, at my start. How does one step out of a whirlpool after losing 20 pounds, with the water level still dropping five inches, and believe that its ever going to get better? You look at a 400 pound person riding a scooter and cry because overall, they appear to have just lost hope.

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Greta • September 7, 2006 at 12:46 am

I think it hits you in the gut so hard, and the rest of us, too, because we’ve either been in his shoes or have been at least a little bit in his shoes.

My sister has to ride a scooter due to disability brought about by excessive weight and she never seems to compare herself to walkers. She’s happy for where the scooter takes her. I could see her going outdoors on the scooter and then stopping somewhere in contemplation. At my sister’s weight with attendant walking disability she has learned to live a more contemplative life. She never liked walking when she was thinner and she doesn’t envy walkers their walks though she might like to be ABLE to walk.

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Patty • September 7, 2006 at 1:16 am

I know what you mean. Seems lately everywhere I notice people that are 400 lb. plus. At the Y also, I see ladies and men going in the pool but not really doing the water aerobics but at least they are trying. One lady had trouble just getting down the stairs into the pool and was hooked up to oxygen but managed to go around the edge of the pool with help from her daughter. I could see she felt uncomfortable with all the kids splashing around and just felt real sorry for her. Then another man was at the post office ahead of me and maybe like 400-500 lbs. and could barely walk and then huffing and puffing. He got in his car and I saw the alabama license and was remembering that they are like #1 in obese people in that state. I feel for these people and now at 215 I’m not skinny minnie but there’s not way I will get that big. I don’t want to ever not be able to walk well due to my size and be a walking time bomb for a heart attack. I don’t know what else to say, it just makes me sad.

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Jen • September 7, 2006 at 12:47 pm

If you were near the red bridge over the river heading into/from Broad Ripple, I know exactly the man you’re talking about, and have seen him there before, myself. I remember just feeling such sorrow and pity for him that he can’t, even on a scooter, really truly get out on the trail to enjoy the experience as others can. Not just physically I’m sure, but emotionally as well. So very sad…

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Melissa D • September 13, 2006 at 10:22 pm

I thought it was very self-absorbed that you would think that the man in the wheelchair was “watching the world go by” just because he was fat–do fat people not have a life they chose to live…as limited it may be for some? Even with me being morbidly obese now, I am still living life as fully as I possibly can. It may not be in the way you believe you are living, but it is surely with dignity, respect, love of life, and love of self. I was really disheartened by your comment about this. I hope my heart never changes inside because I don’t want to spoil another’s view of life when mine seems so much better than theirs.

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PastaQueen • September 13, 2006 at 11:53 pm

Melissa D – To clarify about my entry, the reason I felt bad for the man in the scooter wasn’t because he was fat, it was because his obesity limited his mobility. This inmobilty made it impossible for him to join in with the joggers and in-line skaters and bikers that he was watching. So in a very literal sense he *was* watching the world go by. He wasn’t one of the people walking the path, he was off to the side.

If I’d just seen this man on a bus or out and about living his life despite his obesity, I wouldn’t have assumed he was watching the world go by. But in this specific scenario it was clear that his obesity was limiting his ability to live his life, which is why it made me sad. While it’s possible that he is living his life fully in other areas, it was clear that in this area he was not. More than anything, it reminded me of all the ways I let my obesity stop me from living my life in all the ways I wanted to, which struck me the most.

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Dana • July 31, 2009 at 4:00 pm

I understand why you felt bad for him but to want to do bariatric surgery on someone is just inexcusable. While it does work for some people the risk of death is just too high. You actually have more of a chance to die from your stomach being maimed than you do from being fat, unless you’re like 1000 pounds or something, and even then I’d wonder.

The sad part is that if the frigging doctors, frigging government, and frigging media would actually bone up on the science of obesity and weight loss instead of chanting “eat less and exercise” like some boneheaded mantra or a Soundtrack of Stupidity, obese people COULD feel like they could do something about it. What’s more, they would avoid getting obese in the first place.

Whether he can carry that weight, he’s got no energy because his fat stores keep suckin’ up his calories before his lean tissues can use them. He’s not ever going to feel like exercising because nobody ever told him how to stop that from happening. But then most people *don’t* know, more’s the pity.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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