It was not my finest moment.
Yes, I doubted someone when they claimed to have diabetes. But there was no ill intent! Let me explain.
I worked at a local movie theater for five and a half years. During that time, I was trained to work the concession stand, sell tickets at the box office, and clean theaters with the ushers. More often than not, I was happiest working in the box office – it was nice and quiet when there weren’t any lines of customers to contend with, but when there were, time flew by as I worked at a frantic pace to get through the line as fast as I could.
One of my responsibilities as a ticket seller was to check to see what people were taking into the theaters with them. Mainly, I was supposed to make sure that outside foods or beverages weren’t making their way into our theaters, for a few reasons: 1) to encourage customers to buy snacks/drinks at our concession stand, 2) to reduce the possibility of customers leaving behind terrible messes for the ushers to clean up, and 3) to help ensure the comfort of other customers – after all, no one particularly enjoys the sharp stench of raw onions or malodorous tuna fish sandwiches.
So I was merely following protocol on this particular day when I asked a teenage boy to throw away his mysterious styrofoam food container once he entered the lobby. He looked at me, unsmiling, and said, “I have diabetes, I can’t throw it away.”
It’d been a long afternoon dealing with irate customers and pesky teenagers, so I figured he was just being bratty and didn’t want to toss the food he’d clearly just purchased from the mall. This is when I retorted back with, “Oh, really? I have type one diabetes, myself. Do you actually have it, too?”
He nodded. His face was expressionless, which made me even more suspicious. If I’d been in his shoes, I probably would’ve been a bit more emotional/passionate about my need to keep my food with me. His poker face prodded me into asking this next question, which nearly seven or so years later still makes me feel ashamed when I remember it:
“Well, then, show me your medical ID or your meter, or some other diabetes supplies!”
Ugh, I can practically hear my defiant tone. I was so certain I was about to catch a fibber! Alas, the boy lifted his arm to show off the gleaming medical ID hanging from his wrist. Again, he was completely wordless and his face betrayed no emotion – and for a beat, I couldn’t say anything, either…though I felt the blood rushing rapidly into my cheeks as I found my voice again.
“Oh, I’m sorry for the inconvenience. You’re all set to take the food in with you,” I said in a tone much higher for me than normal. I’m pretty sure I smacked my hand to my forehead out of pure embarrassment as he walked away.
To this day, I still can’t help but cringe when I reflect on this interaction that couldn’t have lasted more than two or three minutes. I felt horrible about it, but I guess that the one good thing that came from it is that it taught me to be a little more compassionate when I witness situations like this. Rather than assuming the worst, I should try to see the other side of the coin and view things a bit more rationally.
So to that teenage boy, who I never saw again: Please accept my extremely-belated but utterly sincere apology for that exchange of words.