The story I tell myself and everyone else most of the time is that hospital parking prices are obscene. Unless I’m actually sick or transporting a sick family member, I ride my bike. When I’m too ill or injured to do that, and it’s the nearby hospital, I walk. I walked to the hospital for my follow up appointment the week after I had my thyroid out. They were a little surprised at the clinic but really, it’s 2.5 km from my house. I was feeling fine.
I worry a lot about hospital parking prices and poor patients coming from outside the city. When my dad had cancer I was happy to see that for cancer patients at least there was some assistance available.
But truth be told that’s just part of the story.
The thing is when I’m coming to the hospital I’m often seeing health care professionals who don’t know me. They make judgments pretty quickly on the state of your health and well being. Often I think they do that on the basis of weight. And there’s not much I can do about that.
I want people to get things right and to not make silly mistakes. So I try to help. It’s like when I go to new workout or a new gym when traveling and wear my CrossFit hoodie. The fitness instructors worry less about me. (See Traveling, new gyms, and thin privilege.)
Riding my bike in, arriving at the appointment in bike shoes, sandals, helmet in hand, sends a signal. I’m signalling that I’m an active person.
What’s signalling? Economists talk about signalling as a way of sharing information. Often we use clothes and props to communicate messages about our self and our identity. Expensive watches send signals. But so too do deliberately thrifty choices. My reusable coffee mug both serves an environmental purpose and signals something about my values to the world. I may choose to carry a beautiful expensive briefcase (thanks Sarah!) as a sign that I’m committed to my career. We all signal, whether we are aware of it or not.
I get asked questions about the helmet and my cycling clothes that try to sort out just what kind of cyclist I am.
If it’s sunny they say, “Nice day for a ride.” They often ask if I bike in the winter. They ask, what’s the furthest you’ve ridden? Then they start to pay attention and see me as an active person.
They seem to switch gears mentally. I’m not just, Sam the fat middle aged patient. To some, I’m now also Sam the cyclist.
That matters to me, to my sense of identity but I also hope I’m helping them.
I’m here today for a bone density scan. It’s an issue for cyclists. I’ve written about it before here. I’ll report back!