On legroom

When I was living in York I went to see a neurologist for one of my semi-regular check-ups. Being a new hospital for me, they lacked all my records, so I had to go through my full medical history and while I was running through my various other collected complaints and conditions I told the consultant that I have essential hypertension. “Essential” here is medical speak for “just very high, but we don’t really know why.” I mentioned that it was clearly genetic, however, because my twin brother has it too.

“Oh,” he piped up, suddenly alert, “you have a twin brother. Are you identical?”

Indeed we are: we have actually had our zygosity tested as we were once used as subjects for narcolepsy research.

“That’s very interesting,” he commented, and paused a little. “So does he have very short upper arms too?”

Genetics is a complex affair. You don’t, really, have a “gene for blue eyes” or a “gene for chiselled good looks”—I certainly don’t. A gene is just a recipe for a protein, and it’s quite common that one single gene can have multiple and phenotypically unconnected effects. So I presumed this was a possible pleiotropic correlation. “Well, yes, he does,” I replied. “Is that often associated with narcolepsy?”

Mr Duffey gazed at me thoughtfully. “Not that I know of,” he mused, “but they are very short.”

Yes, once again we’re back to my stubby appendages. I don’t want to give the impression that I am some kind of a grotesque, a sort of human Dachshund or maybe a two-legged Barquentine, dragging my withered, useless limbs around behind me. And these diminutive appendages come with a few benefits: when necessary, they provide a decent pushing capacity, and I’ve already written about how I think they have granted me a surprising talent for staying on a stand-up board, but they also carry another great advantage.

Trains, planes, the back seats of cars: none of these hold great fear for me. The flight to Brazil is a minimum of a little over ten hours, and though those ten hours are not the most exciting in the world, I never have to contort myself into strange and uncomfortable shapes simply to fit in my allocated space. There are few transport seats in which I cannot fit with reasonable ease which, given a taste for travel, is an undoubted boon. The obvious ability to sleep in pretty much any position means that, all in all, I can get pretty much anywhere I want in if not comfort, at least a notable absence of discomfort.

Elegance and svelteness in personal style may be ruled out for me: I have a great liking for the mod rocker look, but have long since realised that skinny cut suits are not for me. But the truth is, of the quiet little boons that life hands you, I kinda dig my stumps. In an over-populated, crushed-up world, I never want for legroom.