What is it about vanity? No matter how any of us can profess we are not vain, we are at some intrinsic level. Some where deep inside even the humblest of people lies the vain gene. I don’t think of myself as a vain man, but to some extent, I am. We all are. Others though are beyond vain.
When you go to the super market, the mall, department stores, or just about anywhere, you are sure to come across at some point that elderly person in the seventies or eighties pushing a little cart in front of them with a bottle of oxygen and a plastic tube going from it, up to their nose, as they slowly walk around, some having difficulty getting enough oxygen to their lungs. It doesn’t get a second look from you. But look into their eyes. They look away. Some will say they don’t care who is looking at them, but for a micro second, their eyes tell another story. Self consciousness.
I have recently been advised by my doctors to start using my portable oxygen when I am just walking in the mall, super market etc. Before, I only needed to use it when I went to the gym. Now however, my oxygen saturation levels drop sharply after two minutes of regular walking, and that will put extra strain on my heart.
I am having a bit of trouble adjusting to using it all the time. I think of those elderly people and don’t want to feel like I look like that. I’m 49, and will be fifty in February. I have been told I do not look anywhere near my age and was told recently that I look no older than 35. I would admit it, but I do feel self conscious.
The other day I went to the hospital for my monthly blood tests and in the elevator was an elderly women, with a stroller for her oxygen tank and with her was a woman in her sixties who I guess to be her daughter. My oxygen system is called the Helios system. It uses liquid oxygen, and is smaller and lighter than those green oxygen bottles that most people lug around.
As we rode the elevator together in silence, the elder woman was constantly staring at my unit, trying to figure out what I had. The unit fits in a small backpack or a small bag on my side. It’s fall now, so I snake the nasal canulla through my jacket so nothing is really visible, except the tubes that come up from out of my jacket and into my nose.
We all got out at the same floor and the women followed me into lab area. After I checked in and sat, they checked in, but the elder lady made straight for me. She promptly took the empty seat next to me and started to ask me all about my portable oxygen system, and had me explain how it is used etc. The younger woman sat next to her, two seats away from me.
When I was all finished being a sales representative for Helios, the elder lady thanked me and turned to the younger lady and said she wanted to get one of those. I wrote down all the info for her. Then the younger woman turned and asked my why does a young man like me need oxygen. I just said that I had a combination of conditions that warranted its use. She then said “poor you” to which I just said that I am not to be considered poor or required sympathy, but I considered my self extremely blessed.
She looked at me for a second and then said “no, I don’t mean what’s wrong with you. I mean that a handsome young man like you has to wear that god awful thing on your face. You must be so self conscious.”
I thought about what she said, and thought that I did feel a bit self conscious, but I really did not care if people stared or not. It will probably let me live longer. Rather than reply, I just smiled and said “thanks for saying I’m handsome”. The elder lady laughed. Then the younger woman said to me “don’t you feel embarrassed wearing that thing? I already told my mother that if I ever have to use oxygen when I get to her age, I’d rather just die”
I told her, no, I was not embarrassed, but I was happy to wear the oxygen so that I could get to her mother’s age. The elder woman laughed and said “yep, she’ll make a pretty corpse for her vanity. The thing is, she ain’t pretty!” With that she let out a raucous laugh, and I was called in to draw my blood.
Now I try to remember to take my oxygen every where with me, although I don’t think that I will actually use it if I am just running into a store to get one thing. But I will be better with it. As my doctor told me, the number one prescription I have is that container of oxygen. All the others are secondary. I’ll learn to live with it so that I can live.