« Old School Diabetes: Diagnosis. | Main | Magic Beans. »

Do I Have the Right?

Over the weekend, Chris and I (and his sister and dad) ended up in a harborside restaurant in South County, RI.  We stood in line and read the chalkboard menu until it was our turn to order from the girl behind the counter.

"What can I get for you?"

"Can I have an iced coffee?  Do you have iced hazelnut?"

"I'm sorry - we don't have hazelnut.  But we have snickerdoodle or french vanilla.  Either of those work for you?"

"Snickerdoodle sounds awesome.  Is that a syrup?  Is it sugar-free?"

She gave me just a quick look.  Not judging, just looking.  "It's definitely sugar-free.  Medium or large?"

"Large," I said, and she turned away to make my coffee and I saw the pink Animas pump clipped to the side of her black pants, the tubing sticking up all crazy. 

And instantly, I want to ask her a million questions. 

With the Dexcom and the Animas being integrated sometime "soon" and with my only pumping experience being with Minimed, I wanted to ask her how she liked the Animas.  I wanted to see how long she'd been diabetic and did she go to Joslin, too?  Did she know any other diabetics?  How long had she been pumping? 

I wanted to tell her that the tubing gets all crazy on my pump, too, sometimes. 

But do I have the right to make her diabetes my business?  Just because I write about it doesn't mean I have the right to grill her about her diabetes.  She wasn't asking me why I wanted to make sure the coffee was sugar-free.  She was just going about her business.  Did I have the right to poke into hers?  Just because she wears an "external symptom" of her diabetes in the form of that pink pump, did I have the right to ask her about it?

There have been a few times when a diabetes discussion was thrust on me without my invitation.  "Hey, what's that thing on your hip?" becomes this moment of advocacy that, while effective, wasn't what I wanted to do that day.  Sometimes I just want to order my coffee without being grilled about why I need to make sure the syrup is sugar-free.  Other times I'm blogging about the teeniest minutiae of life with diabetes.  I oscillate between wanting to be a diabetes advocate and someone who lives a quieter diabetes life.  Sometimes I don't want to talk about it at all.  That day, I didn't want to be an advocate.  (Or a pain in the ass.)  I just wanted to get some coffee and enjoy the day.

Maybe she doesn't want to talk about it, either. 

She made my coffee and added some cream.  I handed her my money. 

And I left without saying anything.

Do I have the right?

It's not always what we have to talk about.  There's way more to us than this. 

Comments

To ask, or not to ask?
I am like you. Sometimes I want to ask. Sometimes I don't want anyone asking.
It's crazy.

What Cara wrote. ;-)

Great post Kerri. I feel ya, I would have been SO anxious to ask.

And when is the line crossed? Should we? Shouldn't we?

Hard to know when a person wants to discuss it.

I think a "Nice pink pump." Would have done no one any harm. Ahhh, hindsight. Fun.

Hope you're enjoying coffee right now. ;-)

Nice post.
I always want to ask!!
I have asked once (went well, a short conversation) and not asked about 4 times for various reasons.
I have never been asked, but would welcome it.

I'll show you mine if you show me yours? hmm...not thinking that is the best approach!

Would any of you feel threatened if someone said, "May I ask you about your insulin pump?" Would you feel uncomfortable saying, "No," "Not now," or "That's none of your business"? Would you feel more, or less, threatened if someone said, "I use X-brand/model (pump) and was thinking about Y-brand/model (the one you're using). Would you be willing to tell me about it?"

Sometimes, I think, it's in the phrasing. Sometimes it's in the timing. In this case, it's the timing that would have been lousy...

I get this a lot from wearing an ID bracelet. I am open to questions and I am happy to talk about diabetes and spread the knowledge I have to people that might be ignorant to the disease, as long as they are not a jerk or asking "how are your numbers?" I think she would appreciate you asking as long as you prefaced/supplemented your question with a statement that you also have diabetes. I don't meet enough diabetics in real life, in fact, I have yet to meet a stranger that shares the disease. It's good to know others who share your experiences

Either way thanks for sharing Kerri.

I once saw a server with a large "type 1 diabetic" tattoo on her forearm and wanted to talk to her, but couldn't bring myself to, because yeah, hi, we have diabetes in common, and...? I think I would be thrilled if a fellow type 1 noticed my pump and asked me about it, but who knows. Maybe I'd just be annoyed.

Doesn't she know that tattoos are permanent?

That is a tough one and I have definitely been in that scenario before. I am outgoing when I know people but incredibly shy when I don't so I haven't said anything - but I have been screaming 'say something about my pump' in my head to them the whole time!

I thought I for sure knew where this post was going...that she said it was sugar-free but then it wasn't and an hour later you were high and sweater-teethed!

Glad it didn't turn out that way!

And a pink pump??? How lovely!!!

Yes...tattoos are permanent...but hopefully one day diabetes won't be!!! :)

My daughter has that same pink, Animas pump!! I would have been compelled to say something to her. That's just me. The worst that can happen is I get told to mind my own business.

And with regards to that tattoo... one can always have "Former" added to it!

I wouldn't have asked but I would have "told". I would have simpy said "I'm a pumper." (Wouldn't have even added the obvious "too".) EVERY pumper knows what this means....but other ears seldom do. You've lobbed the ball in her court and she is welcome to lob back or let it drop. Gives her the choice and takes the angst off you.

BTW....I wear the pink Ping as well. My new mantra is "diabetes doesn't have to be ugly".

I would suggest "Hey, another pumper! Mine's Minimed." Then she could either just nod and move on, or start a conversation from there.

BTW I'm Animas and Dex, you can always email me with questions ; )

I think you did the right thing. When in doubt, leave it out, even though by leaving out just a small comment would have cost me a great friendship with a few of my diabetic friends that I have now. My theory is just to make a quick, simple comment and see how they react. If guarded, I leave it alone. If they seem open, I'll poke around with a couple more questions to see how they comfortable they are. Most of the time it ends up with the three main questions: How did you know (coming from them)? (and my questions:)What type are you? How long have you bee diabetic? From there, the conversation continues or ends. Simple.

I'm on an old Animas, hoping it keeps working until the integration with Dexcom is available.... If you want to ask questions about Animas (the only mfr. I've used), I'm happy to chat.

As for asking; it's always a debate for me. I usually just take joy in recognizing another pumper out and about in the world without pointing it out. At the meetup at the MoA this weekend, Allison spotted a pumper across the food court. We debated inviting her to join us but decided that might seem creepy.

@Scott: I love your optimism.

I always want to ask, but the circumstances help me figure it out - for the most part. Sometimes I ask, and sometimes I burst at the seams and hold my tongue!
I never mind when someone asks me about D or the pump, but I do mind when some idiot tells me that my mother's poor pregnancy habits caused my type 1!
Kelly K

I tend to agree with the "right situation" opinions. I have spoken to children who are wearing a pump and give them encouragement. Their parents seem to appreciate the camaraderie. :)

Being newer on the pump, I am definitely still in the "WOW, so you have a pump too!" mode. I find i need to be careful with my enthusiasm. I don't want to loose that, because I know it helps me with my own personal management, yet I know it will eventually occur. The same will be true in how I view opportunities as you have described here. It's a journey, and a process.

Being an Animas pump user I would said to her - " nice camera you've got there " - and pull out mine (aka Antonio Banderas) to take a picture of her . Then on the other hand I probably would have chickened out - because like you - I might have thought maybe she doesn't want to talk about D. Glad that she was able to serve you a sugar free treat!

Personally, sometimes I completly hate it when people ask me, why no sugar or sugar free in the coffee (to name just a simple incident) ....
The level of comfort we have with discussing diabetes can be rather varying...but I somehow feel that if I was to meet a person with a pump, I would really want to go and talk to the person. This is mainly because I have met just 1 person who is on the pump. And now this blog.
Thanks Kerri, you have no idea what a big source of support this is for me
Thanks again
ur posts are wonderful and inspiring

I'll bet with that quick look she gave you she thought to ask if you wanted it sugar-free because maybe you have diabetes too.

I feel like it's the same thing as being in a foreign country and hearing someone speak English. You feel an instant comraderie and want to ask where they're from, commiserate over your foreign experience and share a common bond.

I think it's human nature.

I approached a woman at Target a couple of weeks ago when I was near the pharmacy and overheard the pharmacist ask if the customer wanted Humalog or Humalin (sp?). Then I heard the pharmacist say that it was too soon to fill the prescription and the woman said that her daughter is on a pump and doesn't use the same doses per day. So while the pharmacist looked up the info, I approached the woman and shared my short story about Brendon and offered to email the web address of the online pharmacy where we get our prescriptions. She gave me her email address followed by some conversation and sharing some stories. I sent her the info when I got home. So, I nosed my way into her business, but when you have an all consuming condition like diabetes, it's nice to know people will give support no matter if they're strangers or close friends and family.

I used to always shy away from asking people when I saw them on a pump, but I usually ask anyway now a days. It really all depends on where I am at, so great post, because I guess I am still confused on when or when not to, :)

We once saw an Amish (or Mennonite?) man at the Philly zoo wearing a pump clipped to his suspenders. We wanted desperately to ask him about it but that would have been too invasive.

Even at the pediatric endo office - we don't ever ask. But we sure do speculate. :)

I know exactly what you're saying. I came across another family who lost a loved one due to undiagnosed DKA. This breaks my heart and fires me up! I immediately wanted to post on the facebook memory page about how I'm so sorry for their loss and how I'm passionate about getting the symptoms out about type 1 diabetes. I had to take a breath. This facebook page was about the memory of this young daughter. It wasn't about diabetes at all. They never knew diabetes. I think sometimes other people do want to talk about it, but it's a delicate balance of knowing when.

It almost sounds like it could be a "Missed Connections" posting on Craigslist . . . .

You - waitress at really cool coffee place with pink Animas pump
Me - Iced coffee enthusiast you introduced to Snickerdoodle, with a Dexcom on my hip . . .

We, I mean, my daughter, are PINK Animas PING pumpers as well. Would encourage you to check it out.....great features and we use all of them.

I thought she was feeding you the "sugar free " line as well.....like "yeah, whatever lady." Often, when my daughter is testing, I look around for others testing. I remember you saw the mom and daughter from the train. I look for other families doing diabetes ..... and I haven't seen it yet.

I *always* notice if someone is wearing a pump and I *always* mention I wear a pump too. In the eight years of wearing one, I've had some entertaining conversations and no one has ever brushed me off. Instead, they seem eager to talk.

Just last week, I was at Hallmark, when the clerk saw my pump and pulled hers out to show me. ;)

It depends on the situation. Usually though I can't keep my mouth shut, and I end up spewing word vomit about diabetes. I don't mind other diabetic asking/talking to me about my pump etc... but non-PWD's sometimes get on my nerves.

In truth I think I love talking about my diabetes, a lot!

I have to say... someone that saw the pharmacist giving me my insulin vials the other day, ran after me and asked some questions.

He actually gave me great encouragement during a very hard depressing week (filled with people constantly asking me "should you be eating that?")

I almost feel like most of the time, if the situation allows, feel free to ask? But then again, a busy coffee shop might not be a good place to bring it up either :)

Thank you for the post!

I was once in walmart, and the cashier had an insulin pen hanging from her nametag lanyard thing. I was dying to ask her about it, but I didn't, simply because the people I was with had no idea that I have diabetes, and I wasn't about to tell them.
I never even thought of it from her perspective. I just figured that if she is wearing such an obvious sign then I have every right to ask...
I guess you are more sensitive than I am... [blushes]

I once tried to High Five another diabetic (with a pump on his belt) in the airport. He was not having it. Oops.

I don't 'know' any other diabetics outside of the online community. When I see someone wearing a pump, I always want to say something but rarely do...except once, I saw a man with a pump and he had a service dog that alerted him to lows...so I asked about the dog. You make a valid point though...I never thought about if he cared if asked him about it or not. How rude of me to just presume that I could!

in that situation I usually just say "hey, i've got a pump too". Then they can choose to engage in a conversation if they want to.

i am always willing to talk about health related stuff, if the other person asks..sometimes i will do something simple to encourage it!
i remember when i was getting some gluten-free books from the library, and when they were being checked out the librarian looks at me and the other person i was with and asked "so who is the celiac?"
it lead to a conversation that only someone who has gone though the testing or is on the diet would understand.

also shopping for gluten-free foods, so any times i will talk to the stock person who's friend is going to get tested...and of course her doctor thought she is just making the symptoms up.

but i am too shy to go right out and ask someone, i wait till they talk to me.

we call it "pumps in the wild" as if we belong to National Geographic and we've just spotted the rarest of the rare breed...pumpers. lol. As myself not being the PWD I usually tread carefully and judge the overall friendliness of the user - a few weeks ago at Ian's gymnastics meet the woman in front of us had a MM on her belt. I leaned over and said "I don't want to disturb you or embarrass you but I was wondering if you wear the sensor that goes with the minimed. I'm thinking of getting a sensor for my son." We had a nice conversation and found out she had been pumping for years and was having CGM insurance woes. One other time prior to Ian's pumping we were in disney and saw a older teen with a pump on our bus and I asked her if she'd show Ian - she instantly understood that here was this little boy, probably scared out of his mind about his new pump that was going to be starting when we got home. At the same time, the mom jumps up and out comes her pump too. Another time at a B's game the man in front of us was pumpign - I kept hearing beep beep beep and I said "Ian, what ARE you doing". we laughed, the man must have heard me use the word pump because he turned around and chatted us up for a bit.

Sometimes though, we spot the pump..and just are happy with the spot. I have yet to have anyone approach US.

Maybe I look mean????

Just Monday I stopped (or at least slowed down) a guy who was running, without a shirt on, pushing a double stroller, and wearing an Omnipod on his shoulder (I was biking past him when I noticed this).

At first he was completely surprised and didn't seem like he wanted to chat, but that cleared away right after I told him that I had a Minimed pump.

It's a tough call, but more often than not, I think I'd prefer if someone asked me, and so I probably error on the asking side.

Perhaps it'd be better if there were some sort universal handshake or nod or some kind of sign of recognition that just says "Hey, I understand more than others might", and then a conversation could be totally optional from there.

A fist pump while saying "pumpers of the world unite," would have been ok too! Or at least that's what makes my weird brain laugh.

Well, Thou I am type 1 & 2 diabetic and am more than happy to help answer any question that I can factually answer, you have the right to politely ask someone and they have the right to change topic or walk away.

Anyone who has ever shopped for an automobile knows that asking around gets a wealth of information that can give you pros & cons. I suppose when your asking about one's health, there are many reasons why this could be personal to someone. I read years ago that cancer was considered evil and sneezing was once thought to have stopped your heart.

We would have never made it to the moon had it not been for the people that went further than the edge, later discovering the world was round. I believe anything the mind can invent is possible, as long as someone is willing to move past the edge.

I am a little late coming to this conversation... but I wear an Animas 1250 pump and I love it. I've been asked about it on numerous occasions and I don't mind talking about it at all. I was thrilled when a teenager came up to me in public and said "I have one of those!" and pulled his animas pump out of his pocket.

I know this comment is way late, but my best friend is Chinese and one time he pointed out a person with a pump and said I should talk to them. I them took it upon myself to point out every person speaking Chinese and told him to talk to them.

Sometimes it is encouraging to meet someone else with a pump, but when you are working behind a counter it is frustrating to have to talk about it. Especially if non diabetics chime in with something like, oh you must have a bad case of diabetes or something like that. You did the right thing.

Post a comment

(All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience!)