“DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a businessman who frequently flies both domestically and internationally. I also happen to be an insulin-dependent diabetic. I currently do my glucose testing in my seat. It does involve using a lancet device to get a drop of blood to test, but is fairly unobtrusive. Of course, all lancets, alcohol preps and test strips are stored in my test kit for proper disposal later.
Am I being rude to perform this test next to a stranger? Injections I perform privately in the plane’s lavatory. In the airport, I use the counter by the wash basin, since most water closets have no room for insulin vials and other supplies.
Many people seem to stare and resent the fact of performing such a function in this space. I have also had children ask, “What is that man doing? Isn’t that a bad thing?” (They’re obviously thinking of their drug education classes.) Am I too self-conscious?
GENTLE READER: Absent an emergency, medical applications (like bodily functions and grooming) are properly done out of sight — meaning in private or in a restroom — unless they can be done so surreptitiously as to be unrecognizable as such. Miss Manners does not object to a pill taken at dinner, so long as it is not accompanied by a dissertation on your cholesterol.
The technology associated with diabetes is fast approaching this standard, although Miss Manners draws the line at drawing blood. Restrooms exist to provide a proper location for such necessary activities when away from home, and those who use them have no business monitoring the respectable, if sometimes unaesthetic, activities of others.
You may chose to tell children that it is a medical procedure, or ignore them and let their parents do that. Miss Manners would hope that any parents present would also resolve to teach their children to be more discreet with their curiosity.”
Hmmm. My response:
DEAR MISS(ED) MANNERS:
I am a person with type 1 diabetes, and I’ve been testing my blood sugar regularly for the last 10,000+ days.
Testing my blood sugar is not a bodily function; It’s a practice required for proper diabetes management. It’s not grooming; it’s a medical necessity. I travel a considerable amount and when I am in transit, I do what is required to take care of my diabetes from the comfort and safety of my seat. I take great care to be discreet in testing my blood sugars, and I properly contain and dispose of my supplies throughout my travels.
I wish I had the option to afford myself the rule of “drawing the line at drawing blood.” Hell, if I could test my blood sugar without pricking my finger, it would be a great day, indeed. Restrooms exist to provide a place for travelers to urinate or defecate, and I would prefer not to perform my subtle medical procedure where people are known to perform those actions. You have no business monitoring the respectable, responsible activities of people with diabetes who are trying to stay alive.
The technology associated with diabetes is fast-evolving and has grown by leaps and bounds since my diagnosis 27 years ago. But if I took your cue and relegated myself to bathrooms to tend to my diabetes needs, I’d be in the bathroom(s) all the time. (And everyone on the plane would hate me for taking up the bathroom every hour or so.) Instead, I discreetly test and medicate as needed, so as to avoid a more serious diabetes issue, such as a severe hypoglycemic reaction wherein I could seize and potentially bite my tongue (causing blood to spill) or accidentally relieve myself (causing urine to spill). Which is more offensive to you – the controlled, unobtrusive checking of my blood sugar or the unpredictable, emergency effects that may transpire as a result of not checking?
You may choose to tell your readers that it is in bad taste to perform this medical procedure in a public place, but I disagree. I would hope that you would resolve to teach children and adults alike that taking care of your health is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. Offer whatever advice you’d like, but at the end of the day and during the course of every day, I will do what I need to do to live with this disease.