waiting room

Hello again! It’s been a minute. How are you? I’ve been better.

Last Friday night, I tripped on my way down the subway stairs, sprained my ankle and fractured the navicular bone in my left foot. The fracture typically takes about six weeks to heal, so for the next month or so I’ll be getting around on crutches. In New York City, this is no easy feat–the MTA is notoriously user-unfriendly to folks with mobility issues, and I rely on it for everyday transit from my apartment in Bushwick to my job in the East Village. My commute to my day job has effectively tripled in both time and cost. (I have to take a cab from my apartment to the nearest disability-accessible subway station.)

After just two days of this exhausting grind, I already have enormous empathy for New Yorkers with both short- and long-term mobility issues. Navigating this city is, as this Vice article bluntly puts it, “a nightmare for disabled people.” Fortunately, the people in this city have been, on the whole, remarkably kind and helpful in light of my situation. But the kindness of strangers can’t fix a horribly broken system.

In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, I’m in surprisingly good spirits. In being forced to slow down, take it easy, and find things to do that don’t involve much walking around, I’ve run out of excuses not to write. So, welcome back! Let’s talk about Fugazi again.

“Waiting Room” is an iconic Fugazi single for a reason. In just the first few instrumental bars, the song establishes a powerful thesis statement. Joe Lally’s earworm bass line and the “tick, tick, tick” of Brendan Canty’s drum hits establish a claustrophobic groove that deftly telegraphs the song’s themes of boredom, frustration, restlessness and finally joyful defiance of the stultifying rhythms of everyday life. By the time Ian Mackaye crows, “Iiiiiyam a PATIENT boy,” his voice absolutely dripping with sarcasm, you almost already know what the song is about.

A waiting room can be a literal physical space–an orthopedist’s office, say–but in many ways, it’s also a frame of mind. The “waiting room” Mackaye describes is the realm of compliance, of simply marking time without wondering why the wait is so damn long. When Guy Picciotto urges the listener to “c’mon and GET UP,” he urges us to replace compliance with defiance and demand answers.

The waiting room is built to convince you that you’re alone in your struggle, just another patient waiting to be healed. But if you take a purely stoical approach to real problems, like, say, the fact that it takes forever and a day to get anywhere on crutches in this city, you miss out on the bigger picture: the shocking lack of disability-accessible public transit. You think that you’re the broken one, but really it’s the walls, the floor, the ceiling, and the whole damn building.

So, if you can, get up and get out. Another world is possible.

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