Movies! I love movies. A chance to escape the real world for the reel world. We had finished a three day lecture tour of northern California and had a day off before flying home. We had two goals, a movie at the AMC on Van Ness and Chinese food from Wing Lum's on Polk. It's nice to set the bar low! When in San Francisco, if we're going to a movie we always check the AMC first. We were there several years ago and noticed that they hired many people with disabilities who worked in real jobs doing real work. I like diversity. I like seeing it in action. I'm loyal to places that see diversity as more than colour but as texture as well. I feel that way about the AMC. And besides I had a experience there that has become a staple in one of my lectures. I owe'm.
Joe had gone off to buy the tickets and I sat in my wheelchair near the velvet ropes that guided patrons to the ticket taker who stood guard over the entrance and the ripped ticket box below him. Since it was early in the day, there were few patrons around so I wheeled over to talk to him. At first he seemed a bit nervous, wondering why someone would just strike up a conversation. But he relaxed a bit and told me that he had been working at the theatre for a few years.
To someone who just glanced at him in the way people just glance at service people, most would not have noticed his disability. Unlike mine, big butt stuffed into a wheelchair, his wasn't so obvious. But there are ways of noticing and conversation brings out most of them. He was very careful at first when he answered questions. He was used to being 'found out' I could tell and wanted to avoid whatever he imagined might happen.
He explained to me that he only works during the day, it's not so busy. He tried working at night but there were too many people and too many of those people were rude. I'm not sure what he was referring to but I could imagine. It took a while but we managed to get in a good chat while waiting for Joe to return with the tickets. I pointed out that the tickets were on the way and he looked disappointed that our interaction was nearly at end.
"What's it like?" he blurted out.
"Being in a chair?" I asked.
"No, having people look at you all the time."
There was little time to talk and he clearly wanted this conversation private. So I told him that I'd been stared at my whole life. First because I was the 'walking fat' now because I'm the 'rolling fat' - so there is no difference. He looked disappointed, this wasn't what he was asking.
Joe slowed to look at a huge advertisment for an upcoming movie we're both interested in seeing. I rolled in closer to the ticket taker.
"I'm proud, you know, to be disabled. I'm proud of what disabled people acheive. I'm proud of what we acheive. Every day. I don't like being stared at but I wouldn't change it for the world."
Joe arrived and he took our tickets.
As I rolled by him he handed me my stub and whispered. "Neither would I." And he burst into a huge grin.
He had just come out to me as a disabled person. He had worked so hard to 'pass' during the conversation and he decided to throw it all away and identify with me - with our people. It was a nice moment. A little moment, but a nice one.
Self esteem (real honest self esteem that isn't about denial but about acceptance) is at the top of what we call quality of life. I think that's part of what we are here to do. But that's part of another post at another time.