Real connections help define who we are on, off the field
By Joe Black | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a people watcher. Pretty much always have been.
In some ways, it’s part of my job. In physical therapy school, we were tasked with watching someone walk across the room and then deciding what was wrong with them from the way they walked.
I still do that. If I see someone with a limp, I will automatically try and figure out why they are limping. Getting over a sprained ankle? Had knee surgery? An amputee? I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
I do it on the football field all the time. I usually have a good idea from body language what is wrong with one of my athletes. Holding their arm and bent forward as they walk toward me? Possible clavicle (collar bone) fracture.
I’m not always right. In the Maryville-Alcoa game, I had a player down on the field and I thought from the way they were laying that there was something seriously wrong. I think I broke the 50-yard geezer sprint time on Goddard Field that night.
Turns out it wasn’t quite so bad. But I do it all the time anyway.
I do it away from sports too. I’ll watch the people around me all the time. What kind of person are they? What kind of work do they do?
I remember a Mechanics Illustrated article that must have been in the mid-60’s that talked about physical characteristics that would reveal what kind of work someone would do.
Like chipped teeth — the person was probably a carpenter or carpet layer who held nails or tacks in their teeth. For some reason, that one has stayed with me all these years.
I was in a restaurant just the other day when I watched an older fellow walk in. I suspect he was a regular at this particular place because he paused for a nice chat with our waitress, a personable young lady that seemed genuine in her interest in this fellow.
And then he sat alone and had his meal. I admit that I’ve thought at times that having to dine alone would be incredibly lonely. Maybe he chose to be alone. Maybe he doesn’t have anyone to share the meal with.
This fellow really didn’t seem lonely. And why should he? He had just had real human contact and was now sitting down to a nice meal in a pleasant place, surrounded by people.
It helped me realize that people just want a connection. A real connection with a real person.
Can you imagine how difficult it must be for someone with autism, where their condition really won’t allow them to connect with another person? Or someone who just doesn’t have anybody in their life like that gives them that human touch that we all need?
I hope I taught my kids that when they greet someone, that their handshake is firm but firm in a secure way — they’re not out to prove how strong their grip is. I’m never impressed with that.
When they talk to someone, that they make eye contact. In my opinion, those that can’t make eye contact have something to hide.
So if you catch me watching you across the room, remember that it is part of my job but probably more of who I am.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. (email@example.com)