Monday, July 15, 2019

JOB?

I would never feel comfortable doing a job interview in a coffee shop, but these are modern times. Two fellows met and clearly they had known each other in school. The applicant laid it on a little thick with the 'bonhomie' that came with past acquaintance. The interviewer kept good boundaries but was distinctly cool in his response to the warmth flowing his way. They sit. Neither has a coffee. 

The first question?

"This isn't on my list of questions for the interview today, but I want to start with it anyways. Are the words 'fag' and 'retard' and 'bitch' still in your vocabulary for interacting with people you feel better than?"

If they had had coffee that moment would have frozen in the cup.

Apologies toppled over a desperate plea for employment. The applicant looked destroyed but acknowledged it had been a fair question.

"I'm not that guy anymore," he said.

"Good, because I'm not hiring that guy, lets go through the rest of the interview."

What followed was a typical interview.

"Am I going to be considered for the position?" he asked.

"Yes," the interview said, "but I have to really think about it."

"That's fair."

"More than fair!" The words slipped out of my mouth without me being able to stop them, the two of them snapped their heads over to see me. 

I just waved and pretended to look at the paper.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Just One

We had arrived early at the airport for a flight that would be delayed. Rah! We wanted to grab breakfast and decided to go to a restaurant rather than a fast food place and we found a spot and then found a table therein. There weren't many there, the prices where prohibitive. But there were two men a couple tables over from us and across a small aisle way, talking loudly. They seemed very used to taking up a lot of space.

It began with one of them going on about his wife who had put on weight and how disgusted with her and didn't want to touch her. We all heard him. We knew he was speaking to the room. We knew he felt he had the right to speak to the room. His friend urged him on, throwing in sexist, misogynistic, fat shaming remarks that the both found funny. No one who heard them cracked a smile.

Then they moved on to a work colleague who they had dubbed 'The Retard.' I froze. I looked at the table it was the man who had added jokes to the hateful diatribe. I was trying to figure out what to do when two more customers arrived and were waiting to be seated. I turned around to see them and one of them was an older woman in her wheelchair. Her eyes were burning holes through the fellow who had just spoken.

When the hostess came and asked them where to sit. In an empty restaurant she pointed to the table right beside the two men. The hostess tried to dissuade her telling her that there were many open seats. "I want to sit there," she pointed and then began to make her way to the table.

The two men looked very intruded upon. The restaurant was near empty and this woman in a wheelchair and her friend were seated right beside them.

The two men fell silent.

She shut them up.

She made the whole place safe.

She won.

It only takes one warrior.

Just one.

Friday, July 12, 2019

My Place

"He just doesn't ... doesn't ..." pauses to search for words, "know his place."

That's not where I thought this was going to go. It was the standard situation familiar to many of us with disabilities, someone had offered unneeded help which I had politely declined.

Cue offense.

Even though I had cheerfully said, "No, I'm good, I've got it." Even though there was no hostility or impatience in my voice, I say this acknowledging that I'm not always good at handling these things, but this time, I was.

"I was just trying to be helpful."

God, spare me from another of these conversations. I really don't want to ever have to talk about the emotions of those who assume that their help is a gift and my rejection is rude. I really don't want to have to rebuilt the egos of those who, wishing to gain from my perceived need. Please not another.

I explained to her, and the woman with her, annoyance had made them twins, that it's important for me to do what I can for myself.

My need didn't matter.

Resulting was the comment one to the other: He just doesn't know his place.

And what place would that be?

Disabled people don't exist for the general public to get warm fuzzies from our gratitude for their time and attention and assistance.

I don't exist to meet the needs of anyone but my family and myself.

My place isn't segregated into the barren wards that exist in the minds of those illiterate in the nature of disability.

My place isn't to be a man-child lifted into worthiness by the time and attention of those who cuddle at night with disphobic hierarchies.

My place is here.

This space is mine.

And, for fuck sakes, no means no.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Popcorn

So.

This happened.

We went to see "Spiderman" and, unusually for us, we were a little bit late. We can't get our tickets from the automated stations because we use the Access2 card and need a real person help us do that. I spotted a young man at the popcorn station, a place where you can buy tickets as well, and we headed towards him. He knows the system really well and is able to process us through really quickly.

As it turned out the showing that we were going to required us to choose our seats from a seat map. Joe and I both roll our eyes at this ... it's a movie. The fellow showed us seats that he'd chosen for us, like he does for all customers, and when I looked I saw that it was in the middle of the theater and up several stairs. I said to him from my wheelchair: "Um, I'm a wheelchair user. I need the accessible seating."

He burst into a blush and an embarrassed grin.

"Ooops, my bad," he said, and then set about choosing different seats.

And that was it.

That's all that happened.

There is no more to tell.

What didn't happen was more significant than what did.

He didn't get all flustered and apologetic.

He didn't make a big deal about it.

He didn't draw anyone's attention to what was happening.

He didn't make himself the hero of the story.

He didn't make himself the victim in the story.

He didn't me into a victim of my disability.

He didn't do anything other than correct a simple mistake.

Isn't is marvelous when sometimes a disability is just a disability and not a reason for spectacle.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Morning

I get up first.

Pretty much every day.

I like mornings.

This morning I stepped by the fan that was attempting to circulate cool air into the bedrooms and headed towards my desk. I noticed then a little girl solidly asleep on the couch, covered in a light blanket, her face lit by the brightness of the morning. She looked as if she was safe and at peace as she slept.

Dancing beside me was a dog, a big one, waiting on her morning treat. She loves to get up with me and she rushes to my desk where she sits and waits for me to arrive. Her eyes flick up to the treats up on the top shelf, she wants me to know that she knows they are there, she wants me to remember the morning routine. I toss 4 into the air and she deftly catches all of them. Ritual complete she slips away to lie on my side of the bed.

I go through emails and check on a few things that I need to keep up on and then decide to go back to bed to read. I walk by a bedroom door that had been pushed opened by the dog on her rounds on her way back to bed. I see another girl, slightly older, sleeping on her back with a slight smile playing about her face. I wave, she doesn't wave back. She's dreaming of something that makes her happy, that enriches my morning.

Coming back into my bedroom to read I find the dog fully stretched out in my place. Joe is on his side of the bed still soundly asleep. I get the dog to move and pick up my book to read.

***

And people thought my life would be lonely as a gay man.

And people thought my life was over when I became disabled.

***

Life brings gifts to all of us.

Even those thought undeserving.

***

The quiet happiness of a Saturday morning.

Takes all shapes.

***

Even mine.

Friday, July 05, 2019

The Killer

Yesterday we paid $25 for just over an hour's parking.

YIKES.

Both Joe and I had an appointment with the doctor, we both go in together and even though the Doctor listens to each of us separately, it's like a real family visit. For example when the Doc had a question about my cough, he asked Joe to comment as well in terms of what he's noticed. I like the feeling of being treated as a legitimate couple who live legitimate lives together - even though we've just celebrated our 50th anniversary we find our relationship is never seen as 'real' as our heterosexual counterparts. All this to say, it's nice, but it's also not what I'm wanting to write about.

When it came to me the doctor laid out two possible courses of treatment, the risks and benefits of both AND the research behind the approaches. You can tell he's also a teacher, teaching at the local university, because he is able to lay out information in a manner that's easy to follow.

The reason he went into the detail was because he said that he felt that I was in the best position to choose which course I'd like to try. In fact, even before he said that I had decided which one made sense to me and was going to advocate for it ... but there was no advocacy necessary.

We talked about it a bit more, and we were done.

Our doctor has always made sure we were fully consenting to whatever treatment he was offering, he has always made sure we understood the approaches suggested and some of the research behind the recommendation. We've always felt in the driver's seat.

But this time was different, more overt, I'd guess.

So, we paid the parking fee and drove away. It's worth every cent.

We get our health care for free but the parking can be a killer!

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

A Destination and A Companion

It was sunny and warm and we were on a mission. We wanted to find a particular restaurant that we knew was somewhere near by. The street was crowded with people going, it seemed, every which way. We got out of the flow of pedestrians and tried to figure out which was to go. Once we had it figured, we set off.

I saw him almost right away, he was about half a block away and headed our way. He was a homeless man who had a shopping cart full to the brim with everything he owned. I paid attention to him only because with my chair and his cart we both needed to ensure that we had the room we needed to pass each other.

He did not see me until we were only a few feet apart, I know this only because I saw him see me. (Anyone who is different knows what I mean here.) His face changed into something akin to anger. And he charged me aiming his shopping cart right at me. It was only seconds before he was about to hit me, I saw the charge and waited until he was close enough that I could grab the front of the cart and veer it forcibly off to my left and away from me. It worked.

I sat there shocked.

I said to Joe, "That guy aimed right at me, he wanted to hurt me!"

He heard me and spun round and started to call me a 'fat fucker' and a 'God damned pig' and a 'lardass motherf#cker.'

I didn't like having those names shouted at me, nor did I like how they echoed between the large buildings around us, it was like the air agreeing with him. I didn't like how it drew everyone's attention, not to him but to me. I didn't like feeling what I was feeling about him.

I hated him in that moment.

I'm sorry.

But I did.

I know, or am guessing, that he has a mental illness, that he has a hard life, and I know that should matter to me in how I assess what happened and how I felt about it. I know that I should be working towards some kind of sensitivity to him and his situation. I can't imagine the life he lives. I know that.

I've waited for several weeks to write this. I thought that, over time, I would feel differently and be able to write a different kind of story.

And I know that I should.

But I don't want to contrive to be here in print who I'm not as I type this.

I have history too. I have hurts too. I don't want to compare and contrast with what his might have been, I'm just saying that I do. I have been a target for most of my life. I've heard words like that for all of my life. And they hurt me. They are words with sharp edges and their job is to cut, and to say they don't is to deny the existence and experience of both the dart and the board.

Joe put his hand on my shoulder and we turned back to our quest. At that moment I was so grateful for both a destination and a companion.

Two things that I have needed my whole life long.