By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Judgment Day

At a dinner out with friends recently, one of the women introduced the subject of pet peeves. Hers was drivers who hop out of cars parked in spaces meant for the handicapped and stride briskly away. I said mine was obese people shopping in motorized carts. If they’d get out and walk, I pontificated, they wouldn’t be so overweight and wouldn’t need to ride. Later in the evening, reflecting on what I’d said, I trembled. I could so easily be the person driving the shopping cart. Might become that person some day. If I do, will I be struck with lightning the first time my backside hits the driver’s seat as a punishment for what I so thoughtlessly pronounced at dinner?

My daughter has a more refined sense of ethics than I do. She frequently admonishes me to avoid gossip and judgment, both of which I avidly enjoy, though, as per the above example, often feel guilty about after indulging in them. A case could be made that a writer is by definition a gossip: a person who tells intimate details of others’ lives. You can read about my fictional characters’ lives at

But judgment in real life is tricky. For instance, traveling with my husband. He has a number of health problems you can’t discern by looking at him other than he’s overweight. He can’t walk very far (I’m talking about from one room to another) or even stand up for very long, so we use a wheelchair to get from the curb to the gate at airports. I’m uncomfortable walking beside him as the airline attendant wheels him in front of everyone else to the pre-boarding area. He usually gets out of the wheelchair to walk down the ramp to the airplane, and I’m afraid people will think we’re pre-boarding just to get on the plane first. I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking him to try to look a little more frail and decrepit so he’ll appear to need the wheelchair.

Then there was my colleague at The Los Angeles Times. After experiencing a series of mysterious symptoms including falling down in the parking lot, she quit selling advertising to go on disability. I thought she was looking for a free meal ticket, that she was faking it. I actually made that judgment about her even though she was a close friend. She was eventually diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. We gradually lost contact with one another after I moved to Seattle. I think about her often and would like to get in touch again, but I’m also afraid to find out how the disease has progressed. And, of course, I’m riddled with guilt over misjudging her.

Normally, I’m not one to quote scriptures, but I have to conclude that Matthew got it right. (7:1-2) "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."


At 12:15 PM, Blogger EilisFlynn said...

What a thoughtful post, Linda! It's true we don't know what ails another; my sister, who suffers from gout from time to time (as do I; it seems to be hereditary), has on occasion had an attack so severe that she screams when she tries to walk when the swelling is at its peak. She's had to use crutches and once a wheelchair. But she can walk at that point still ... uncomfortably. Without knowing details, watching someone go through the process of using the disabled parking spaces (she's got the permit and everything) and walking to the store can make you wonder.


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