Faux Pas Pill

by admin on August 11, 2011

Before I explain the etiquette breach, I must explain why it happened. I was recently diagnosed with a GI condition that requires medication to be taken three times a day, while I try to do this in private, there are times when I must simply take a pill when I am on public transportation.

I was riding the bus home from work, and realized that the time meant it was time for me to take my medication. I opened my purse, took out a pill and took a small sip of water and resumed listening to music.

Then I became aware of someone tapping my shoulder and saying “Excuse me miss?” very loudly. I took off my headphones and saw an older man who looked very annoyed with me, and before I could ask what faux pas I had committed he demanded to know what I had just put into my mouth. This left me stunned and I stuttered that it was medication, hoping that this would suffice.

Well no, it didn’t. Instead he began yelling at me for poisoning my body, making myself more ill than I already was and I was also extremely stupid for seeing a doctor when there were remedies from the “Far East” that EVERYONE knew about. He had me blocked in so that I could not leave my seat without physically putting my hands on him.

I was used to people offering uninvited medical opinions when they knew I was ill, and many people, while well-meaning were rude, off-putting, unhelpful and ridiculous, I’ve never had someone feel so strongly about it that they needed to block my possible exit, yell at me and call me stupid.

Thankfully, two passengers came to my aid, one grabbing the man and moving him away from me and the other flagging the attention of the bus driver who promptly pulled over and told the man to get off the bus immediately.

I thanked all three and went home, feeling extremely confused and upset.

What he was unaware of is that I suffered from this condition for 7 years, I was originally ignored by my doctor and only when I switched doctors did this new doctor take me seriously, and she referred me to a GI specialist who ran several painful tests and finally determined the condition. My GI also worked with me in finding a medication that worked, with minimal adverse side effects and I cannot thank both doctors enough for helping me live a normal life.

I do not believe my behaviour was extreme or attention getting in the slightest, the pills are extremely small and a bottle of water cannot garner that much attention. I honestly don’t know what the best course of action would have been.

I understand the world of medicine is something that people often feel very strongly about, but this was unacceptable.    0803-11

I’m beginning to think I need to add a new category to the blog entitled, “Medical Malpractice”.

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

gramma dishes August 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Kitty Lizard ~~ I found your post quite disturbing. How incredibly awful that you would be treated like that by a group that claims to have such lofty morals and who supposedly care so much about one another. To not only reject you when they knew what had happened to you, but to also start rumors and lies about you is inconceivably reprehensible.

I’d be terribly tempted to write a letter to your local chapter telling them exactly as you have done here what happened to you and how you were treated, with a cc to the leader of the association at the national level. Such behavior and attitude by that organization is utterly disgraceful!

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Angela August 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm

A shout-out to the bus driver for handling the situation appropriately and promptly.

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Insomniac August 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm

RE: Clair Seulement’s comment:
I had a guy getting off the subway give me the finger because I refused to look when he exposed himself in front of me.

A college psychology professor I once had advised a very simple, very safe way to discourage and embarass exposers. Simply point and laugh. I’ve tried it. It works, and the exposer fled the scene at top speed.

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Insomniac August 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Unfortunately, I have several conditions which require many different medications, both injected and in pill form. I’ve taken pills unobtrusively in public before, and never have had a problem with anyone going ballistic on me, except for one poor soul who was convinced I was taking a controlled substance and I needed to share with her. (I made a quick right turn into the local police precinct and got rid of her speedily.)

Unfortunately, my biggest problem is with my parents. I am an only child who was severely over-protected. I was diagnosed with severe food allergies at an early age, which I have since outgrown or found they were misdiagnosed. Several years ago, I had to move back in with my parents after my then-husband divorced me. At the time, I was unable to live alone due to being confined to a wheelchair. My parents know exactly what my medical conditions are, and how they are being treated. However, they constantly try to convince me that my medical problems are caused by either 1) food allergies (this is mom’s favorite); or 2) being overweight (dad’s favorite). It’s hard to deal with their opinions when I have a hereditary blood disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, fibroyalgia, and spinal problems caused by an accident. I am constantly told that I take too much medication, that I have had way too much surgery, and that the only way I am ever going to get better is to lose weight (this I was told after losing – and keeping off for over two years – 220 pounds).

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karen August 11, 2011 at 8:32 pm

OP, you did NOTHING wrong. In fact, you were TOO polite to this man. Etiquette is one thing. Harassment is another.

When I was 21, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. *Luckily* after having a portion of my thyroid removed, I have been cancer free for over 10 years. However, the scar on my throat cause plenty of comment when it was fresh and raw. I had just moved to the South, where there is apparently no manners or boundaries, and many people would walk up to me and tell me that Jesus loved me, and that I shouldn’t try to kill myself again!

After a few episodes of atrocious behavior by complete strangers, I got very good at saying “My medical history is NOT your concern. Thank you”.

Practice that.

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Aje August 11, 2011 at 9:42 pm

kudos for the people who jumped to your aid! :D

In the words of my brother: That guy fell out of an ignorant tree and hit every branch on the way down!

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Reboot August 12, 2011 at 9:08 am

I agree with Raven. The man’s behaviour was reprehensible and entirely reminiscent of the sort of person who thinks that their favourite alternative medicine theory is the best, but I’m not seeing why it’s okay for everyone to be speculating on whether he might be mentally ill. I thought that was one of the no-nos of etiquette? He’s no more “obviously” crazy than the person who harangues someone for being the “wrong” religion, or the guy who gets in someone’s face for not smiling enough. Inappropriate and rude, definitely, and the OP certainly didn’t deserve to be harassed by him, but those traits are by no means confined to those of us who are non-neurotypical.

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Beth Erickson August 12, 2011 at 9:10 am

You go girl! Take care of yourself as you have been, and poo on those that object!

It’s nobody’s business but your own, and applause to the bus driver.

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Gracie C. August 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

I agree that the OP didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, but she shouldn’t have answered the man’s question. I know we all are often taken aback in these circumstance and answer what we assume is a harmless question, but anyone who will ask such a thing is going to have a follow up regardless of the answer. I doubt it will happen again, but the OP needs to practice the phrase, “That’s none of your concern.”

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Etta Kett August 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm

To the OP, you were more polite than necessary I think. In fact, my answer to the first question “What business is it of yours?” This person was beyond rude, and I have to echo the thought of posters previous. Many of those that suffer paranoid personality disorders are obsessed with medicine and the idea that we are controlled by a big pharmaceutical industry/government conspiracy that drugs us to keep us in line. These people are a extremely small minority but they do exist. They truly believe they are saving your life by keeping you from poisoning yourself.
I feel it is in no way rude to discreetly take a pill while say, riding public transportation where you are not interacting with others (in other words, say I’d excuse myself to the restroom while sitting at a fancy dinner party to do so). But as pharmaceuticals, like chemtrails and black helicopters, are triggers for paranoia, it’s sadly a risk you have to take if you pop a pill in a public place. I wonder though, if the guy would have hassled me for using my albuterol inhaler if I were to do so for an asthma attack. Unfortunately I can’t imagine myself acting politely at all in response.

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Enna August 13, 2011 at 9:53 am

Sorry to hear of your expirnces OP . Maybe this man had had a bad day or a mad moment due to stress: this doesn’t excuse what he did I just hope that he doesn’t do it again. The passansgers and driver who stepped into help it’s a shame more people don’t do this – this kind of behaviour helps to disencourage this negative behaviour throught neagtiev reinforcement.

As a diabetic when I was a teenager some firends thought it was “disgusting” that I would inject in public and not in the toliet. I said to them would you like a nurse to give you a vacsination in the toliet? Quoting a letter from a diabetic reader to a diabetic magazine about injecting in public “I don’t inject in my own clean toliet I’m not going to inject in public toliets which could be of quesitonable hygine.” Some places aren’t cleaned often enough, and even those which are, you can’t count on everyone following hygine guidence and common sense. It didn’t turn into an argurmeent although at a later date two firends said it was disgusting when I inejceted in Macdonalds. I told them as they knew I was diabetic they could have looked away and I am enttitlled to a social life. Then I got on with eating my lunch. That shut them up. It didn’t bother me so much as I weren’t really close to them anyway.

Also in addition about injecting.taking medication in publice: 1) injecting in a toliet would look more suspcious: another diabetic reader said she had gone to Turkey for holiday and went to the restuant/hotel toliets to inject and the chambermaid came in saw her and ran out of the toliet sceaming about drugs. 2) Hygine (see point above) 3) if I’m on my own if I go to inject in the toliet the chances are my food will get taken away and disposed off, if I try to inject before the food comes and it’s late I will go into problems. 4) I try to inject as discretely as possible anyway as some people are serioulsy needle -phobic 5) in the twelve years I have had the diabetes no stranger has every complianed as they don’t see due to point 4) or it doesn’t bother them.

Psyche I like this: “Remind those people who go on about miraculous Far East remidies that they include bear bile, ground up rhino horn, and the private parts of tigers.”

I also agree with Grandma Dishes on Kitty Lizard’s story.

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Ginger August 13, 2011 at 10:01 am

PS – I’m all for a “Medical Malpractice” section.
Could there be an “Etiquette Heaven” section for people who are opposite of what we usually see in these posts? The two passengers and the bus drivers were extremely cooperative and deserve a place in Etiquette Heaven :)

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Solstice August 13, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I’m so sorry that happened to you! The man was obviously mad as a March hare, and would have “gone off” about anything at all. The fact that he focused on YOU was just an unfortunate coincidence.

While it’s understandably upsetting, I hope you don’t take it personally, or give it another thought, really. You did nothing to “deserve it”.

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kelly August 15, 2011 at 9:54 am

I have epilepsy and it really annoys me that so many people have false assumptions about it. I can drive, go to discos and stare at strobe lights all I want, drink, and have a graduate degree, plus I know a lot about my condition (I have it, and I also have a neuroscience degree). yet people feel free to tell me what I can and cannot do, and not only that tell me that then I obviously do not really have epilepsy if i can go to discos etc, and completely dismiss symptoms of epilepsy because it does not fit their sterotypical idea that people with epilepsy all have the same type of seizures. Another time I read about a man who had a seizure and ended up being injured by a bystander who without first aid training tried to move him. Now it is very dangerous to do this, and often people with no first aid training will try to put something in someones mouth to hold down their tongue, and will try to move someone whilst they are having a seizure. When I read this story I made a comment about how much danger the bystander had put the person having the seizure in, and wrote what he should have done. I was bombarded with comments that epileptics should be grateful for any help, that everyone knows you should depress the tongue in case they swallow it, and that if people did not like it then they should stay at home. It is just really rude, and in some cases dangerous to make asusmptions like this.

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Wink-n-Smile August 15, 2011 at 10:20 am

Ginger – I LOVE the idea of Ettiquette Heaven. Ehelldame, perhaps we could get some of those stories on FeelGood Friday, from time to time? I like Friday, but my computer won’t let me see the videos, so a good story now and again, video-free, would be very nice.

And I agree with Gramma Dishes – write that letter to AA. How dare they treat you like that! Did you tell them (again – in person – at the meeting as they were kicking you out) that you had a stroke? Or was it just the sponsor who heard it once, and forgot or dismissed it?

Anyway, do you have to be clean at an AA meeting? I thought they were to help you GET clean, in the first place.

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Clair Seulement August 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm

@Insomniac Thanks for the advice! In this particular situation, I was scared to death–mefears that pointing and laughing at down-and-out exhibitionists in NYC could get one assaulted (unless it’s done in such a way as to convince the offender that you’re more of a loose cannon than he is. I’m not that confident in my acting abilities)!

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Maryann August 16, 2011 at 12:48 am

To the OP: You met a crazy person on a bus. (Not exactly a unique experience. Ride a public bus enough and it’ll happen eventually, at least in my experience.) Don’t think too hard on it, try not to let it get to you. The reactions of the other people – the two strangers who helped you and the driver – tell you everything you need to know.

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Enna August 16, 2011 at 10:40 am

@ Kelly, that is shocking! I would call an ambulance and follow instructions from a qualifed paramedic down the phone to the letter. Lots of people die due a lack of qualified first aiders.

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ES August 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm

This reminds me of the day I was 8.5 months pregnant, returning from a prenatal appointment, and eating my belated lunch on the subway (not the best manners, I know, but my blood sugar was plummeting). A rather intoxicated man across the aisle started berating me about “stuffing myself” and how I needed to lose weight. I reassured him that I was going to lose about 25 pounds in 2 weeks, very quickly. All the other riders in the car thought that was hilarious. Even after he saw me haul myself to my feet and waddle to the exit, he still didn’t figure it out.

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Mabel August 18, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Wow, that is just beyond rude and into crazy. That man’s behavior was totally not your fault.

Insomniac: re flashers…I always wanted to get flashed so I could peer down, squint and say “I’m so sorry, I didn’t bring my microscope with me today.” Ha!

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liz August 22, 2011 at 9:33 am

@ kitty lizard, grandma dishes, enna, & wink and smile.
What that AA group is bizarre and reprehensible. I’ve been in AA for over a year now and have seen plenty of people intoxicated at meetings, plenty of people who have relapsed and come back, & plenty of people with physical conditions that attract attention (for instance, a schizophrenic man’s medicine makes him drool but he’s been sober 15 years & no one comments). Turning their back on a person who they thinked relapsed is both bizarre and against the traditions of AA. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt but being rude to a person who the thinked relapsed is so contrary to the AA that I am a part of that I wonder if there’s more to the story? If AA where you are is really that ignorant and small minded, then I invitle you to DC where you’ll be wlecomed with open arms. Since aa groups are autonomous, I don’t know what you can do. They may have violated tradition 3 in spirit but unless they attempted to deny you membership, they might not have technically broken the tradition, thereby lending the AA name to a group that isn’t practicing AA traditions. I’d go back, and share about the traditions and hypocrisy, and call AA world services and ask what you can do. Also find a new sponsor! I’m so sorry this happened. AA in dc saved my life. Don’t quit before the mircale happens!

Tl;dr: how kitty lizard’s aa group acted is against the principles of aa & she should call aa world services, go back to the meeting and call them out, & try to find a new spoonsor and NOT DRINK!
(Sorry for typos, I’m writing on a new phone)

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Sick of Sickos October 8, 2011 at 1:33 am

That man was either insane or full of himself and his “superior” knowledge. You didn’t deserve that; nobody does!

I do wanna congratulate you for finding a good doctor who was able to diagnose your problem, and get you on a successful regimen of medication. I’ve had problems ever since I was a child and don’t have an official answer yet! Living through it is awful and I’m so happy you got better. For me, I don’t mind if people I’m talking to have some ideas or know about a treatment.

Unfortunately I’ve gotten a few not-so-nice responses to my losing weight because of the bad gut. One good friend (who I had told about my illness) wrote me a heart-felt letter where she pretty much called my illness a lie and that it’s obviously anorexia. Turned out the author was projecting — she had battled anorexia and was still weight-obsessed. Finally, I have it under control and have gained back most of the weight I lost. (I haven’t gained that friend back; we don’t hang out anymore. And I couldn’t be happier!)

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