I’ve been getting around on crutches for the past two weeks, and believe me when I say I am now fully prepared to hurl the curse’d things into the East River. I’ve tried to make the most of the situation, decorating my crutches with cheerful washi tape to make a bad experience a little more palatable. But, dear reader, crutches suck. They’re loud, awkward, cumbersome and exhausting, and I am more than ready to be done with them. I have an orthopedist’s appointment tomorrow and I’m hoping for good news re: my foot. In the mean time, as I slowly crutch around a deeply crutch-unfriendly city, I’ve got my tunes to keep me sane.
“Crutch” is the seventh track on Pinback’s 1999 self-titled debut, which turned 20 this month. It’s not the best track on the album–that would be the unbeatable earworm “Loro”–but it’s a close second, and one that happens to be appropriate to my current situation.
Lyrically, like a lot of Pinback songs, “Crutch” is a bit of a mystery. The title comes from a brief allusion to a “rubber crutch” hitting the pavement–when, where, why or to whom said crutch might belong is unclear. Musically, though, the song’s looping structure, lurching beat and melancholy hook make a great sonic analog to the restlessness of limited mobility. “No one cares too much over what happened to you,” Rob Crow sings, and it’s true.
Part of what I find so exhausting about using crutches is not only the awkwardness of carrying my own weight in a way my body wasn’t designed for or the tedium of having to think hard about every single step I take. It’s also bearing the weight of strangers’ overwhelming indifference to my situation. Many have stopped to hold doors, help me carry things and commiserate with their own tales of injury, and to these good people I’m deeply grateful. But many is, unfortunately, not the same thing as most. Most people are far too wrapped up in the minutiae of their day to take a few seconds to help a person who is obviously struggling.
I’m trying to embrace empathy wherever I can get it, and I hear a bit of that empathy in “Crutch.”