Pole Dancing

DSC_0313The transit system in our city, as I imagine in many cities, is a popular route for travel. In a world where cars are polluting our environment on a daily basis, we strive to live an environmentally friendly life and public transit is our tool. There are always peak times for transit, usually mornings (7-9 am) and evenings (3-6pm) are the busiest times, the times we call “rush hour” although there’s never any rush about it. These are the times when buses are full and seats are limited. To help stabilize the “standees” buses have several poles and handles for passengers to grip. There are a few base poles (floor to ceiling) and there are rubber handles that dangle from ceiling poles. For the blessedly tall, these ceiling poles and handles are easy to grab – for the vertically challenged, they are not within comfortable reach – and herein lies the difficulty to someone with arthritis.

Bus drivers fill their vehicles with as many passengers as they can during peak periods, and when the stream of people crowd on, we all jostle towards the back, filling in every gap, sometimes being supported by a throng of bodies; during this shuffling I am pushed away from my coveted spot at the solid pole and forced to reach overhead to grab the flexible rubber handles; for someone with arthritis, stretching the arms overhead and holding them there for any length of time can be a challenge. Tender fingers and sore shoulders suffer under the taut grip of supporting the body, keeping it upright and balanced on a moving vehicle; flexibility is compromised. On a bad day, the pain is intolerable – never mind the sudden stops that tug on the suspended arm, seemingly ripping it from its socket. This is trouble for the person with RA. Stiff rigid joints don’t have the suppleness to easily grasp and hold a rubber handle for any length of time. DSC_0314

I have trained in many types of dance throughout my life, but this kind of dancing is a bit beyond my reach.


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  1. carlascorner on June 16, 2014 at 6:40 am

    Having a replaced left shoulder and multiple rotator cuff surgeries on the right (and being 5’3″), I can’t imagine being a “strap hanger” for my daily commute. Dallas doesn’t have public transit to speak of, but I really enjoy visiting cities that do. Since I tend to avoid the rush-hour crowds, I’m usually fortunate enough to either grab a seat or at least a pole. “Hang in there!” 🙂

    • J.G. Chayko on June 16, 2014 at 11:53 am

      LOL – thank you Carla, for that lovely last line… yes, I will do my best to hang in there or else end up in some stranger’s lap :). Hope you are doing well. Cheers.

  2. T Campbell on June 16, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Your writing raises awareness extremely well. RA challenges are often ‘invisible’ and your writing is not only great support for others suffering but also for those who do not have arthritis. You are a great advocate. It is also very enjoyable to read your stories.

    • J.G. Chayko on June 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Thank you. RA is a very complex disease – so many don’t understand it, and I do my best to help them understand what arthritis sufferers go through and hopefully, give them a bit of an entertaining read in the process. Lovely of you to stop by, T Campbell.

  3. Kev on June 16, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I thought you’d found the miracle cure when I saw the title, J.G. And you got my hopes up 😉 😀

    • J.G. Chayko on June 17, 2014 at 7:36 am

      Believe me Kev, if I thought I’d found a miracle cure, I’d do a lot more than “pole dancing ” :). Hope all is well on your end.

      • Kev on June 17, 2014 at 1:43 pm

        It sure is J.G. Glad to see you’re still finding positives and some good humour. 🙂

  4. lassfromlancashire on June 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I appreciated your comments on public transport. Here in the UK most of our buses have a few seats at the front reserved for “elderly and disabled” people. In theory ablebodied passengers are supposed to give up these places to those who need them. I don’t know how well it works in practice. I have a free senior citizen’s bus pass which I use after 9.30 am and the buses aren’t that crowded by this time. From your picture you look quite young and healthy so I don’t suppose people rush to offer you a seat. There are some advantages in being – and looking – an oldie!

    • J.G. Chayko on June 17, 2014 at 7:29 am

      Yes, that is a big problem with young people who have arthritis – because it can be an “invisible disease” it’s hard to see the illness in someone who looks young and well, even though they’re not. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Stay well. Cheers.

  5. Wren on June 18, 2014 at 7:55 am

    This post brought back so many memories, J! While I haven’t used a bus to get around town in more years than I care to count, I used it often when I lived in Germany. And I loved using it–except when my RA was flaring. Hanging onto that strap with bad hands or a bad shoulder was excruciating. And on a crowded bus, having to stand on dreadfully painful feet for the whole trip was, well, dreadful.

    There’s no fix for the problem, unfortunately, other than to tell your fellow riders about your pain, hoping that one of them will give you their seat. I never did that–it would have been too humiliating. I preferred to bear the pain, knowing it would be temporary, even as I hoped that I’d make it through the ride without embarrassing myself by crying out or losing my grip on the strap and falling.

    Ah, memories.

    Wishing you the best, on the bus and everywhere else, J. 😉

    • J.G. Chayko on June 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      Sometimes I do get the odd kind offer for a seat, even though I do my best to grin and bear it for the relatively short time I’m on the bus… but those rubber handles are tough to grasp on some days 🙂 Still, I know I am far better off than some, and I’ll count my blessings any day, even while clinging to a pole 🙂

  6. Irma on June 21, 2014 at 9:23 am

    With all my travels of late, I always hold my breath at the Miami airport. Please don’t let me have to take the tram to my gate. Please, please, please. Thankfully, I haven’t had to yet. But more travels to come. Sigh. As Carla said, hang in there!

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About me

J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.