Pardes, a 63 year old bicycle commuter, was ordered off the Christian Care Hospital access road by a security officer on Sunday afternoon, August 30, 2009. She had just come from Performance Bicycle, an extremely family-friendly bike store on Churchman's Road, where she had added a new set of dual flashing rear bicycle lights in preparation for the shorter winter days when she would be commuting home from work as the Laboratory Manager for the Controlled Substances and Arson Laboratories at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Pardes was on her way to the DART bus stop in front of Christiana Hospital where she planned to put herself and her GT Transeo bicycle on the bus, travel to a nearby park and get another 10 miles of biking in before nightfall. Unfortunately, she was told by the Delaware State Police sworn Constable that she was on private property and bicycles were banned from the Christiana Care property.
Pardes works with law enforcement officers in her job at the Medical Examiner's office and has the greatest respect for them in their often dangerous and thankless job. Rather than argue or protest, and taking heed that this hospital officer was clearly in no mood for discussion, she followed his sharp and humiliating directive, “Now you just turn your bike around and go back out the way you came in!”
Pardes, a Boomer who campaigned in the 1960's for Nixon (Who knew?) rather than partake in sit-ins and demonstrations felt certain that this was just a misunderstanding and that Christiana Care, so active in encouraging healthy lifestyles would never, in a million years, have something as archaic as a “bicycles banned” policy. Sadly however, when she called the President and CEO's office for his email address, his secretary confirmed that there is, in fact, a “no bicycles” policy.
But surely, this also was just a misunderstanding. She would investigate, clear it up, and everything would be fine again.
However, it just being a misunderstanding did little to dislodge the feelings of being insulted, harassed, and talked down to as if she was a three year old by a security officer taking his position of authority too far. Still ... maybe he'd had a bad day. It can't be easy being a security officer...
Still there were many questions Pardes had: A bicycle is her ONLY form of transportation! How was she going to:
1.go to a doctor's appointment on Christiana Care grounds?
2.Visit a patient at the hospital?
3.go for blood tests at the lab?
4.Get an xray or MRI?
5.Get an eye exam?
6.Pick up her new glasses at the optician's office?
7.Go the emergency room or medical aid unit?
8.Catch DART bus 33 or 63 that has Christiana Care Hospital on their regular route?
And since she was forced to miss the bus, there was nothing to do but pedal home, have eggs for dinner rather than the fresh salmon she'd planned to buy at the grocery store accessed by DART bus 33. So, pedaling home and planning on eggs for dinner and the other comfort to take her mind of of the “challenges” of life, she decided to scan the web for information on precedents of private facilities invoking their private property rights ..... but nawww that was just way tooooo boring. She was, after all, 63 years old and there were only so many hours in the day left to explore the interesting things of life and not waste them on plotting civil disobedience.
Of course this did not deter her from running through all the things she WISHED she had said to the officer like, “Well Officer, if I had been a ten year old kid on a skateboard who had just t-boned some pour soul on their way into the emergency room with a severed finger in a bag of ice, well then I could understand you metaphorically grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and ordering me to “turn your bike around and go back the way you came,” but since I was obeying all traffic laws and pedaling on the access road to a legitimate bus stop on hospital grounds, well in that case I just don't understand.”
Or, “Young man, is that how you were taught to talk to your elders?” (Except he wasn't young either.)
Or, “There are no signs posted banning bicycles. So bite me.” (Oh yeah, like she'd ever say something like that.)
Instead, Pardes is left to smolder in feelings of being unjustly harassed and she realizes how it's not the legality of it, or please forgive her all you bicycle advocates, it's not even that bicyclists are being treated unfairly. It's that she realizes that she has a vested interest and sense of civic pride in Christiana Care Hospital and feels as if a friend has just wounded her. Mortally.
In 1994 Pardes had a headache one day. The next day she was in surgery at Christian Care to remove a meningioma brain tumor. The capable staff literally saved her life. Don't think she doesn't think of that every time she passes the hospital grounds.
In a less overtly dramatic way, Christiana Care, once again had a significant effect on her life two years ago. She was overweight, had high blood pressure, was sinking into the depression of physical inactivity from extremely painful arthritis and feared she was destined to a life of walkers and wheelchairs like her mother. Then one day as her bus passed the front of the hospital, she noticed their “Wellness Walk” sign and a friendly MUP (multi-use pavement) trail that ran the perimeter of the hospital.
With arthritis pain that left her gasping for air after only ten steps, she knew she couldn't walk a trail back to health; but there, just across the street, she also noticed a bicycle store, Performance Bicycle. The rest is history.
Twenty-one gears of bike later with a frame light enough to lift unto a bus, she pedaled out of Performance Bicycle and onto the glorious grounds of Christiana Care Hospital. Scared to death of traffic, she pedaled the back areas of the hospital roads and figured out how to shift up and down, how to stop disc brakes without launching herself over the front wheel, and how to keep her pants legs OUT of the gear rings. On a particularly hot day, before she discovered the need for adequate hydration, and nearly succumbing to heat stroke, she comforted herself with the fact that she was only a hundred yards from the emergency room entrance.
That was almost two years ago. Pardes is now road-hardened and can claim a lane with the best of them. For the past 14 months, she's commuted to work every day from Newark to Wilmington by bike/bus combo no matter the weather. She's lost 30 pounds, lowered her blood pressure, decreased the debilitating arthritis attacks to almost nil, and she's now enjoying that moderate sweet buzz of endorphins that regular biking engenders. In part she has Christiana Care to thank for that by posting the encouraging “Wellness Walk” signs.
However, since the original posting of the sign, one of the signs has been amended to this.
How sad, that on one hand, health is being encouraged, and on the other hand, trespassers are threatened.
Okay, Pardes confesses. Without knowing it, she has been a trespasser. Cuff me, Dano and read me my rights. Pass me the legal pad and pen and I'll list the infractions of the law I've shattered.
Let's begin with the illegal photographing of an elderly egret in a pond on hospital property. How do I know it's an elderly egret, an elderly gentlemanly egret? Easy. That comb-over attempt of his tail feathers is a dead giveaway.
There are, of course, worse sins than that. Pardes has been known to tarry at the gazebo near the Helen Graham Cancer center. She's also been known to take out a notebook and write about the spot for her blog.
The Garden of Hope
The expansive Christiana Hospital campus is between my home and a major shopping area I frequent. Today I discovered the "Garden of Hope" that has been newly added outside a new Cancer Treatment Center. There is a gazebo next to a pond with fountains and a Canada Goose conclave.
I stopped for my lunch picnic in the gazebo.
It's very peaceful and quiet. The fountains in the pond drown out all traffic noise and random thoughts cluttering your brian. I noticed a memorial in the distance.
I went to investigate and found a memorial plaque that made me catch my breath as tears stung my eyes.
I sat there for a long time taking it all in....the intense poignancy of it, the scores of women who lost their babies, the women yet to come who would add a name to a bronze leaf.
The surroundings of the memorial tree plaque had a distinct feminine feel to it. The keens and ululating of centuries of women who lost their babies hung in the air from the collective consciousness.
The leaves of the bronze tree appeared to be rustling in the breeze and dancing in the sunlight. I had to stand very close to see that they really were not moving, they were reflecting the sun.
Suprisingly it was not an oppressively sad place for only a few feet away was the Garden of Hope and the Walk of Hope pathway. It's what women do....pick up and go on, often with the camaraderie of other women.
But sometimes, we must go it alone and when no one is looking, and after the acceptable time limit that others will give us, sometimes we need to go alone to a private place and place a wreath for the anguish in our hearts.
And then we come back from that private journey with the instinctive urge to be with other women who know where we have been and may go again. There is such joy and beauty in that.
I want to honor all women who has loved and lost, and women everywhere
I worked a photo through Photoshop of fountain sculpture I found in a park. Women of all sighs and sizes who draw strength, humor, and knowledge from other women on the same journey.
Yes, I'm sure of it. Those bronze leaves that seemed to move weren't just reflecting the sun.
No, indeed. It's the babies definitely dancing.
If truth be told, I suppose the most egregious violation by Pardes that continues to this day is to sit on the park bench near the memorial wall and say a Rosary for all the dancing leaf babies who have passed on, their families, and all the patients and families journeying through their path of cancer.
Unfortunately Pardes is a criminal without remorse and regret for violating Christiana Care's private property.
Indeed, she is already plotting her next assault on the grounds of Christiana Care Hospital. It involves contacting Robert J. Laskowski, M.D., President and CEO of Christiana Care Hospital. He's reported to be “one of the 14 most influential people in Delaware” and surely must think outside the box for programs that support their mission statement of “caring for our neighbors, building a healthy community, and existing to take care of our neighbors in the community.”
Maybe Dr. Laskowski would be interested in an “Elderberry Bike Project.” Instead of emphasizing daycare for seniors, let's get 'em on bikes!
There are herds of thundering Boomers on the horizon with blown-out knees and hips from arthritis who could benefit from the charm, functionality, and health benefits of bikes. All that stands between Boomers and bikes as a way of life is getting over the hurdle of getting road-worthy.
So many people tell Pardes, “I used to love to ride a bike. I'd love to ride a bike again for exercise, but the roads aren't safe now.”
Well that's wrong. All wrong. It's knowing how to ride safely and make that leap of faith that you REALLY can get anywhere by bike. You really can go shopping and get to appointments and enjoy yourself in the process.
So what do you say, Dr. Lawkowski? How would you like to be the first and ONLY hospital CEO to initiate a program that will bring health and well-being to Delaware Boomers, a model program for all states? Biking is the best kept health secret there is. Just ask Pardes who is fond of saying, “I can barely walk fifty feet without pain but I can pedal forever!” What a thing to introduce to seniors who don't want to settle for less.
You will have everyone on your side, cheering for you....Pardes, all the local and national bicycle communities, a grateful Governor who bikes, and, perhaps there is even a remorseful security guard we could press into action.
Pardes will call and make an appointment with you. She really would love to be part of such a program. It would make her proud again of Christiana Care Hospital.
Of course there is that sticky problem of how she'll get to the appointment at the hospital on her bike since she's been banned from the property.... But don't worry, she'll get there. She's very resourceful.