To the woman who tried to publicly shame me,
Good morning. We didn’t get to say good morning to one another on the elevator this morning. I know it’s frustrating that it’s only Thursday, that it’s gloomy out, that the building always has so much air conditioning that you have to wonder if Hell may have frozen over.
I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself. I was already in the elevator when you stepped on, and my floor’s subtenant was also already in the lift. We have common interests such as Shark Week, so we were already deep into a conversation about the dead shark that was found on an N train recently. (Did you hear about that? Someone gave it a Red Bull, a Metrocard, and a cigarette! Hipsters!) I can only assume you were leaning in to eavesdrop on this conversation, looking for your moment to strike, when you heard it. Your entry point.
My knuckle cracked.
Now, I hadn’t twisted my fingers together to let loose a cracking avalanche inflicting such auricular torment that is usually only reserved for Mariah Carey during her most divalicious moments. I think I had my hand on the railing of the elevator, and the lift wiggled. Body parts move. Sometimes they make noises. Rest assured that I was not trying to get your attention when my knuckle committed sonic mutiny. I’m a good girl. My family didn’t raise me like that.
“Stop THAT,” you snapped, barely turning to look at me.
“Stop what?” I asked, since I could not tell if you had a shark phobia and wished for us to end our conversation. Maybe you didn’t believe in talking on elevators. I didn’t know.
“THAT.” If words could gesture, yours would have been stabbing its serifs at my digits. “THAT will give you arthritis.”
Do you have a traumatic history with the words “cracking your knuckles?” Are you allergic? If you say it three times, will it happen again? Did you mistake me for Beetlejuice? If so, I understand your confusion since I am wearing a striped shirt, but my top is grey and black horizontal stripes, whereas he favored black and white vertical stripes. If only you’d introduced yourself, we could have cleared that up easily!
I’m sorry I laughed at your intensity. Arthritis is hardly infrequent in my family, and I myself have been treated for “arthritis-like” pain in the past. I was in 4th grade and could hardly stand from the pain. Though all the symptoms I described sounded like arthritis, I did not have the joint damage or physical signs that would lead to a diagnosis. I was afraid my cracking bones had led to me being bed-bound for days. The doctor told me this simply wasn’t true. Based on my firsthand knowledge and continued research, I asserted, “That’s not true.”
“It is,” you insisted. “I’ve read research.”
“So have I,” I said. You were older than me, perhaps in your forties or fifties, and this is a respectable skyscraper. I felt my confidence begin to drain because it was entirely possible you worked in or with medicine. Maybe you knew more recent research than I did.
“You’ll see,” you pressed smugly. “Come see me in twenty years!” You paused dramatically, then added, “YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS CONVERSATION!”
Mostly I remember the awkward silence that followed since we were still several stops from your floor. Skyscrapers, what a bitch.
I’ll admit that you made me feel bad, stranger. You belittled me in front of a colleague. You treated me like a child and assumed I knew nothing. You spoke with such indignation and anger that you created doubt within me. I doubted myself and let your negativity in, and even when my companion said, “That was really rude” and “I bet her face will still look the same in twenty years, eesh,” I only took minimal relief.
But I want to thank you. Because of you, I’ve been doing some research. Maybe I don’t have access to unreleased medical studies yet, but the BBC, MSN, WebMD, Discovery Health, Medical News Today, and The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center all agree with me that your arthritis claims are bogus. Doctor Donald Unger cracked the knuckles in one hand for over sixty years without doing so to the other, and he developed no problems in either hand. I could be wrong, even with all of this evidence (or lack thereof) to back me up. I’m open to it. If you would like to correct me should we meet again, please do, but perhaps you could exercise a bit more kindness. Maybe you’d be happier if you watched Sharknado. It worked for us.
Also, I’m going to crack my knuckles in front of you deliberately next time. Because you’re a bitch.