6.13.2007

Still Feeling Lucky and Grateful

Nine days after the incident, I removed the Aircast and haven't put it back on since. It's true that it hurt a bit to walk until this morning, but since last Wednesday, the swelling has gone way down and the bruises are clearing up. Of my three-tiered pain system, I would say that usually, my right leg and I are down to level 3--I usually only remember that it hurts when I think about it. At the end of the day, it's probably closer to level 2 (wincing). If I bang my right toe into something or forget and knock into something with my leg right above my ankle, it's a level 2 sort of pain. There's only one spot that still produces the burning pain that I felt all over the place at first. I can't wear anything on my right foot with any sort of wedge or heel, since that makes my toe bend and puts a lot of pressure on it, both of which still hurt. (I've just been wearing Tevas since then. I haven't tried sneakers yet, but maybe I should.) I am trying to take it easy by walking less than a mile each day (preferably no more than half a mile) until it doesn't hurt at all. Otherwise, I am back to normal less than two weeks after the incident.

Yesterday, I was in the area, and I went and measured the gap between the car and the platform on Track 1, not Track 3 where I fell. I would say that it was between 9-10 inches wide, and I think that the gap where I fell might have been larger. The sandals I was wearing that day are exactly ten inches long. Yikes! I really do think that I stepped right into the space--I didn't slip and fall because I was in a rush.

However, I am not suing the MTA. Here's why:
  • There was a sign that said, "Use care. Large space between platform and train." (Although, in my defense, the sign is directly over the large space, and if you're walking quickly towards the train, you are likely to be looking straight ahead at the entrance to the car, not up to where the sign is.)
  • There are regular announcements over the intercom saying, "Be careful of the large space between the car and the platform." (Like the signs, I never noticed these verbal warnings until last week, post-incident.)
  • I knew there was a big gap there, because I've noted it (with some alarm) before. (Not because of the warnings.)
  • The bells signaling that the doors were about to close had just dinged as I got into (or in this case, next to) the train. I always interpreted the dinging as, "Hurry up, get on the train, the doors are about to close!" but perhaps they mean, "Wait for the next train. This one's as good as gone."
  • The only direct costs incurred because of the incident were $20 worth of ice packs (I got the reusable kind because I needed to use them for several days), a $15 cab ride, and a $30 co-payment. There will be another $30 co-payment in a week, when I return to the doctor. The rest was covered by my insurance company or absorbed by my employer through lost productivity. I guess the cost of the FDNY EMTs who took my blood pressure and gave me two ice packs was already paid by the MTA or the city. (Because I was curious, I tried to ask them at the time who paid for their services, and they insisted that no one did. Maybe they didn't understand the question or maybe a regular part of their job within the Fire Department is to respond to calls of people who fall into the space between the train and the platform.)
It's true that the gap is dangerously large, but it's also true that if I had stepped over it, rather than into it, I wouldn't be injured. (They warned me. It's my fault for ignoring the warning.) I think I will write them a strong letter telling them that they really ought to fix the large gap.

An additional reason why I don't want to sue is that I believe in public transportation and suing the MTA would hurt the system that gets me where I want to go each day, mostly without incident. It's not like any money they would give me in a settlement would be "free." It would be money collected from fares, taxes, and the general city coffers. While I could certainly (certainly!) use the money, and while there would be some sweet sense of revenge in extracting money from the MTA for my pain and suffering, it doesn't strike me as the ethical thing to do. The only reasons I would sue the MTA are because I could use the money and because I think they should fix the large space, and they probably won't do it unless not doing it costs them more money than doing it. Suing the MTA because I could use the money is wrong. It's like suing McDonald's because their coffee is hot--a nice way to make a few bucks, but not exactly what I would ever call the right thing to do. Suing the MTA for the second reason sounds lovely, but I'm not sure I have any reason to think it would work, given what I stated earlier in the post.

When I tell New Yorkers this, they look at me like I'm crazy and then say, "Aren't you sweet?" Or they give a little fake laugh ("Tee hee!") and say, "How generous of you." When I say "It's my fault" they say, "It's your fault? What do you mean it's your fault?"

This, among other reasons, is why I am not a New Yorker.

If I was blind, I'm sure I would feel differently. I'm also sure I would feel differently if I was the parent of a young child who had fallen into the space, or the daughter of an elderly woman, unsteady on her feet, who had slipped and fallen into the space. I would also probably feel differently if I had sustained major injuries, or even a sprained ankle or broken anything. As it was, I didn't. As it is, I mostly feel pretty damned lucky.

In addition to feeling lucky, I also feel grateful. I think of several of the ברכות השחר differently now. (As in, פוקח עורים--what if the conductor hadn't seen me before moving the train; מתיר אסורים--how great it was that I got unstuck after I got stuck, and without too much trauma; זוקף כפופים--along similar lines, I was leaning onto the floor of the train and then, a second later, I was standing upright inside the train. See :מסכת ברכות פרק ט , דף ס)

In further I-could-have-died-or-lost-a-leg-and-isn't-it-great-that-I-didn't news, on an upcoming Shabbat I will be sponsoring a very modest (after all, I'm not suing) kiddush in honor of God and in thanks to the conductor and nice people on the train. E-mail me privately for more details.

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