Is There Any Decency Left?

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Six hours of sleep is not usually enough for my body to function properly. But, I was motivated to rise because it was Meals on Wheels Saturday.

I went to bed 2:15 in the morning following a long day. It began with me asking an able bodied woman to move her purse so I could sit it the handicapped section on the train. She merely slid it over so I sat on part of it the entire ride. I followed that with a frustrating day at work. Afterwards, I headed to a Ladies Night gathering.

I limped, cautiously, up three floors then a spiral staircase inside of my condition-worker/friend Ashley’s apartment to the rooftop. My neuropathy made the trek
dangerous but when I got the top I knew the risk was worth it. I was in a grass covered oasis. The sun went down, her table top fireplace shined bright, wine was poured, snacks were eaten and stories were told. Before I knew it, it was after 11 pm.

The Mets game was over by the time I arrived at NY Penn Station. I moved around on tingling feet trying to escape from screaming, pushing, obnoxious drunks for a half an hour until my train was announced.

I wanted my long day to end so I decided to take a cab when I got to Newark. Two African cab drivers began speaking to each other. Then, one of them shouted, “You pay ten dollars.”

“Ah no! The law says you’re supposed to run your meter to determine the fare. I’ve taken a cab before and its six dollars.”
“You pay ten or no cab.”
“No cab.”

I waited the half hour for the next light rail train at 1:15 then I walked home, wondering if I’d oversleep. I didn’t. I woke up thinking that the woman on train, the drunks and the cab drivers made me yearn for more decency. So I decided to project the behaviors I wanted to be surrounded by like compassion and generosity. I happily delivered meals to seniors then my mother I filled book bags for homeless children.

#MealsOnWheels #DisneyVoluntears #Newark #NJTransit #Mets #disability #neuropathy #autoimmunedisease #chronicpain #chronicillness #BackToSchool

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Fear of the Unknown

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6:35 pm I walked out of work and realized I couldn’t read the Kiehl’s store sign across the street. It was odd because I have 20/20 vision; one of the few things my autoimmune condition doesn’t usually effect. 

I shook my head, wiped my eyes and put pressure on the veins inside my eye sockets in an effort to clear my vision before I got to the number one train on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.   

For a second, I thought that I might get dizzy and fall onto the tracks. So I took a few steps back from the edge and inhaled deeply a few times. I waited for the train then took it to Penn Station. 

I boarded my NJ Transit train and slumped into a seat. By then, I was weak, shaky and my eyesight was even cloudier. 

I could barely see the gap between the train and the platform when I got off at Newark Penn Station. Every step down the stairs was extremely cautious; every block home looked like a tunnel. When I finally got home, I collapsed on my bed. 

At 5 am, a stabbing pain in the left side of my head woke me from my sleep. I I took pain meds but nothing helped.  So, I tossed and turned in pain until 9 am.

By then, I was up and out, waiting to hear of I was having my third stroke. Sitting there alone, I wondered how I’d get home or care for myself if my condition worsened. 

Thankfully, I didn’t have another TIA. Central nervous system issues caused the muscle contractions and sharp pains in my head, neck and shoulders that were unbearable when combined with my usual knee and lower back pain. 

Now, I’m checking my blood pressure hourly to look for sudden spikes. I’m also taking Fioricet and Tramadol every four hours. But, I have no medicine for the concern that fills my heart because my body is so unpredictable. 

Small Victories

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I contemplated taking the bus home. I was exhausted and sweaty following my three quarter of a mile walk to Dunkin Donuts. I avoided going for my weekend strolls since the doctor began procedures to block some nerves in my spine running to my legs and inject cortisone to reduce the inflammation narrowing the gap between vertebrae. I suppose I doubt my cane would hold me if my leg gave way as I wound my way up and down hills. Flat surfaces didn’t faze me. I did then every day with ease.

It took me up noon and boredom with an episode of “Columbo” to convince to pick up my third leg and venture outside. I headed down hill slowly, cautiously placing the cane slightly in front of me then I’d take step. My sneakers helped me grip the ground as I felt gravity pulling me forward. Blocks after block I gained confidence until I reached level ground in front of the Rite Aid. The last few blocks keeping me from my caffeine fix were easy.  But once I stopped moving inside the Dunkin Donuts, I felt sweat beads rolling down the center of my back; that was the first moment I considered I was doing too much.

I brought a bag to put my breakfast sandwich in. After all, I needed my left hand to hold my coffee and the right for my cane. Once it was done, I stuffed the brown paper bag into the canvas tote; that’s when I realized to get out of the store one must push the door. I didn’t have a hand free. So, I stuck my cane between my legs, snatched the door open and caught it with my foot; this allowed me grasp my cane again and limp out. The whole time the two workers behind the counter made no attempt to help me.

The sunlight reflect off the chrome on my cane as I turned on to Washington Street. Luckily, I was the only one on the street, except for cars at the stop light. One of them was a WNBC live truck.  Since I work for a rival TV station, I barely looked at it. I hobbled on one more block before the truck pulled over to the curb. I could hear the driver shouting my name but I couldn’t see him. I wish I could say I media tell recognized the voice but I didn’t. I did know the face once Baron jumped out with his arms outstretched.
Barron and I had worked together when he worked as a cameraman at WABC; but that was so long time ago. We saw each other intermittently over the years. Mostly, we kept tabs on each other lives through Facebook. In fact, I wasn’t sure he knew much about mine until he told me read my blog. I was a bit relieved and less insecure about my cane because I realized then he already knew I was dependent on one. We chatted for a few moments then said our goodbyes. As he pulled away, I thought, it’s a good thing I didn’t givers and decided to walk otherwise I would’ve missed seeing him; and that would’ve been a shame since I hadn’t seen or spoken to another human beings since I left work on Friday night.
Less the two minutes later, I turned onto Market Street, the hardest part of my journey. My route home was all uphill from here.
I started off string, passing Essex Community College and the first court house without breathing heavy. At the top, I crossed street, walking over the same cobblestone on which I’d fallen a few earlier when my leg suddenly gave out. I admit, every step brought more and more anxiety. But, before I knew it is reached the other side without incident.
I made my way over to my final hill. To the left, I noticed my “rocky” stairs. Okay, they weren’t nearly as tall outside the Philadelphia Art Museum but there was a statute at the top.  Plus, I knew if I could climb them without using a railing I’d feel like Rocky Balboa. I looked around to make sure no one was watching in case I didn’t make it then I hit the stairs. I was wobbly and the cane struck the marble a few times, causing several loud bangs. Yet, I made it to the top. I swung my cane in the air like a crazy old woman them bent over to catch my breath. As soon as I realized how ridiculous I was being, I made my way back down, picked my coffee cup off the ledge, and continued up the hill towards home.
The final, steep part of my walk ended in front of a water fountain in a park honoring a veteran. I paused letting the mist from it cool me down. I didn’t even care that it was drizzling my hair out, turning it into an out of control curly Afro.
There was just one more street to cross before I reached my townhouse and stared at the twelve stairs leading my front door. I thought about just sitting down on the brick wall until I could collect myself.  However I knew that would just delay the inevitable; I would have to climb those stairs and the ones to my first floor before I could truly rest.
So, I took a deep breath and began my assent. I really wasn’t as bad I thought. The chill from the air conditioning provided an incentive for me to hurry up the last flight of stairs. I was in, my trek was over and nothing bad happened to me.
I flopped down on the sofa and thought my strong will drove me to find a way to get through another obstacle, this time my walk. Then, I chuckled as I caressed my cane, too bad I have another back procedure tomorrow and will have to recuperate all over again. In that moment, I was just glad for the small victories.
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About the author

Nika C. Beamon is a journalist working in New York. She is the author of Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House, about her quest yogic the correct medical diagnosis. In 2009, Chicago Review Press published her non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married.  She is also the author of two mystery novels.

Brick City Is Bleeding

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I hustled off the train at Newark Penn station with the throngs of commuters from Manhattan, grateful, like them, to almost be home. Unlike the sea of milky white faces in front me, I wasn’t going over to track five to take the train further out into New Jersey’s suburbs. I call Brick City home. Newark is a place my co-workers frequent only when we are covering violence or destruction of some sort: a shooting, carjacking, fire or brawl.

I’ve lived here in peace for ten years, quietly residing in a townhouse in a semi gated community with its own private security, tennis courts, and clubhouse and fancy cars parked out front. The home security system that came with my unit isn’t the only thing making me feel safe. I’m surrounded by officers working at the courthouse and hordes of security cameras. Of course the faces of other professionals and families thankful to have a portion of the American dream, even if it’s not in my dream neighborhood, is comforting too. For me, there are two added bonuses: a nearby hospital should my chronic condition flare up and multiple ways to reach New York City. As a working journalist, missing a story because of transportation issues isn’t a valid excuse. So I walk the mile and a quarter to New Jersey transit, the path train or the bus, if I can’t drive.

Today, I walked out of Newark own station, leaving behind all of my fellow commuters and made sure I had on my mean face. I adorn my scowl on the streets of Newark so beggars won’t repeatedly ask me for money, men won’t hit on me despite my engagement ring and no one will think I’m an easy target to rob or violate in any other way. In a decade, I’ve only had to let the angry black woman inside me loose on a couple of occasions but I stay ready.

The haze from the clouds above made the air chilly as I crossed Route 21 and hurried passed the Prudential Center, which is often teeming with people who don’t ordinary come to my city. I slowed down in front of the new restaurants, some open and some being built, just in time to exchange a smile with an Asian family; three people who I wouldn’t have seen on that street a few years ago when most of the area downtown was pretty barren. I admit I hesitated walking in the city I made my home for a couple of years until I started to see businesses that hadn’t existed here since the riots of the sixties returned. In fact, the first new grocery store hadn’t long opened long before I arrived.

When I bought my home, there were blocks and blocks of empty lots, shells of buildings, and very few places to shop so I didn’t. I hopped in my car and went to other cities and towns to spend my money. It wasn’t until legendary Mayor Sharpe James was on his way out and Cory Booker passed through that I saw real growth, a decline in violence and hope for the place where I’d invested my hard earned cash; only then did I start to walk around and get to know my surroundings. Around this same time, I began my daily pilgrimages to and from work. Nothing about my daily walk seemed out of the ordinary on this Thursday until I crossed Broad and Market Street. The man selling loose cigarettes stood oddly silent next to eyeglass place. The man with the bootleg movies on the blanket in front of Footlocker was packing up, unusually early. While people filed on the two buses at the stop in front of the stores while gazing backwards.

I looked over at the twenty year olds crowded outside the empty storefront which used to be Conway’s and saw two men in the ground. The dark skinned man appeared dazed but unharmed. The other man, who had a honey tone, was slumped over bleeding from the head. He wasn’t talking and his eyes were fluttering yet no one seemed to be helping him. Actually several members of the crowd laughed and talked about how messed up he seemed. I felt my conscience tugging at me as I continued pass, unsure if I should stop and provide first aid. I fumbled through the top of my bag and realized I didn’t have plastic gloves. I quickly decided exposing my fragile immune system to a stranger’s blood wasn’t a wise decision so I kept walking.  By the time I reached the corner, I couldn’t live with my choice. So, I grabbed my cell phone out my pocket and dialed 911.

“Ma’am, I’m calling because there’s a man with a severe head wound on the ground near Broad and Market.”

“Please hold for EMS,” said the operator.

I waited nearly three minutes for a man to pick up.

“What’s your emergency?” Said the operator.

I repeated the details about the bloody man left to suffer on the corner by callous residents. My disdain for the people I’d seen standing by crept out; that is until the operator informed me he’d received several calls about the victim and help was on the way.

Momentarily, I was disappointed that I’d judged the people I’d passed on the street, assuming they’d do nothing to help someone who was clearly in need. My attitude changed when I heard the roar of the ambulance siren in the distance. Then, it hit me. I was swelling with pride; glad to know I was from a city that may appear rough and cold but is actually filled with compassionate people who won’t stand by while anyone in Brick City is bleeding.

#Newark

#NYC

#NewYorkCity

#ems

#911

#journalism

About the author:

Nika C. Beamon is a veteran journalist working in New York City.  She’s the author of the new memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search For Dr. House.  In 2009, Chicago Review Press released her non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married.  She is also the author of two mystery novels.

Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

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When and why did rudeness become the norm? Whether the behavior occurs because of someone’s deliberate actions, indifference or someone’s choice to be oblivious to everyone around them, there are very few basic courtesies left.

There’s no better place to see glaring examples of people who forget how effective please and thank you can be when utilized correctly and often than at New York or New Jersey Penn Stations at the height of the weekend commute. People parade through as if getting to their destination is far more important than anyone else’s, regardless of age, pregnancy status, physical impairment, race or religion; these ride people will bowl anyone over if it means getting to a train, seat or just the front of the platform. Even worse, they sit on the outside of a double or triple seat and exhale if you ask them to move over so you can rest too. And, forget the people with their bags on the seat, feet up, or have a loud cellphone conversation; to them you don’t even exist. But, nothing makes me angrier than getting practically knocked down by a grown man. To me, there should never be a time when a man brushes pass a woman to walk through the door she opened, grab the last seat from her or squeeze in to an overly packed train or bus so his parts, which should be reserved for a significant other, are touching me.

I’m not even going to really discuss the people who burp or fart but don’t say excuse me. The ones who sneeze or cough in the air without covering their mouths. And, there are the people who sit on top of you, touching your body, without trying to slide over or apologize for violating your personal space.

This is not to say that New York City subway riders are much better commuter rail riders. The difference is slight. However bus riders tend to be the worst at rush hour. They ignore signs that instruct proper etiquette like giving up seats to the elderly, handicapped or pregnant. In fact, the majority of the time, the only people I encounter during my commute that say, “Excuse me. Please or Thank You,” are homeless people unaware that they’re asking a woman with an autoimmune disease, struggling to get to work and keep a roof of her head, for cash.

No, most of the people I see walk with the heads down engrossed in their smartphone, tablet, newspaper, magazine or with their headphones so loud whatever horrible song they’re listening to get stuck in my head. A good portion don’t look around them while walking and texting or talking so they slam into you as if you were both in bumper cars. When that happens to me I give them a nasty, some would say a stereotypical angry black woman, look and continue on. If the impact is enough to annoy me, I demand an apology by saying, “you could apologize or at least say excuse me.”

Then, there is the march to the exit off the train which usually involves hordes of people jockeying for space as if they are in traffic; maneuvering their bodies into the slightest space. This amazes me because all the effort usually only puts this desperate soul only one escalator step or two above me. When I feel like engaging someone who has stepped on my foot or bumped into me to get there, I say, “you were must’ve been late when you left home but if this cutting in front of me means that much to you go right ahead.”

I found leading by example does shame some people into behaving better. I can’t tell you how many times, despite my aching joints, I’ve given up my seat or let someone go ahead of me. Often I look around and see smiles or get a nod of praise by the other people who failed to do the same.

In these moments, my faith in humanity is restored because I know I’m not the only person with “home training.” I just wish more people would slow down, be less self-involved and practice good manners. Until then, I will ask the same questions as the reggae band Magic: Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

Thank you for reading this.

Nika C. Beamon is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House. In 2009, her first non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful, Single Black Women Speak Out was published by Chicago Review Press. She’s also the author of two mystery novels.

#WhyYouGottaBeSoRude #nyc #Newark #misdiagnosed #ChronicIllness #Nikabeamon #magic