The (mis)adventures of the Vertically Challenged

Being vertically challenged is one thing people would immediately notice about me when they see me especially on the western hemisphere of Earth. I have heard, taken gracefully, and laughed at all the punchlines regarding my height over the years. But I like to think that my size do not  and should not define nor limit me.

If I was in the Philippines, I would not be the shortest person in a room. I was not always at the front of the line when I was still in school. There were actually others in front of me. But to be honest, I was near enough to the front.

It is called ‘vertically challenged’ for a reason and we, of the hobbit stature, do have a lot of challenges. One of the things that was not fun for me was using the medication cupboards in the bays. These were placed with the British nurses in mind so the top two shelves are difficult to reach. The table underneath the cupboard makes it extra difficult to come nearer to the cupboard and this also adds at least 6 more inches of reach that I have to do. If I stand on tiptoes I would just about reach the medication boxes on the second top shelf. I often use a foot stool or a stepladder when I did my medication round. When I cannot find the step ladder or foot stool then I balance myself on one of stools in the ward which often scare those who see me. I often get, ‘Be careful. You shouldn’t be doing that.That is dangerous’ But thankfully I am nimble enough on my feet that balancing is not a problem. The problem is when even the stool is not available and I needed to get Lactulose from the top shelf. Years ago I used to climb effortlessly onto the desk under the cupboard but that is not always feasible especially if I am wearing a dress- uniform. Repetitive reaching and stretching actually cause pain on my right shoulder. Thank goodness for us changing over to medication trolleys! Though, that is a challenge too as my head does not go above the monitor. That is easily remedied by pulling instead of pushing the trolley when moving from one place to the next. Getting equipment or things from the top shelf in the clean utility is also a challenge. Whose bright idea is it to put the sterile gloves on the top shelf?! Usually, I just get on top of a chair and get what I need or climb up the shelf itself. The latter scares me because I always envision that the shelves would topple over. How was I going to explain that to the people who will respond to the loud crash? So, if a chair is not available then I would ask one of my staff or a tall doctor if I can borrow their height and if they could kindly reach something for me. Another disadvantage is that I almost always need to have my dresses hemmed and taken in for better fit. I sometimes have to wonder if I will actually meet the height requirement for some rides in theme parks. Thankfully that thrill-seeking part of me has now gone to the background. I almost always wear heeled shoes to augment my height when going out. My poor feet had to endure the pain of walking in heels almost all the time.

But being short is not all negative. My size comes handy during lifting in cheer-leading performance or dance. I would not give my partner or team mates back pain for lifting me. I can go in front of everybody else when watching a street parade (if I am even bothered to watch one) as I do not block anybody’s view. I almost always manage to buy things during sale time as smaller sizes do get left behind. I will always be mistaken to be younger than I actually am. A bus driver once mistaken me for a child and at the movie house I was almost charged for a child’s ticket but on both instances I insisted on paying the adult fee. I can squeeze in tiny spaces and sleep comfortably on a sofa as I really do not need to curl up.

The jokes are aplenty. ‘How’s the weather down there?’ is a common one. The answer to that one? ‘Well, it would greatly improve if everybody takes a shower every day.’ (Hey, I can roll with the punches but I sure can throw one your way too.) One time at class (wherein we were arranged in alphabetical order so I was seated next to my cousin…my own cousin) I was called on to answer a question so I stood up and my cousin said jokingly to me, ‘Ma’am Hinoguin said stand up,’ I was already standing up at that time. Gee thanks, Ben! Sometimes, I make the joke about my height. One of the matrons would ask me regarding my staffing numbers, ‘Are you short today?’ and my witty answer would be, ‘ well, personally, I will always be short but the ward has enough staff.’ I always said this with a smile but the poor matron had since then stopped asking me this question.

One of my goddaughters once expressed being worried about being bullied in school and I assured her that I was never bullied at school and I was smaller than her. Her dad interjected that the reason that I was never bullied because I was the bully. Funny but not true. Though, I was one of those who will put the bullies in their place if I catch them bullying my friends, either physically or academically. Thankfully I only had to take on a bully physically twice in my lifetime. (of course I won…I am feisty and scrappy plus I think I caught the boys by surprise, hahaha)

Height is only one aspect of me and I have never let it limit my potentials. People often think that I have shrunk when standing next to me as they thought I was taller than I really am. It is more about attitude than actual size. If you allow yourself to think yourself as a small person who can be pushed around then you will be pushed around even if in reality you are a six footer.

Someone once described me as, ‘little sister with big person’s attitude.’ ( And No, it is not about being a bully.) It is about refusing to be pushed around, taking a stand, and actually pushing back as warranted.

Otherwise, let us all follow the sage advice of my then 5 year old godson, ‘Ninang, you need to eat more vegetables so you will grow.’ 😉


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