As someone who has had to use crutches for almost a year of her life, and will now have to use a prosthetic leg for the rest of her life, I think I can safely say that there is one phrase we crutch-using folks or prosthetic leg wearers really despise. That phrase is a simple, two word question that will make us want to punch you in the face. “What happened?”
Let’s think about the possible answers, 1. I fell down stairs. 2. I hurt my knee dancing. 3. I just had surgery. 4. I lost my leg (to cancer, diabetes, traumatic accident). Notice what all of these answers have in common? They are not fun events! They are actually pretty horrible times in a person’s life. In my case, you are asking me to tell you about the worst, scariest, most painful day of my life. So why in the world would I want to talk to you about that? Especially when most of the people asking this exact question are strangers or mere acquaintances that I will never see or speak with again.
If you see someone on crutches, I think it’s safe to assume that they are not just using them for fun (unless they are my brothers who like to steal my crutches). So please, never ask a person using crutches or wearing a prosthetic leg, “What happened?” unless you are good friends with them. Even in that case, it’s really better if you wait for them to offer this information. Instead of letting your curiosity get the best of you, why not just say, “I hope you feel better” and let that lead to a conversation about what happened if the injured person takes it there.
I’m no Miss Manners, and I can’t speak for everyone on crutches, but please spread the word, it is rude and inconsiderate to ask someone on crutches (or in a wheelchair, or wearing a prosthetic leg, or someone who has anything different about them!) “What happened?” Let us offer you the information when we’re ready. I’ve started charging people for my leg story, no joke. I’d rather say, “Leg story will cost you $20” than punch a person in the face (which is how my body wants to respond after being asked this question by 50 strangers in one weekend).
Next time you trip over your own shoe, break your ankle and have to use crutches, think about how annoying it will be to have to tell that story to every Joe Shmoe who opens a door for you. “What happened?” Now imagine how much harder it is to answer that question when you don’t even have an ankle to break!? Save yourself and everyone around you from a very awkward, uncomfortable silence and refrain from asking these dreaded two words, “What happened?”