We were waiting for the elevator. A small crowd had gathered and it was ... um ... diverse. It was an institution for people with mental illnesses and as such it was an 'interesting' crowd. One of the men waiting for the elevator fooled me. I thought he was some kind of a construction worker. He had on dusty workboots tied like day labourers tie them, jeans worn out by work not by gimmick, a work undershirt and a red check flannel shirt.
It was drag. Good drag, but drag.
We got on the elevator and it was crowded. He stood by the buttons just to my left and back a bit. I could hear him talk, joking to himself, must have been because no one else seemed to notice him at all. "Second floor, social sexual, you gotta smile and be polite if you are going to get out." Then he giggled.
Saying it once wasn't enough.
"You gotta smile and be polite if you are going to get out."
The door openned and he disappeared. It was only then that I noticed a very big man right in front of me. He looked like he could take us out easily, like to him Dirty Harry was a sissy. I thought to myself, "OK, big fella, you gotta smile and be polite if I am going to get out." He didn't catch my thoughts but he did move out of the way quickly and easily in that dainty way that large people often have of moving.
On the way out I was thinking about the workman-inmate guy. At first I thought, mockingly, about the simple solutions we teach people to deal with complex issues, complex lives. But then I thought that there was a kind of wisdom in those words.
Yeah, life's tough. But you gotta smile and be polite if you are going to get out.
He may have been 'crazy' in the eyes of the world, he may have been in there for some serious stuff, he may have had hours of therapy, but he's gonna be ok because he's got it figured. If the manages those two things he could end up in a job, in a relationship, in heaven. Man, that's the ticket.
You know it's been a hard few days for me. But I haven't tried to let people know about it. I just whined on my blog yesterday and let it out. That's it. For the rest of the time, I just tried to smile and be polite and got out when I could.
So next time someone with a disability asks me how to manage, I'm going to say .. Ya gotta smile and be polite ... 'cause it actually works.