succumbing to peer pressure

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Sometimes I think I'm overreacting to a situation, just being unfairly judgemental about people who react differently from me. Then some time later I figure out that I was actually (appropriately) offended, and my subconscious just hadn't had a chance to clue me in yet.

So one of the students in my adult gymnastics class sprained her ankle tonight (for those of you keeping track at home, in about a dozen classes, that's one sliced open hand, one torn calf muscle, and one sprained ankle. we're all former athletes who do dumb things. so what). Now everything was fine. She hit the ground, started to get up, then sat back down. I hurried over, she said her ankle hurt, I could see it already turning colors and swelling up. A few of the other women and I helped her over to the side while someone else grabbed an ice pack. We propped her foot up and cracked jokes while assessing the situation and deciding if it warranted a trip to the emergency room. Having broken my ankle and then subsequently sprained it, I'd like to think I can do a pretty decent triage on ankle injuries. The rapid swelling was obviously not the best sign ever, and when I tapped higher up on the outside of her leg it hurt worse (if you vibrate the fibula and pain increases down in the ankle, it's a fairly good sign that you've broken something), but the color, feeling, and pulse in her foot were all fine, and there was no obvious displacement. Time for x-rays, but certainly not panic.

Now, at this point in the story I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt. I was, after all, raised in a fairly eastern-European-minded gym, and made several trips to the ER before graduating high school. I'd also like to think that I'm not a cold person, but perhaps I am a bit more nonchalant about injuries than your average person.

Ok, so the rest of the team (all adult women, former gymnasts) and I are totally handling things. The injured student's friend is making phone calls to get her picked up and taken to the ER and another student who works with doctors is calling around to see if she knows anyone on call at local ERs and finding out wait times. Around this time two male employees (I should note here that I work for a community center, where there are lots of other activities, sports, daycare, school, etc. etc.) from elsewhere in the athletics department (not affiliated with gymnastics) come over all purposefully. One is worried that we've only propped up one leg, and makes us move her to prop up both (wtf? she wasn't going in to shock, the only reasonable motivation for elevating both legs) and the other asks if we want to call an ambulance. WTF? They start running the show. Then a member of security comes over to start taking notes - what's injured student's full name? phone number? are we taking her to the hospital? which one? And a secretary-type (I don't actually know her official title, but she's not affiliated with gymnastics or athletics, more administrative of some flavor) comes over and keeps asking if we're going to take her to the hospital and reminding us that we'd better not let her drive and generally acting like an idiotic and useless mother hen.

Eventually the two guys bring around a wheelchair (when crutches were available), but even worse, it's a wheelchair without footrests, so they slowly parade her out, one guy pushing the chair, the other and security guy holding up her leg. A big damn circus.

I blame myself for not reasserting my authority as the instructor of the class, and I'll be kicking myself for that until I talk to my boss about the whole mess tomorrow.

Bottom line, my student is fine, she's been injured plenty of times before, and knew this one wasn't a big deal. But could you imagine how traumatized some little kid would have been by that sideshow? Suggesting an ambulance for a sprained ankle?! A whole crowd of adults standing around looking worried? As it is I'm sure all the 10-12 year olds who were working out while all this was going on went home pretty freaked out. Stupid grown-ups.

I get that a lot of the rules at my gym amounted to ridiculous psychological control, especially when you consider that we were all 10-15 years old, but now that I'm an adult, and having experienced the plus side of those rules as a child, I can see their logic. For example, when someone did something scary-looking or potentially injury-causing, we weren't allowed to gasp or comment how scary said event just looked. And if/when someone was injured, we all knew the productive steps to take - ice pack, elevation, flag down coach. Once those were achieved we weren't allowed to hover or stare and were instead supposed to go back to practice as usual. The absolute worst thing, as a kid in pain, is to look around and see adults looking worried. Or gawking. Don't other people know this? Do they just lack self-control?

As for the security guy, I get that the community center is all terrified of being sued, but, um, everyone had to sign releases to take the class. So back the hell off. I will fill out your stupid incident report once she's taken care of, but you have absolutely no business quizzing someone while they're in pain. I really wish I'd had the wherewithal at the time to intervene and shut him up.


Blogger amelia said...

urrrgggggghhhhh, that is so very annoying. ignoring for the moment the behavior of your secretary-type, i'm interested in the gender dynamic here. where by 'interested in,' i mean 'infuriated by.'

or is that not how you read the situation?

12:39 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

That's exactly the part of the situation that pissed me off, but I couldn't put my finger on it immediately. It wasn't until I got home and was ranting to a friend on the phone, and he pointed out how totally offensive and undermining it all was. Then he asked, if you were a 45 year old male, do you think that would have happened? Bingo.

In addition to me being a young-ish female instructor and thus having my authority called into question, I suspect that a lot of the freaking out on the part of the dudes was a reaction to a pretty woman crying. Guess what? When you're in a shitload of pain, sometimes you cry. It does not mean that you are dying or yourself freaking out or in any way a damsel in distress. Fuck off.

12:48 PM  

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